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Settlement gives HTC access to Apple utility patents, not designs

Settlement gives HTC access to Apple utility patents, not designs

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Last month Apple and HTC settled all of their patent litigation worldwide thanks to a 10-year licensing agreement — and now we're getting a look at a redacted version of that agreement courtesy of Samsung. The document is heavily redacted, with both the covered products and the fees paid by either side unreadable. What is visible, however, is what the agreement doesn't cover: it's specified that Apple's design patents and trade dress are still off limits to HTC. It seems to present a clear indication of what Cupertino was willing to offer — hardware and software patents, but not the elements that Apple believes make its products unique and distinctive.

That concern is echoed in the anti-cloning provisions in the agreement. It defines very specifically what would constitute cloning in Apple's eyes, spelling out that it's a combination of feature, patent, and visual presentation that makes up the "Distinctive Apple User Experience." The cross-licensing agreement between Apple and Microsoft contains similar anti-cloning provisions, but the terms here are particularly strict; HTC may be able to use Apple's slide-to-unlock patent to provide similar functionality, for example, but it can't look like the iPhone's feature or HTC would be guilty of cloning.

The document also details the method in which HTC will pay Apple royalties, however no such instructions are present for payments to HTC. With the document so heavily redacted it's hard to be certain, but there's no indication Apple is paying anything at all for the use of HTC's patents.

The release comes in connection with the Apple and Samsung trial that concluded with a $1.049 billion verdict in Apple's favor. Samsung had asked to see the settlement agreement last month; the company hopes to use the details of the document to fight off Apple's request that its products be pulled off the market in the wake of the verdict. Judge Paul S. Grewal ordered Apple to turn the document over to Samsung, although it was originally intended to be for Samsung's legal team only. Earlier this week Judge Lucy Koh ruled that while the pricing and royalty information could be sealed, the rest of the document deserved no such privileges.

Both Apple and Samsung will be meeting in front of Judge Koh tomorrow to discuss Apple's injunction request along with several other matters. We'll be there in the courtroom to let you know what happens.

Matt Macari contributed to this report.