Apple, Android Vendor HTC Settle Patent-Infringement Fights

Under the deal, Apple and HTC will now have a 10-year licensing agreement for current and future patents, ending a more than two-year legal battle.

Apple and HTC have settled their two-and-a-half-year-old legal fight over charges that HTC's smartphone designs infringed on about 20 Apple patents for its iPhones.

The settlement, which also dismisses all current lawsuits between the two companies and includes a 10-year licensing agreement between Apple and HTC for all current and future patents, was announced Nov. 10 by the companies in a joint statement.

"We are glad to have reached a settlement with HTC," Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, said in prepared remarks. "We will continue to stay laser-focused on product innovation."

HTC CEO Peter Chou was also supportive of the settlement. "HTC is pleased to have resolved its dispute with Apple, so HTC can focus on innovation instead of litigation,” said Chou.

The terms of the settlement are not being announced by either side.

Apple originally sued HTC in March 2010, alleging that HTC violated 20 of its patents surrounding the iPhone's interface, architecture and hardware.

That patent-infringement lawsuit against HTC arrived just as Google's Android operating system started to be incorporated into more and more HTC devices and as the smartphone wars were beginning to really pick up steam.

Carl Howe, an IT analyst with Yankee Group, said the settlement between Apple and HTC is evidence of a "new kinder, gentler Apple."

"I've been saying for quite a while that for as long as Tim Cook has been CEO, Apple has been less interested in pursuing legal assaults against competitors, choosing increasingly to find ways to settle differences out of court," said Howe. "With only a few exceptions for core technologies, notably Samsung, Apple has instigated no new IP lawsuits since Tim Cook has become CEO. Almost all of the litigation going on was filed when Steve Jobs was CEO or has been in response to other companies suing Apple first."

What that means, he said, is that "Cook has been focusing more on winning in the market, not in court."

In fact, he said, cross-licensing activity has increased recently for Apple patents, including with companies such as Nokia and the Swiss Railroad Co.

On the other hand, there are still patent lawsuits out there involving Apple, and the company continues to pursue them, said Howe. "Apple still intends to defend its core IP through existing filings which are already years old. When Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, Jobs claimed that it had filed more than 200 patents to protect its innovations in its touch-screen interface, and that it intended to defend those UI and iPhone technology patents to prohibit outright copying of this technology."