One of the major smartphone patent disputes involving devices running Google’s (s goog) Android operating system has been settled as Apple (s aapl) and HTC announced a settlement late Saturday. The deal involves a ten-year license agreement and dismisses all of the legal disputes between the two companies around the world. Financial terms were not disclosed.
The text of the release, which is available on Apple’s website, follows below.
HTC and Apple have reached a global settlement that includes the dismissal of all current lawsuits and a ten-year license agreement. The license extends to current and future patents held by both parties. The terms of the settlement are confidential.
“HTC is pleased to have resolved its dispute with Apple, so HTC can focus on innovation instead of litigation,” said Peter Chou, CEO of HTC.
“We are glad to have reached a settlement with HTC,” said Tim Cook, CEO of Apple. “We will continue to stay laser focused on product innovation.”
The settlement means both companies will save enormous amounts in legal fees given that complex patent cases typically cost tens of millions of dollars. But the announcement leaves unanswered important questions about the deal and what led to it.
For instance: was there cash involved or was it a straightforward cross-license? Does this represent a larger strategic alliance or simply a truce? Will the companies cooperate in asserting the patents against other companies?
And the biggest question of all is whether a similar deal is in the works between Apple and Samsung which have likewise been engaged in bitter litigation around the world. A patent lawsuit between Apple and Motorola — now a wholly owned subsidiary of Google — was recently thrown out of court.
Apple first sued HTC in March 2010, alleging that several HTC smartphone infringed on the design of Apple’s iPhone. HTC later countersued. Unlike the more dramatic battle with Samsung, which resulted in a $1 billion patent verdict earlier this year, Apple’s case against HTC has largely been fought before the International Trade Commission. Apple did win a decision against HTC in that arena in 2011, but HTC said it could easily work around the one patent that it was judged to have infringed.
While the smartphone patent wars have been brewing for years, they gained a new intensity when Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs declared he would wage “thermonuclear war” against Google’s Android operating system. The company’s tone has shifted slightly in the last year as current CEO Tim Cook has described patent litigation as a “pain in the ass,” suggesting Apple is approaching the issue in a less emotional fashion.