Get on the edge of your seats, everybody - it's patent time again. Today, the USPTO handed down what's called a preliminary invalidation finding on a rather infamous Apple software patent regarding touchscreen heuristics. This patent was known as the "Steve Jobs patent," as its first listed author is the late Apple cofounder (let's keep the Jobs insults to a minimum in the comments, please). This comes after the preliminary invalidation of Apple's also-infamous "rubber-banding" patent back in October.
A redacted version of the HTC-Apple patent licensing agreement was published in the public record today as part of the Samsung v. Apple trial, and AllThingsD has a copy. It's 143 pages long (to be fair, only about a fifth of that is the actual settlement), so let me give you the skinny.
First, what has HTC agreed to? Well, it's actually not super complicated to distill down: basically, HTC can use Apple's functional software patents under the license, except those covered under an "anti-cloning" rule and which are part of the "distinct Apple user experience" - unless those features are part of the core Android OS that HTC does not control.
In case you forgot, Google was involved in a little spat with Oracle earlier this year, in which a jury decided that Oracle's patents were not infringed by Google, and a judge came to the conclusion that Oracle's assertion regarding API copyright infringement was untenable.
Judge Alsup's reasoning in denying Oracle's infringement claim was, to anyone with a technical background, quite reasonable. Oracle had claimed that while the amount of line-for-line literal infringement Google committed against the 37 infringed Java APIs through its Dalvik virtual machine was minimal (read: 97% of Google's code was original), the fact that Google had copied created its functional equivalent constituted copyright infringement.
The word "unredacted" is experiencing quite a spike in usage this morning, on news that HTC and Apple are being required to produce the full, uncut version of their patent licensing agreement for use by Samsung's legal counsel. The document in question, which had previously been provided sans 33 words (some of which were, presumably, numbers), was requested by Samsung last week for the purpose of arguing against Apple's post-trial motions for permanent injunctions against infringing Samsung products.
It was bound to happen. Really, it was inevitable at this point, however today we've gotten official word that Samsung is requesting to add the newest iPad, the iPad Mini, and the latest iPod Touch to its lawsuit against the Cupertino company. This isn't shocking so much as it is entirely expected. Still, while HTC and Apple are busy settling their differences and the patent wars seemingly cooling off—if only a bit—this is a solid reminder that the two manufacturers with the most to gain (and lose!) from this fight aren't backing away from each other.
HTC CEO Peter Chou has come out swinging against allegations that HTC is paying "$6-8 per handset" in royalties to Apple, calling the estimates "outrageous." Of course, those estimate were indeed just estimates, and they were also commented upon by HTC insiders at the time as being a little on the high side.
So, what do we take from Mr. Chou's statement? HTC is probably paying a royalty, but a $6-8 royalty (that's about 1-1.5% on a $600-800 smartphone)?
After the dismissal of two of its cases against Motorola - one in Wisconsin, one in Illinois - Apple hasn't exactly been on a roll when it comes to Google's newly-purchased hardware arm. Motorola, too, hasn't done very well, with its own counterclaims in the same Illinois case also being dismissed, and by making an unexplained last-minute withdrawal of a major ITC case it was filing against Cupertino.
At the time, my first instinct when Motorola withdrew its software patent case against Apple was "settlement talks are on the table." While today's news still doesn't shed too much light on that particular event, it comes with its own bright spots of hope.
I can't say I'm the biggest student of Gandhi, but that whole "an eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind" bit sure came to mind this morning when I read that Samsung's head of mobile, Shin Jong-kyun, said the company "[does not] intend to (negotiate) at all" with Apple. This came on news of HTC's settlement with Apple on Saturday, which I contend is objectively good for the industry and consumers, no matter how you spin it.
On Saturday evening, HTC and Apple issued a joint press release indicating the two companies had settled their ongoing legal slapfight. Under a confidential 10-year licensing arrangement, they have agreed to what essentially amounts to a rigid patent ceasefire. Even future patents are covered under the deal (there obviously will be exceptions to any deal, but that's the gist).
Immediately, most people assumed HTC was getting hosed. Then, HTC rep Jeff Gordon issued a slightly cryptic but factually vital statement, saying HTC "does not expect this license agreement to have any adverse material impact on the financials of the company."
Now, whether that means the cost of the license and the savings of not keeping 300 attorneys on retainer will cancel out, or if the settlement basically cost HTC nothing, is not clear.
Aaron's not able to write this weekend's poll, because he's too busy being a dad to his newborn son! He'll be back soon, and we all wish him the very best.
Last night, HTC and Apple issued a joint press release indicating the two companies have settled their ongoing patent slapfight.