HTC Signs Patent Deal With Intertrust, Takes 20% In SyncTV Subsidiary For Streaming Services

Another development in the evolving technology patent game: HTC today becomes the latest Android handset maker to join forces with Intertrust Technologies Corporation to license the company’s patents, largely around digital rights management. Others that have agreements with Intertrust include Samsung, Motorola and Huawei.

At the same time, HTC has taken a 20 percent stake in SyncTV, a subsidiary of Intertrust, for an undisclosed amount. SyncTV is a cloud-based video service that works on a number of platforms, including Android, Windows Phone, Xbox, iOS and Internet-enabled televisions. These are developments that could, potentially, see HTC using the technology not only in mobile devices but a push into other consumer electronics as well.

Intertrust is terming this as a “broad strategic technology partnership,” and although other OEMs have inked licensing deals with Intertrust in the past, this looks like the first time that one has also converted it into a deal to take a stake on one of its subsidiaries.

To date, Intertrust has mainly developed technologies and licensed patents in the areas like distributed computing, including cloud-based services, as well as digital rights management, and here its Marlin DRM software will be used “to protect and manage content in various national video distribution ecosystems in Japan, China and Europe.”

Its CEO, Talal Shamoon, told us that HTC is now “licensed to do anything with our IP,” not just on mobile devices but also on, potentially, other kinds of consumer electronics. “If you look at the history of the company HTC has done a wide range of things,” he notes, pointing to its history as an ODM working on behalf of other brands.

How would that translate into an HTC-branded product? “In the world of convergence there is that question of the TV and handheld, and how they exist together,” he said.

The SyncTV stake, covering streamed video services to more than just mobile devices, also speaks to that idea.

HTC has been building up a portfolio of content and services investments over the last year or so that potentially can be used by the company to enhance its products and set them apart from the rest of the smartphone pack.

The idea is for it to better compete with the likes of Apple, which has managed to successfully sell the idea of having the best device (the iPhone!), with the best services (those apps!), to just the kind of customer that HTC would like to have for its own products. HTC, meanwhile, has found it a hard struggle to compete in the Android camp against Samsung and its onslaught of devices.

HTC’s investments have most recently included reports of a purchase of MOG, but also a $300-million investment in Beats Audio, the $48.5-million buy of Saffron Digital (for more video distribution) and a $40-million stake in OnLive for cloud-based gaming.

In February, HTC announced a deal with Dropbox for cloud-based storage of content consumed on HTC devices. At the time I called that HTC’s answer to iCloud, so given that Intertrust’s technology can cover streaming and DRM to other devices, I can’t help but wonder if what we’re seeing here is potentially the beginning of HTC’s answer to Apple TV.

Intertrust, meanwhile, has a long, and financially fruitful, history of enforcing its patents. One of the more notable cases was back in 2004, when it settled a suit against Microsoft over patent infringement for a one-off payment of $440 million, a suit that was three years in the running.

Intertrust’s licensing deals with Samsung, Motorola and Huawei also cover other consumer electronics beyond mobile devices, including set-top boxes, computers and DVD players, Internet TVs and more — although these are areas not (yet?) explored by HTC in its product line-up.

Full statement:

Intertrust and HTC Announces Strategic Technology Partnership

Sunnyvale, CA and Taoyuan, Taiwan – March 26, 2012 – As part of a strategic initiative to improve the robustness, privacy and security of Android and Windows Phone mobile devices, Intertrust Technologies Corporation, the world’ leading inventor and licensor of trusted distributed computing technologies, and HTC Corporation (TWSE: 2498), a global leader in mobile innovation and design, today announced a broad strategic technology partnership.

HTC joins many of the world’s leading handset manufacturers in licensing Intertrust’s patents, securing worldwide access to Intertrust’s fundamental patent portfolio in trusted distributed computing and digital rights management (DRM).

Further, as part of HTC’s ongoing efforts to create comprehensive mobile experiences for consumers, it has acquired 20% of Intertrust’s SyncTV subsidiary. SyncTV is a cloud-based video service that delivers video over the Internet to a broad set of devices, including Android, Windows Phone, XBOX, iOS and Internet-enabled televisions. HTC has also license Intertrust’s broadly deployed open standards based Marlin DRM software. Marlin DRM is used to protect and manage content in various national video distribution ecosystems in Japan, China and Europe.

“HTC’s growth in the smartphone market is admirable, their innovative devices have come to define a category and have been broadly emulated by others,” said Talal Shamoon, chief executive officer of Intertrust. “We are honored that HTC has license Intertrust technology and we look forward to working together in areas of mutual interest.”