Sunday, November 11, 2012

Apple-HTC settlement is already the 15th official Android patent license deal

Today's news of a global settlement of all litigation pending between Apple and HTC, based on a ten-year license agreement, is huge. It is, however, already the 15th patent license deal involving Android to have been announced (there may also have been some secret deals). Each and every one of those deals reduces to absurdity Google's claim of Android being "free". There's no such thing as a free lunch.

On the occasion of today's announcement, here's a recap of the 15 Android patent license deals (some of which also cover Google's Chrome) that have been announced to date. The list begins with HTC's deal with Microsoft and ends with HTC's agreement with Apple. At this point, HTC is the only Android device maker to be paying Android-related patent royalties to both Apple and Microsoft, but this way it's also the only one to be able to focus on its product business. I predict that HTC will in the foreseeable future also take a royalty-bearing Android patent license from Nokia, as will others in the industry.

Here's the list (in chronological order):

  1. April 27, 2010: Microsoft Announces Patent Agreement With HTC

  2. June 27, 2011: Microsoft and General Dynamics Itronix Sign Patent Agreement ("Agreement will cover General Dynamics Itronix devices running the Android platform.") (FOSS Patents coverage)

  3. June 29, 2011: Microsoft and Velocity Micro, Inc., Sign Patent Agreement Covering Android-Based Devices (FOSS Patents coverage)

  4. June 30, 2011: Microsoft and Onkyo Corp. Sign Patent Agreement Covering Android-Based Tablets (FOSS Patents coverage)

  5. July 5, 2011: Microsoft and Wistron Sign Patent Agreement ("Agreement will cover Wistron's Android tablets, smartphones and e-readers.") (FOSS Patents coverage)

  6. September 8, 2011: Microsoft and Acer Sign Patent License Agreement ("Agreement will cover Acer's Android tablets and smartphones.") (FOSS Patents coverage)

  7. September 8, 2011: Microsoft and ViewSonic Sign Patent Agreement ("Agreement will cover ViewSonic's Android Tablets and smartphones.") (FOSS Patents coverage)

  8. September 28, 2011: Microsoft and Samsung Broaden Smartphone Partnership ("Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft will receive royalties for Samsung's mobile phones and tablets running the Android mobile platform.") (FOSS Patents coverage)

  9. October 23, 2011: Microsoft and Compal Electronics Sign Patent Agreement Covering Android and Chrome Based Devices

  10. January 12, 2012: Microsoft and LG Sign Patent Agreement Covering Android and Chrome OS Based Devices (FOSS Patents coverage)

  11. April 25, 2012: Microsoft and Pegatron Corp. Sign Patent Agreement Covering Android- and Chrome-Based Devices

  12. April 30, 2012: Barnes & Noble and Microsoft Form Strategic Partnership to Advance World-Class Digital Reading Experiences for Consumers" ("Barnes & Noble and Microsoft have settled their patent litigation, and moving forward, Barnes & Noble and Newco will have a royalty-bearing license under Microsoft's patents for its NOOK eReader and Tablet products.") (FOSS Patents coverage)

  13. July 9, 2012: Microsoft and Aluratek Inc. Sign Patent Agreement Covering Android and Chrome Based Devices

  14. November 7, 2012: Microsoft Signs Licensing Agreements for exFAT With Sharp, Sigma, NextoDi, Black Magic and Atomos Global ("The agreements cover Sharp Android tablets, Sigma and NextoDi high-end cameras and accessories, and Black Magic and Atomos Global broadcast-quality video-recording devices.")

  15. November 11, 2012: HTC and Apple Settle Patent Dispute (FOSS Patents coverage)

This list will grow considerably. I don't know if there will be any more announcements before the end of the year, but there certainly will be lots of Android patent license deals in 2013. At some point, even Google's Motorola Mobility will end up paying. If HTC had believed that Google could solve Android's patent problems with Motorola's patents, it wouldn't have done a separate deal with Apple but would have waited for a global settlement between Apple and the entire Google-led Android ecosystem.

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