Apple settles HTC patent suits in shift from Jobs’ war plan

Apple Inc. settled all global lawsuits with HTC Corp., 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.’s Android software. The accord may also serve as a blueprint for Apple to resolve patent disputes with Samsung Electronics Co. and Google’s Motorola Mobility business, said Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee & Leach Inc.

“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.”

Licensing Revenue

Apple’s shares advanced 1 percent to $552.34 at 9:32 a.m. in New York. HTC, the Taoyuan, Taiwan-based maker of One, Desire, and Sensation handsets, climbed by its daily 6.9 percent limit in Taipei trading, trimming its loss this year to 51 percent.

HTC and Apple declined to provide settlement details. Apple will probably receive $6 to $8 per phone, or $180 million to $280 million a year from HTC, Wu wrote in a research report today. That’s more than the roughly $5 per phone HTC pays Microsoft Corp., and reflects the relative strength of Apple’s patent defenses, Wu said.

“We think it is fair that Apple will get some licensing revenue for the intellectual property it has developed -- in particular multi-touch gestures -- in making the modern smartphone and tablet with touchscreens,” Wu said. “Prior to the iPhone and iPad, there were arguably no products that were close in functionality and appearance.”

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