Apple, HTC settlement: Signs of disarmament?

MANDY CHENG/AFP/GETTY IMAGES - Motorists drive past a HTC store in the Younghe district of New Taipei City on October 8, 2012.

Apple and HTC announced Saturday that they have declared peace in their ongoing patent battle, dropping all litigation between the two parties for a licensing settlement deal.

Both companies framed the settlement as a win for innovation in a statement published on their Web sites.

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“HTC is pleased to have resolved its dispute with Apple, so HTC can focus on innovation instead of litigation,” said Peter Chou, the company’s chief executive.

“We are glad to have reached a settlement with HTC,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. “We will continue to stay laser focused on product innovation.”

The settlement may have surprised those who read Walter Isaacson’s biography of late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who vowed to wage “thermonuclear war” on Google Android phones for what he called “grand theft.”

But Cook has signaled in the past that he dislikes patent litigation, though he’s certainly willing to go to court to protect Apple’s intellectual property. He’s also reportedly spoken with Google CEO Larry Page about intellectual property issues, which raised some hopes that the legal battles would draw to a close.

The HTC deal, which analysts estimate requires a payment of between $6 and $8 per phone, may serve as a blueprint for future deals, said analyst Shaw Wu at Sterne Agee.

Wu said in an analyst’s note Monday that Apple may be close to settling with Samsung and Google-owned Motorola as well, using the HTC deal as a blueprint.

HTC was the first Android smartphone maker that Apple targeted with a lawsuit, which made sense given that it had a smaller market share than Samsung and did not have the Google backing of Motorola Mobility.

It’s hard to say whether Apple will, in fact, opt for a settlement in its other cases. The company has certainly shown that it’s willing to fight to the bitter end in its many cases with Samsung.

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