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Apple and HTC drop patent lawsuits, sign 10-year licensing deal

Apple and HTC have announced that they have settled their long-running patent battle.

The deal means the two companies will dismiss all current lawsuits in favour of a 10-year licensing agreement. Apple and HTC said terms of the deal are confidential, but "the license extends to current and future patents held by both parties," they said.

"HTC is pleased to have resolved its dispute with Apple, so HTC can focus on innovation instead of litigation," Peter Chou, CEO of HTC, said in a statement.

"We are glad to have reached a settlement with HTC," said Tim Cook, CEO of Apple. "We will continue to stay laser focused on product innovation."

The patent war between Apple and HTC started in March 2010. At the time, Apple sued HTC for 20 instances of patent infringement, all dealing with various elements of the iPhone. "We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it," Steve Jobs, then Apple's chief executive, said at the time. "We've decided to do something about it. We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."

In July 2011, the International Trade Commission said HTC may have infringed on two Apple patents. HTC and Apple both requested reviews in that decision, and in December, the ITC ruled in favour of Apple and ordered an import ban on certain HTC devices starting 19 April 2012. HTC developed a workaround for its phones to avoid the ban, but the decision still delayed the US availability of the HTC One X and the HTC EVO 4G LTE while US Customs made sure that workaround was in place.

HTC has also sued Apple in the UK's High Court of Justice in London, as well as Delaware district court.

The companies gave no indication about what prompted tonight's announcement. Did HTC get spooked by Samsung's huge patent loss to Apple in August? HTC has been struggling financially of late, and likely couldn't afford a patent judgment like the $1.05 billion (£650 million) one a California jury handed down against Samsung.

HTC has a number of new smartphones in the pipeline. The firm is "going big" on Windows Phone 8, which includes the HTC 8X, which launched this week. There's also the Android-based HTC One X+ and One VX.