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Winston Churchill probably would have made a decent patent attorney: when it comes to mobile patent litigation, to jaw-jaw is indeed always better than to war-war. Word that HTC is open to settlement talks with Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) over their patent skirmishes shouldn’t therefore come as too much of a surprise, as in the end, patent litigation seems to always come down to the money.
After a bruising round at the International Trade Commission that saw two of HTC’s products declared in violation of Apple patents, it seems HTC has decided that it wants to talk things out, according to comments made by its chief financial officer and reported by Bloomberg. The company’s stock price has suffered in the wake of that decision as well as following HTC’s decision to buy S3 Graphics–a company that has scored patent wins against Apple–for $300 million, and it rose following word that talks were on the table.
There’s no sign that Apple is actually willing to talk (in trademark fashion, an Apple representative didn’t respond to Bloomberg’s inquiries), but very rarely do technology patent cases actually come down to an injunction prohibiting the sale of the losing products that is threatened at every turn. They’re almost always settled with money, be it lump sums, ongoing royalty payments, or both. Apple recently settled its patent dispute with Nokia by agreeing to ongoing royalty payments.
HTC was one of the few big Android vendors who signed a licensing deal with Microsoft at the outset of that company’s war of patent aggression against the Android community. At some point, company executives may decide again that it makes more sense to put all the legal uncertainly behind it and return to focusing on its products. A multiyear battle between Research in Motion (NSDQ: RIMM) and patent troll NTP that RIM did not settle until the absolute last second is arguably responsible for distracting the company from recognizing the coming smartphone revolution led by the iPhone.