Looks like HTC and Samsung are taking some aggressive steps to protect themselves from Android patent litigation -- in the past week both companies have entered into long-term patent licensing agreements with Nathan Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures. (Mhyrvold was once Microsoft's chief technology officer, but he's arguably more famous for Intellectual Ventures.) Both HTC and Samsung now have access to IV's entire portfolio of "more than 30,000 IP assets" to wield against current or potential legal opponents -- like, say, Apple or Oracle -- and IV also plans to help them manage their existing patent portfolios. It sounds to us like HTC and Samsung decided that they needed more patent muscle in order to survive in the now crazy-litigious smartphone market, and indeed, the PR announcing the HTC deal flatly says the smartphone maker is "working with IV to mitigate its patent risk."

Of course, this is also a bit of a deal with the devil -- Intellectual Ventures might be the most infamous patent troll in history, and HTC and Samsung have essentially decided the risks and cost of doing business with IV are more favorable than the risks and cost of going to court. Either way, we'll see how this all shakes out -- and we've got a feeling that the Apple / HTC lawsuit is about to get seriously interesting.

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HTC and Samsung license entire Intellectual Ventures patent portfolio, gear up for war