Samsung can’t just buy HTC to settle with Apple; but gets to see Apple-HTC deal details
A few days ago we were somewhat surprised to hear that Apple and HTC decided to settle their squabble over patents out of courts, with both companies inking an undisclosed cross-licensing agreement that’s valid at least ten years.
This gave Samsung ammunition for its own legal matters against Apple, with the company asking U.S. courts to grant it permission to see the details of the Apple vs HTC settlement, which could be important for the future Apple vs Samsung proceedings.
Apple and HTC agreed to show Samsung the settlement documents, at least a heavily redacted version that would not let Samsung lawyers in on various crucial details including royalty rates.
CNET now reports that Magistrate Judge Singh Grewal sided with Samsung on the matter, deciding to let its lawyers see the Apple-HTC documents. But only them:
Many third parties to this case have had their licensing agreements disclosed — without any redaction of financial terms — subject to an Attorneys-Eyes-Only designation because the confidential financial terms were clearly relevant to the dispute between Apple and Samsung. HTC is not entitled to special treatment, especially when it has recognized the general sufficiency of the protective order and the integrity of Samsung’s outside counsel.
That means the public will not be told, at least not officially, how much HTC is paying Apple for use of some of their patents on the handsets it produces – apparently it’s not $6-8 as some stories suggested, which prompted HTC’s denial via its CEO, Peter Chou.
But the public will get to look at a heavily redacted version of the Apple-HTC deal, which is available in the wild according to FOSS Patents. While the main details of the settlement are unavailable, the document does contain a “Change of Control” clause according to which the deal is void if a change of control occurs.
In other words, if a third party were to get control of over 50% of either company, the settlement would be void, at least until new negotiations take place.
Of the two, Apple is hardly in a position where it can be purchased by a different company, considering its market cap and the huge cash reserves it’s sitting on. But HTC is not as lucky, with the Taiwanese company experiencing problems when it comes to meeting profit goals. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if a giant were to decide to purchase HTC at some point in the future, with Samsung potentially being one of the giants.
However, that wouldn’t mean that Samsung would inherit the Apple-HTC settlement deal, according to this particular “Change of Control” clause. Sure, Samsung did recently say that it’s not considering settlement talks with Apple, but who knows what will happen in the future.
What we do know is that a new round of hearings is set to take place on December 6 in the first U.S. Apple vs Samsung lawsuit, the one that awarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages. At the same time, the ITC will have another look at Samsung patent claims against some Apple products, claims that were previously dismissed.
In other words, patent wars are still to stay, at least for the immediate future.