Apple’s been pretty ruthless when it comes to Android litigation, even if their success rate has been hit or miss lately. After suing Samsung and HTC in the United States and everywhere else they can send a legal team, they’ve become the bane of many an Android OEM. In an interview with Bloomberg, intellectual property guru Kevin Rivette notes that the licensing fees that Apple earns on its patent lawsuits could be as high as $10 per device – a figure that could seriously impede manufacturers, especially on cheap low-margin phones.
To be blunt, that seems extremely unlikely. Apple has proven that it’s unwilling to negotiate with just about anyone, instead taking the all-or-nothing approach and going for a sales ban, as in cases with Samsung in Germany and Australia. In the latter Apple flat-out denied a settlement that surely involved patent licensing, a decision they probably regret now that their case against the design patents in the Galaxy Tab 10.1 have been dismissed. Samsung and HTC have already found ways around Apple’s legal eagles in the other cases: in Germany, Samsung released a revised Galaxy Tab 10.1N that the German court recognized as significantly different than the original, and HTC says it already has a work-around to Apple’s software patents in their United States case.
The simple fact is that Apple’s been too hard-headed to accept any sort of compromise thus far, to its detriment. This position probably stems from the late Steve Jobs, who vowed to “destroy” Android, which he saw as a stolen product. (“We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” -Steve Jobs, 1996.) Now that they’ve been handed defeat in Australia and the US and companies have found ways around their overly vague patents, they may be more amenable to licensing, as Microsoft already is. Microsoft is reputedly making more than $400 million a year in Android licensing fees, and earns $5 from every HTC sale, though that’s the only company whose specific deal with Redmond is publicly known.
Will Apple settle for licensing? Probably not. If they had tried the standard sue-then-settle tactic a year ago they might have been successful, but at this point every major manufacturer has been preparing work-around to their patent trolling. We’ll see what they can cook up in 2012 – and how many Ice Cream Sandwich features magically make their way into iOS 6.