In March Apple filed suit against HTC for infringing on 20 patents concerning the iPhone's user interface and hardware. If HTC could acquire Palm's patents they would have ammunition to use against Apple, which would open up the possibility of a counter-suit. As of market close on Friday, Palm was worth only $870M, making it a relatively cheap company to buy.
So cheap, in fact, that it would make sense for Apple to snap the company up -- again, just for the patents. An Apple acquisition of Palm would not only prevent HTC from acquiring the ability to counter-sue Apple, it would strengthen Apple's patent portfolio even more and leverage greater protection against its intellectual property.