Ina Fried

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Does HTC Deal Signal End to Apple’s Thermonuclear War Against Android?

The most noteworthy piece of the just-announced Apple-HTC settlement is that the iPhone maker has a price.

Until now, Apple indicated only that it wanted other companies not to copy it. It didn’t seem interested in licensing its patents.

Late CEO Steve Jobs seemed more interested in crushing Android than trying to extract royalties from those that use Google’s operating system.

By contrast, Microsoft has also said it believes Android devices infringe its products, but has been plenty happy to license its patents.

Under the 10-year deal announced on Saturday night, however, Apple appears to be following suit, allowing HTC to continue to do business as usual — and collecting a fee in return.

Also surprising is the fact that HTC is apparently not being forced to pay an arm and a leg for that privilege.

Although terms are not being disclosed, HTC did say that it does not expect the agreement of have an “adverse material impact” on its financials. Whatever the company is paying (and rest assured, Apple is being paid here), it would appear to be relatively cheap considering that a jury ordered Samsung to pay upward of a billion dollars for infringing Apple patents.

Of course, Samsung continues to fight that verdict in court and is still some way from actually having to write Apple a check.

Whether this indicates a willingness by Apple to settle with Android device makers beyond HTC remains to be seen. Apple hasn’t been totally closed to patent deals with mobile phone makers — it has a pact of some sort with Nokia and a rather broad cross-licensing arrangement with Microsoft. It even offered Samsung a deal at one point, though it was seeking $30 per phone and $40 per tablet.

It’s not totally clear what type of license HTC has to Apple know-how, but HTC did say the deal will allow it to continue shipping its existing lineup of devices, a lineup that includes a wide range of Android and Windows Phone devices.

Apple may also be playing a bit of “the enemy of the enemy is my friend” here. Though Apple and HTC have hardly been chummy, the company’s biggest strategic battles are against Samsung and Google (which now owns Motorola). By making peace with a struggling HTC, Apple could boost the Taiwanese phone maker in its battle with those two larger rivals.


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