Apple, Motorola talk arbitration — end to patent fight may be near

First Apple(s AAPL) settled with HTC. Is Motorola up next? A Bloomberg report on Friday indicates that Apple and Motorola are discussing using arbitration to resolve their longstanding dispute over mobile patents. If they did, a settlement of all of their court battles in the U.S. and abroad likely wouldn’t be far behind.

The news that Apple is seeking arbitration with Motorola, now owned by Google(s GOOG), was revealed in a court document filed by Apple, which noted, “The companies have been exchanging proposals on using binding arbitration to reach a licensing agreement over patents that are essential to comply with industry standards on how phones operate.”

The filing also stated that “Apple is also interested in resolving its dispute with Motorola completely and agrees that arbitration may be the best vehicle to resolve the parties’ dispute.”

In other words, Apple wants to get this thing over with. What’s not clear yet is if Motorola — and Google — agree.

The timing makes it appear like Apple may be systematically trying to resolve its outstanding patent disputes. Though the company has plenty of money — and the blessing of Steve Jobs — to litigate endlessly against device makers it has accused of copying its smartphones and tablets, it may not make sense strategically for Apple to keep these battles up. CEO Tim Cook has admitted these suits are a distraction to the company’s goals and has complained about their costs as “overhead.”

Apple’s decision to settle its patent suit with HTC last weekend could have been just the first of the outstanding legal distractions Cook is trying to tamp down.

However, Samsung probably won’t be next. Its mobile chief said earlier this week it won’t be settling with Apple.