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November 20, 2012

Apple, HTC Agreement Could Come Back to Haunt Apple in Fight With Samsung

The global settlement between Apple and HTC last week may become ammunition for Samsung in its battle with the iPhone maker.

Samsung, which could face a sales ban after a jury awarded Apple $1.05 billion in an August patent lawsuit, has asked a U.S. judge to compel Apple to file a copy of the HTC agreement.

Samsung’s court filing indicates its belief the HTC deal covers some of the patents involved in its own litigation with Apple.

If all the Apple patents are named in the agreement, including the “user experience” patents Apple had maintained it would never license, the company may have shot itself in the foot where Samsung is concerned. Such an agreement would likely weaken the company’s chances of obtaining a sales ban for devices that replicate its technology because a judge is unlikely to bar the sale of a particular device if a licensing agreement could solve the problem.

The two-year patent war between Apple and HTC ended with a 10-year license agreement Nov. 10. The license covers current and future patents held by both firms.

The companies declined to release further information, saying the “terms of the settlement are confidential.”

Apple and HTC, who have been battling over patents since 2010, each garnered victories and losses during litigation.

Apple has yet to settle with any other Smartphone manufacturers using Google’s Android operating system.

Samsung and Apple are embroiled in a patent fracas in 10 countries as each accuses the other of copying one another’s mobile devices.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in September rescinded a ban on U.S. sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 that she imposed in June. Koh said she had no grounds for keeping the preliminary injunction in place after jurors decided in an Aug. 24 verdict Samsung did not violate an Apple design patent. This is separate from the case during which a jury awarded Apple $1.05 billion.

A U.S. judge in October ruled Samsung had breached four Apple patents but did not infringe two others as the company claimed. Another claim was dropped during litigation.

The International Trade Commission will determine in February if the judge’s decision will be upheld or rejected.

Also last month, a British Court of Appeal ruled Samsung’s Galaxy tablet did not violate Apple’s patents because it simply is “not as cool” as Apple’s iPad. Apple has not said if it will take its appeal to the Supreme Court, the final court of appeal for U.K. civil cases.

Samsung, meanwhile, claimed in a court filing Oct. 1 that Apple’s iPhone 5 infringes two standards patents and six features patents.

The case is set for trial in 2014.