Apple settles HTC patent suits shifting from jobs' war
Apple Inc. (AAPL) settled all global lawsuits with HTC Corp. (2498), signaling a new willingness to resolve patent disputes without resorting to the "thermonuclear war" stance favored by co-founder Steve Jobs.
Apple, which had accused HTC of copying features that made its iPhone unique, "will continue to stay laser-focused on product innovation," Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said in a statement yesterday with HTC, which surged as the companies announced a 10-year licensing deal. HTC had claimed the maker of iPads and MacBooks infringed wireless patents.
The settlement with HTC, the first company Apple sued for violating iPhone patents, suggests Cook will take a softer line than Jobs, who vowed before his death last year to wage all-out war against smartphones powered by Google Inc. (GOOG)'s Android software. Apple also is locked in patent lawsuits around the world with Samsung Electronics Co. concerning smartphones and tablets, and won a $1 billion jury verdict in California.
"For as long as Tim Cook has been CEO, Apple has been less interested in pursuing legal assaults against competitors, choosing increasingly to find ways to settle differences out of court," said Carl Howe, an analyst at Yankee Group in Boston. "This settlement indicates a softening of Apple's legal thrusts."
Settling with HTC may allow the world's most-valuable company to focus its legal efforts on Samsung (005930), the Suwon, South Koreabased maker of Galaxy handsets that's now the world's largest smartphone maker.
"Samsung is still going hard and has become an even bigger threat" since being sued by Apple, said Lee Seung Woo, a Seoul- based analyst at IBK Securities Co. Apple may have decided it achieved what it wanted by going after HTC because the Taiwanese company's share of the smartphone market has weakened, Lee said.
James Chung, a Seoul-based spokesman for Samsung, declined to comment.
Jobs, who died of cancer last year at 56, summed up his approach in a March 2010 statement accusing HTC of stealing designs by Cupertino, California-based Apple.
"We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We've decided to do something about it," Jobs said at the time. "We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours." At the time, HTC was the leading maker of smartphones using Android. Since then, its market share has fallen behind Samsung's.