Apple suddenly and unexpectedly announced a patent lawsuit settlement with rival smartphone maker HTC on Saturday, ending over two years of legal battles between the firms. But the settlement is most notable because it marks the first time Apple has settled and entered into a cross-licensing agreement with an Android device maker. (See also, "For Apple, One Win and Three Losses in Patent Case against HTC").

Both companies issued stock statements.

“HTC is pleased to have resolved its dispute with Apple, so HTC can focus on innovation instead of litigation,” HTC CEO Peter Chou is credited as saying.

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

Apple sued HTC for infringing on 20 patents “related to the iPhone’s user interface, underlying architecture, and hardware” in March 2010. This triggered a series of subsequent patent-related lawsuits from both firms against each other. However, this week’s agreement dismisses all current lawsuits between the two.

As important, Apple and HTC have entered into a 10-year licensing agreement that extends to current and future patents held by both parties. Terms of the settlement are confidential.

This is fairly historic, given the short lifespan of the smartphone market. HTC was the first Android licensee that Apple sued. After being sued by Motorola Mobility, Apple countersued that firm in late 2010, then sued Samsung in 2011. To date, Apple had shown little interest in settling these patent disputes.

Indeed, previous Apple CEO Steve Jobs infamously stated he was “willing to go thermonuclear war” over Android and would “spend every penny of Apple’s [then] $40 billion in the bank to right this wrong.” The quotes were attributed to Jobs in his posthumously published official biography, written by Walter Isaacson. Jobs said that Android was a “stolen product” because it violated so many Apple patents and ideas.

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