News of a deal between Apple and HTC over alleged patent infringements this weekend suggested the smartphone world might finally be coming to its senses.
Litigation between the sector’s biggest players has been endemic for years. And while Apple and Samsung are still duking it out in courtrooms around the globe, at least Cupertino and Taiwan’s HTC have managed to put their differences aside.
When the news arrived, it did so via a terse statement on Apple’s official website.
HTC’s Peter Chou heralded the agreement, which will see the companies license patents to each other for 10 years, saying “HTC is pleased to have resolved its dispute with Apple, so HTC can focus on innovation instead of litigation.”
Tim Cook, CEO at Apple, added: “We are glad to have reached a settlement with HTC. We will continue to stay laser-focused on product innovation.” But this isn’t just a case of the two kissing and making up.
HTC has been in dire straits for months, its smartphone share sliding by a colossal 36.1 per cent in August of this year according to Canalys.
Its legal wrangles with Apple were shaping up to be very costly if this hadn’t been settled in the boardrooms of both companies.
While Apple’s original lawsuit against HTC, in April 2010, met with mixed results (only two out ten patent violations were upheld by the International Trade Commission), it’s had more success of late, with the ITC saying HTC has infringed a so-called “data-tapping” feature, which allowed docs to be formatted to work with specific apps.
HTC removed this feature and has been on the back foot ever since.
So, has HTC won out by getting this settled out of court? It’s certainly avoided a costly fine. But it certainly didn’t get off lightly financially, with Forbes claiming that it will have to hand over between $6 and $8 for every Android phone it sells.
With sales tumbling, this could be the death knell for HTC as we know it.
Average phones, sluggish and sometimes non-existent Android updates for even its best handsets and now this, means the company that was taking all before it two years ago is now, to coin an Apple phrase, disappearing in the rear view mirror.
Apple is certainly looking the rosier of the two companies, making cash from Android phone sales and looking to put to bed the lawsuits so actively sought by the late Steve Jobs.
It now seems that the battle for patent supremacy is at last drawing to a close, with Apple and Samsung surely set to close a similar deal in the next few months, albeit one which isn’t so harsh on Samsung’s smartphone interests.
For HTC though, its days at the top are surely numbered.