Apple has spent some $100m on its patent disputes with handset manufacturer HTC so far, according to a rumour.

Dan Lyons, the man who once masqueraded as the Fake Steve Jobs, writes on his blog that someone 'close to the situation' has heard a rumour that Apple spent $100m just on its first set of claims against HTC.

Though the information is decidedly third- (or perhaps even fourth-) hand, as Lyons points out: "Apple certainly can afford the legal fees, and shows no sign of letting up."

Apple's dispute with HTC dates back to February 2010 when it asked the International Trade Commission to block HTC from importing products into the US. 

Initially, Apple made 84 claims based on 10 different patents, though as Lyons points out only four patents were ever put before a judge for examination. One patent was ruled inadmissable and HTC was found to be infringing only one of the other three patents in question.

"That got reported as a victory for Apple. But in reality the infringement involved a relatively tiny software feature, one that lets you press on a phone number in an email or webpage and bring up a menu from which you can choose to call the number, send a text message, and so on," writes Lyons.

"So Apple started out with 10 patents — presumably its best ones — and ended up with a tiny victory on just one. Was that worth $100m?"

Apple has other complaints against HTC still in front of the International Trade Commission, while HTC has two counter-claims against Apple pending. 

Steve Jobs reportedly wanted to go "thermonuclear" on Android, referring to it as a "grand theft" of Apple's iPhone. However, despite the company's aggressive tactics, which have involved several patent disputes with other Android handset makers such as Samsung, Lyons thinks that Apple will have to reach an agreement with the other parties eventually.

"Eventually everyone is going to settle. The question is what kind of terms will everyone get in these settlements. The court fights are really just a way of jockeying for position and trying to gain leverage for the great settlement that is yet to come. In that sense, whatever Apple is spending on legal fees is probably money well spent."