Apple softens litigation strategy for smaller competitors

KWIKA partner Jonathan Steinsapir was quoted in the Daily Journal and also on Law360.com’s website regarding Apple Inc.’s patent settlement with Taiwanese electronics manufacturer HTC Corp.

While no details were given about the 10-year agreement, it appears that Apple is willing to license some of its intellectual property to smaller smartphone makers in contrast to its recent posture of zero tolerance when it comes to industry giants such as Samsung.

“There was this idea that [Apple] could build a wall around the iPhone,” noted Jonathan in Rachel Swan’s Daily Journal article (“Apple’s patent settlement with HTC signals shift in company’s legal strategy”).  “But they’ve come to the conclusion that [the company] won’t be able to do that.”

According to Ryan Davis in his Law360.com piece (“Apple’s smartphone wars to rage on after HTC deal”), some observers believe that the settlement with HTC shows that Apple is even more determined to keep the pressure on Samsung by not getting bogged down in disputes with minor players.  Jonathan believes that Apple’s original strategy of suing every other smartphone maker to drive them out of the market has not proved optimal.

“Apple has been on the ‘we’re going to shut this down’ route, and that’s not going to happen.  Patent litigation is too sloppy, and it takes too long.”  He expects that Apple will eventually recognize that licensing deals are the way to go, even with the Samsungs of the world, rather than spending so much of its resources in court.

“Once Apple realizes it’s not going to be able to stop everyone, that’s the incentive.  We can have the best of both worlds.”  Jonathan pointed out that Apple and Microsoft had engaged in years-long patent litigation until finally reaching an agreement in 1997.

“They decided to fight in business rather than fight in court.  That’s the ultimate trend and probably where this is going.”