When Playing Defense, Apple Willing To Settle Patent Disputes

iPhone 4 Homescreen

Apple’s aggressive mobile patent strategy is apparently reserved for its offensive maneuvers. It has agreed to settle a patent lawsuit brought by Elan Microelectronics for $5 million and a cross-licensing agreement, according to a report.

Elan first sued Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) in 2009 over patents related to touch-screen technology, according to Reuters, but the companies will end their legal dispute, which included a countersuit by Apple, with the agreement. $5 million is pocket change for Apple, but the agreement is another reminder that Apple can be willing to settle these matters, as it did last year in a patent dispute with Nokia.

Reading quotes from the late Steve Jobs in Walter Issacson’s biography might have left you with a different impression, and Apple still hasn’t taken its foot off the gas in high-profile disputes with HTC and Samsung over Android devices. But we’ve wondered whether or not new Apple CEO Tim Cook feels the same compulsion to “destroy” Android when it’s clear that Android’s rise hasn’t really affected Apple’s ability to sell iPhones at huge profits.

The Elan settlement is a drop in the bucket, but it also shows that Apple has at least some exposure to patents. Not nearly as much as the Android community, of course, but nor is Apple free and clear from the threat of another company using a vaguely worded patent to try and cash in on the iPhone.

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