With HTC dispute over, Apple can aim legal guns at Samsung

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Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and HTC settled their global patent lawsuit over the weekend and announced a licensing agreement that ends their two-year smartphone patent war.

In a cryptic release, the two firms said that they had reached a "global settlement that includes the dismissal of all current lawsuits and a ten-year licensing agreement" that "extends to current and future patents held by both parties."

The first salvo was launched in 2010 by Apple, which sued the Taiwanese-based firm that makes Android-based phones, for infringing 20 iPhone patents. HTC returned fire with a lawsuit of its own against Apple.

Apple succeeded in convincing the U.S. International Trade Commission to impose a U.S. sales ban on some of HTC's smartphones after the commission ruled that HTC had infringed Apple's patents, according to a report by Reuters.

The ITC's ban took its financial toll on HTC, which decided to settle the suit against Apple. The iPhone maker has also set its legal sites on Samsung and Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Motorola unit, securing a $1 billion verdict against Samsung in August, a verdict that the Korean firm is appealing.

"The settlement is surprising and unsurprising at the same time," wrote Florian Mueller, an intellectual property expert, in a blog. "The timing wasn't expected since neither party had massive leverage over the other," he added.

"It makes a whole lot of sense that Apple would settle with HTC, and that HTC would accept the terms Apple has imposed (which were not disclosed but are likely somewhat onerous), prior to other Apple-Android settlements. Both companies simply have other priorities to focus on," Mueller noted.

Now that the HTC battlefront has been closed down, Apple can point its big guns at Samsung, whose Galaxy S3 recently overtook the iPhone 4S as the world's best-selling smartphone model, according to Strategy Analytics. The Apple-Samsung battle should prove to be the main theater in the ongoing smartphone patent war.

For more:
- check out Apple-HTC release
- read the Reuters article
- see Mueller's blog

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