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Apple and HTC sign patent licensing agreement following legal disputes

Apple and Taiwanese device manufacturer HTC have agreed to allow one another to use each other's "current and future patents" under a new 10 year licensing deal agreed on by the two companies.12 Nov 2012

The terms of the deal are "confidential" but the global settlement "includes the dismissal of all current lawsuits" between the companies, Apple and HTC said in a joint statement.

"HTC is pleased to have resolved its dispute with Apple, so HTC can focus on innovation instead of litigation,” Peter Chou, HTC's chief executive, said in the statement.

"We are glad to have reached a settlement with HTC," added Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple. "We will continue to stay laser focused on product innovation."

Apple and HTC have been embroiled in a number of patent dispute proceedings across the world in recent years.

In 2011 the US International Trade Commission made an order to ban some HTC devices being sold in the US after ruling that the company had infringed on one of Apple's patents, according to a report by the BBC. HTC had claimed that it was Apple that had infringed on its patent rights through its use of certain technology in the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Earlier this year in the UK the High Court ruled that three European patents that Apple sought to rely on in legal proceedings against HTC were invalid and that the Taiwanese device manufacturer had not been guilty of infringing on a fourth patent.

One of the patents that the High Court held as invalid was for 'unlocking a device by performing gestures on an unlock image'. Apple utilises a 'slide to unlock' feature on its iPhone device that, when used, enables users to access the functions of their device. The High Court had said that HTC's 'Arc unlock mechanism' would have infringed Apple's patent had Apple's invention not been "obvious".

To qualify for patent protection inventions must primarily be new, take an inventive step that is not obvious and be useful to industry, amongst other criteria governing patentability.

Mr Justice Floyd said Apple's 'slide to unlock' technology was not patentable partly on the basis that a mobile device first introduced into European markets in 2004, Neonode N1, had featured an unlock mechanism. He said Apple had simply developed the Neonode feature using existing technology it also knew about, which included a "slider" created by Microsoft.

Mr Justice Floyd also ruled that Apple's patent for 'portable radio communication apparatus using different alphabets' was invalid on the grounds that it was obvious. The judge said the patent covered the use of "multilingual" keyboard button inputs.

Apple's 'touch event model' patent, which covers technology that recognises when portions of a device screen were activated by single or multiple finger touches, was also ruled invalid by the judge. Mr Justice Floyd said the patent was obvious.

Apple's patent for 'portable electronic device for photo management' was not deemed invalid, but HTC was found not to have infringed on it. The patent covers technology that enables device users to manipulate the positioning of a "zoomed-in image" on their screens. The judge said, though, that the way HTC's photo application, Gallery, allows users to move images when they reach a "dead stop" on their screen was different to what the patent protects.

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