More details have emerged regarding the surprise lawsuit against Palm that alleges a feature used to synchronize data between Palm's handheld computers and a PC can cause damage to PCs.

The suit, filed Tuesday by Pinnacle Law Group, alleges that Palm and 3Com failed to warn users that the HotSync feature in Palm computers could damage certain models of PCs, resulting in users needing to buy a new motherboard. It's alleged the feature can disable the serial port on certain computers.

Only some models of the Palm V and Palm Vx may have been affected, the suit claims. However, the allegedly defective Palms were sold since 1999, and the law firm estimates that "hundreds of thousands" of users were affected.

Warning The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages, and an injunction requiring Palm to warn users that its PDAs (personal digital assistants) can harm their PCs.

Pinnacle first heard of the problems occurring with PCs from Dell. However, following reports about the suit, the firm has now received emails from people who claim to have encountered the problem with systems from Gateway, Compaq, Toshiba, and, contrary to last Friday's report, even Apple, said Andrew August, an attorney with Pinnacle.

Wider problems The scope of Palm models affected has also increased, August said. "Now we've been getting email from people with (Palm) IIIcs," he added. Since the story broke, he estimates Pinnacle has received anywhere between 12 and 30 emails from people who had suffered similar problems.

Palm spokeswoman Marlene Somsak said: "Palm is not aware of any HotSync operation that will cause damage to computer motherboards."

However, one user reports experiencing a serial port failure "more than once, with more than one PDA and PC". When she contacted Palm about the problem around December 2000, Palm user Amy Langill said a technical-support representative from the company told her that "floating voltage" caused by the power supply to the Palm V cradle caused it to physically damage serial ports on certain motherboards.

"They advised us to purchase a USB cradle which would not have such issues."