An Apple/HTC patent deal could signal big trouble for Android

Summary:HTC has indicated that it is prepared to negotiate with Apple over the ongoing patent dispute. But will Apple choose to settle? And if HTC and Apple do settle, what does this mean for Android as a whole?

HTC has indicated that it is prepared to negotiate with Apple over the ongoing patent dispute. But will Apple choose to settle? And if HTC and Apple do settle, what does this mean for Android as a whole?

Earlier this month the ITC (International Trade Commission) ruled that HTC was infringing on two of Apple's patents. That's a big deal for Apple, but it's also a big deal for the Android platform as a whole since it is likely that these patents apply to every Android device out there. That's a very big deal.

Now, if this was the state of play then HTC would be in big trouble. Fortunately the company has an ace up its sleeve. Earlier this month HTC announced a $300 million deal to buy S3 Graphics, an announcement that came just days following S3 winning an ITC ruling against Apple over two compression technology patents.

So HTC has some big guns of its own, and it's willing to come to the table with Apple to sort things out:

"We have to sit down and figure it out," Winston Yung, chief financial officer of the Taoyuan, Taiwan-based company, said by phone today. "We're open to having discussions."

So HTC isn't defenseless after all. If HTC didn't have any patents to fight Apple with, it's likely that Apple wouldn't choose to settle (after all, it's not like the company needs the cash and collecting nickels and dimes in patent loot would just be a drop in the cash ocean). But given that HTC has something that Apple wants (at least it'll be HTC's when its buyout of S3 is complete) then a settlement seems far more likely.

But, remember how those two patent ruling that Apple won against HTC most likely extend to all Android devices out there. If Apple and HTC can reach a deal through both having technology that the other side wants to license, where does that leave all the other OEMs out there? Also, where does that leave Android?

In trouble, that's where it leaves them. If I were an Android OEM I'd be spending some time examining my patent portfolio in the hope that I can either find something that Apple might be infringing on, and then launching a infringement claim (and hoping that the HTC agrees with me), or looking for some patent that might be of interest to Apple. An Android OEM that doesn't have technology that Apple is infringing on (or just wants) is in serious trouble.

Oh, and remember that Android as it is at the center of 49 federal and ITC infringement suits, so it's likely that things are going to get worse before they get better.

Topics: Apple, HTC

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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