Apple and HTC settle patent dispute

Apple recently settled of its patent disputes with HTC.

Back when Steve Jobs was willing to go thermonuclear against Android, there was one handset manufacturer in particular that attrracted the Apple CEO's attention - HTC. Indeed, HTC was the first handset maker Apple went after, initially filing suit against them back in March of 2010 for allegedly infringing upon 20 patents pertaining to the iPhone's UI along with the iPhone's underlying architecture and hardware.

"We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it," Steve Jobs explained in a press release at the time.

What followed was a number of countersuits initiated by HTC, and before you knew it, the two companies were going after each other in the U.S., the U.K., and of course at the International Trade Commission (ITC). Since that time, Apple has also engaged in Android-related litigation with the likes of Motorola and Samsung.

While those lawsuits seem poised to continue on unabated in the near future, HTC at the very least has come to a settlement agreement with Apple, effectively ending all patent disputes between the two companies.

Apple was first to announce the settlement agreement this weekend via a press release which read:

HTC and Apple have reached a global settlement that includes the dismissal of all current lawsuits and a ten-year license agreement. The license extends to current and future patents held by both parties. The terms of the settlement are confidential.“HTC is pleased to have resolved its dispute with Apple, so HTC can focus on innovation instead of litigation,” said Peter Chou, CEO of HTC. “We are glad to have reached a settlement with HTC,” said Tim Cook, CEO of Apple. “We will continue to stay laser focused on product innovation.” 

The terms may officially be confidential, but as you may have noticed, it's hard to keep things secret in the world of tech these days. In a note to analysts, Stern Agee analyst Shaw Wu relayed that HTC was likely paying Apple anywhere between $6 to $8 per Android phone sold. That may sound like a decent amount of cash given that HTC pays Microsoft $5 for every handset sold, but remember that HTC is no longer the king of the Android mountain anymore. Indeed, that title belongs to Samsung. So in a best case scenario, Wu imagines Apple's deal with HTC will net the company at the most about $280 million. Not too shabby, but nothing to really move the needle for a company that has well over $100 billion in the bank.

In any event, it's nice to see Apple settle up one of its many ongoing lawsuits. I'd like to think Samsung might be next, but those two companies seem determined to fight it out to the bitter legal end.

And as a last aside, apparently all of those patents HTC acquired from Google weren't all that valuable, ultimately.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.