Apple and HTC Sign 10-Year Patent Accord
Perhaps we're finally seeing the beginnings of a truce that will put an end to the intellectual property distraction that has plagued the smartphone industry.
Apple and Taiwanese handset manufacturer HTC announced Saturday that the two companies agreed to a 10-year license agreement for current and future patents held by both parties, and would dismiss a series of lawsuits they had filed against each other over the past 2+ years; financial details of the agreement were not released. So while the much larger battle between Apple and Samsung continues, perhaps we are finally seeing the beginnings of a truce of sorts that will put an end to the intellectual property distraction that has plagued the smartphone industry longer than most of us care to remember.
Clearly Samsung is a much bigger issue than HTC. Apple was awarded a $1.05 billion settlement against Samsung back in August (though the latter is still contesting the ruling). Market analyst Canalys recently pegged Samsung's 3Q 2012 share of the worldwide smartphone market at 32% to Apple's 15.5% and HTC's 4.8%; Sony came in third at 5.1%.
However, there's more than market share numbers in play here. Steve Jobs's biographer, Walter Isaacson, describes Jobs erupting in fury the week Apple filed the suit against HTC and vowing, "I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product".
The lack of financial details disclosed about the Apple-HTC settlement makes it difficult to determine the scale of the impact on either company. During the Apple-Samsung trial, it was disclosed that Apple had apparently been offering Samsung the option to pay $24 per smartphone and $32 per tablet for use of its intellectual property. Given that royalty rates are based on "what you've got to trade," it's impossible to say what the arrangement between Apple and HTC might be.
The peculiar thing about this is that Apple's real beef is with Google, but lawyers say Apple will have an easier time suing the handset manufacturers, as Google's direct revenue stream from Android is essentially zero.
In any event, at least this should be one less IPR (intellectual property rights) battle we'll have to track, and hopefully the start of a trend that will get IPR cases out of the news. Maybe then manufacturers will be able to predict their costs more accurately, and we can get back to focusing on how these wonderful technologies can impact peoples' lives.