Apple reaches patent accord with HTC

Apple has abandoned one front in its long-running war against Android vendors by settling its patent dispute with Taiwan’s HTC.

The two companies have signed a ten-year licensing agreement that will also cover future technologies. The amount concerned hasn’t been disclosed.

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

Apple first filed a suit against HTC in March 2010, alleging that it was  infringing on 20 different patents relating to the iPhone’s user interface, underlying architecture  and hardware.

But it’s by no means been Apple’s only battle, and coming to a deal with HTC will leave the company free to focus more fully on its arch-enemy Samsung.

HTC, meanwhile, can concentrate on turning its business around. As recently as two years ago, it was the top smartphone vendor in the US. But a ComScore survey earlier this year found that it’s now slipped to fifth place, with a market share of just six percent. Last month, the company warned of declines in its fourth quarter revenues and margins.

While the licensing deal with Apple may be pricey, it may be bowing to the inevitable. Last year, the International Trade Commission sided with Apple over patent infringement claims by HTC, for example.

The deal also frees the company up to concentrate on the future.

“HTC is pleased to have resolved its dispute with Apple, so HTC can focus on innovation instead of litigation.” says CEO Peter Chou.

“At this point, HTC is the only Android device maker to be paying Android-related patent royalties to both Apple and Microsoft, but this way it’s also the only one to be able to focus on its product business,” says patent expert Florian Mueller.

 I predict that HTC will in the foreseeable future also take a royalty-bearing Android patent license from Nokia, as will others in the industry.”