Apple, HTC settle their patent war

(This post has been updated; see below.)

Here’s some unexpected weekend news: Apple and HTC have announced a significant armistice in one of the many battlefronts of the mobile patent wars, which seem to have embroiled just about every leading smartphone and tablet maker around the world.

In a joint statement, HTC and Apple said Saturday that they have reached “a global settlement” that includes dismissal of all current lawsuits, as well as a 10-year licensing agreement that covers current and future patents held by both companies.

Apple first sued HTC two years ago, claiming the Taiwanese company had infringed on 20 patents related to the “user interface, underlying architecture and hardware” of Apple’s iPhone. It was the first of numerous patent suits that Apple would file against several manufacturers of smartphones that use the Android operating system made by Google.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs was so infuriated by what he viewed as the rampant copying of key features in Apple’s iOS software that he vowed to “go thermonuclear” and “destroy” Android, according to biographer Walter Isaacson.  But after Jobs died last year, his successor, Tim Cook, has reportedly shown interest in resolving some of Apple’s patent disputes with Google.

Terms of the settlement with HTC were confidential. But the CEOs of both companies said they were happy to have an agreement, according to the joint statement.

“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.”

No word on any similar developments in the many disputes between Apple and Samsung or Google’s Motorola Mobility division.

Update: Neither side has confirmed details, but Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu issued a report Monday that suggests HTC will pay Apple a licensing fee of $6-$8 per Android phone, or about $180 million to $280 million a year based on an estimated 30 million to 35 million phones that HTC will ship in 2013. Wu acknowledges this is just his estimate, based on conversations with industry sources. He also notes that HTC is also believed to be paying Microsoft a licensing fee estimated to be around $5 per Android phone.



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