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HTC has offered to enter into some sort of cross-licensing deal with Apple to settle the pair's legal baggage.  (Source: Kevin Weeks)

Apple chief executive Steven Jobs has openly bragged about his expertise at "stealing" great ideas from competitors. However, he appears to believe that right is reserved for Apple as he has said that HTC "[S]hould create their own original technology, not steal ours."  (Source: European Pressphoto Agency)

HTC's innovation officer, Horace Luke, has left the company for personal reasons.  (Source: Boy Genius Report)
Will Apple be cooperative and agree to cross-licensing?

HTC Corp. (SEO:066570) is locked in a heated international court battle [1][2][3] with rival Apple, Inc. (AAPL).  Now the Taiwanese company is extending and olive branching and calling for a cross licensing deal.  The big question is whether Apple will accept.

I. Deal or No Deal - IP Edition

HTC's biggest trump cards is its recent acquisition of S3 Graphics, a graphics chipmaker who recently won a case against Apple contested before the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC).  

The ITC found that Apple violated two of S3's patents on graphics chips -- perhaps unsurprising for a company whose chief executive and co-founder, Steven P. Jobs, states [video], "Picasso had a saying - 'Good artists copy, great artists steal.' And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas."

But Apple has accused HTC of stealing.  Mr. Jobs has commented, "Competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."

And the courts have been kind to Apple, thus far, in the HTC case.  Apple has won a preliminary one judge ruling in the case, despite a recommendation by reviewers to dismiss the case on lack of merit.  The judge apparently saw things differently -- upholding two of Apple's twelve patents.

The net result is that, pending a full-panel review of the decision, the score between the smart phone makers appears to be a draw: 2-2.

HTC clearly feels it's on a level playing field -- or is at least pretending as such.  Chief financial officer Winston Yung comments in a Bloomberg interview, "We have to sit down and figure [a deal] out [with Apple]. We’re open to having discussions. We are open to all sorts of solutions, as long as the solution and the terms are fair and reasonable. On and off we’ve had discussions with Apple, even before the initial determination came out."

II. Level Playing Field?

The question is whether Apple will bite.  The problem is that some feel that it will be easier for Apple to move to new kinds of graphics chips than for HTC to remove the very generic technology covered by the Apple patents (one of which covers turning phone numbers, etc into actionable links and another, even more generic, one which covers hardware and software to offload video/audio to an off-CPU chip).

And according to the legal experts at FOSS Patents, Apple may be unwilling to deal, preferring to try to kill its competitor, removing it from the American market with a permanent injunction.  Writes FOSS Patents's Florian Müller:
But I doubt that Apple will offer HTC a license unless HTC owns or effectively controls any patents that Apple needs, in which case the two companies would cross-license. A company named S3 Graphics recently obtained an ALJ determination against Apple and HTC is in the process of acquiring that company, but I'm not sure Apple absolutely depends on a license to those patents.
Other observers offer similar skepticism that a deal will be reached.  One issue is that Apple is much bigger than HTC and has much more cash, so it's much better prepared to make sweeping, expensive changes to keep its product on the market.  And Apple stands to directly gain in sales if it can ban HTC from the U.S. and possibly other markets.  While such litigious efforts clearly seem wrong from a consumer perspective, it's unlikely they violate any sort of competition laws -- in the U.S., at least.

On the other hand, Apple is awaiting the outcome of lawsuits against [1][2][3] and countersuits with Motorola Solutions Inc. (MSI) and Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (SEO:005930) on the same patents, so it could see its IP vanish before it could strike against Samsung.  If Apple opts to refuse cross-licensing, it could miss out on potential revenue -- particularly if the court battle with Motorola and Samsung goes badly.  These companies are expected to post a far stiffer challenge to Apple in court, as Samsung, in particular, has many times as many patents as Apple, both in the U.S. and abroad.

So will Apple try to kill HTC, as some fear?  Or will it extend an olive branch of cross-licensing?  It remains to be seen.  But at the very least, cross-licensing should not be viewed as a certainty.

III. HTC Loses Key Executive

There's a saying that good luck -- or bad -- comes in bunches.  HTC appears to be in a bit of a bad luck slump.  It's just received news that Horace Luke was resigning from his post as chief innovation officer at HTC, as reported by the Boy Genius Report.

HTC released a brief statement, commenting:

Horace Luke, HTC’s chief innovation officer, has left HTC for personal reasons. Horace nurtured a culture of innovation at HTC and instilled a strong consumer design-focus among our employees who continue to raise the bar in designing products that capture our customers’ imagination.

We are grateful for Horace’s many contributions to HTC and wish him well in his future endeavors. Scott Croyle, HTC’s vice president of design, has taken over Horace’s responsibilities and will continue a tradition of design innovation at HTC.

Before HTC most of Mr. Luke's big successes came outside the mobile sector.  He had worked for 9 years for Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), where he was in charge of creative efforts with Windows XP, Windows Mobile, Xbox, and other projects.  Both the Xbox and Windows XP were massive successes, though Windows Mobile was starting to sink in market share by the time Mr. Luke left.

At HTC Mr. Luke was among the forces to drive HTC to become a top-tier smart phone maker.  The small company rose out of relative obscurity to become one of the most iconic handset makers in America, with high-profile devices like the Thunderbolt and EVO 4G.

Mr. Luke reportedly left the company on April 30 -- almost three months ago.


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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Box
By AlvinCool on 7/26/2011 10:00:07 AM , Rating: 2
If only I had known about patents. All those years drawing boxes on paper, I could have patented having boxes with pictures and or sound. Boxes of variable size from huge to tiny. I'd be RICH

And if that sounds absurd so do the patents they are basing this crap on.




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