"It's a black fly in your Chardonnay
It's a death row pardon two minutes too late
Isn't it ironic ... don't you think?"
-- From "Ironic," by Alanis Morrissette, 1995. (Ironically, the belated pardon is perhaps the only case of true irony in this song.)

Two months ago, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) sued mobile phone designer HTC over a bunch of technology patents. Fellow Fool and general Apple lover Tim Beyers wondered aloud "how this suit accomplishes anything positive for Apple." The Cupertino colossus came out looking like a big, mean schoolyard bully, shaking the other kids down for their lunch money.

HTC appears to have taken that incident seriously, though. Today, the company signed a licensing agreement with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) to protect its right to make Android phones without worrying about a lawsuit from Mr. Softy.

Now, that's another bass-ackwards turn of events -- HTC is paying Microsoft for something that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) controls? What's wrong with this picture?

Well, from HTC's perspective, it makes sense in a twisted kind of way. Microsoft has a strong patent portfolio in mobile computing, along with a propensity to go after patent infringers in court. Moreover, HTC has been making phones with Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system for years, and it would probably hate to lose a business partner over some petty patent dispute. There's no such business relationship between HTC and Apple.

HTC might be setting a precedent for other Android partners who want to cover their backsides. Will Motorola (NYSE: MOT) smoke a licensing peace pipe with Microsoft before releasing a follow-up to the Droid? Should Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) sign on the dotted line before taking an Android-powered tablet computer to market? The same question goes for Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) as it readies its own Android-powered mini-tablets and expands its Android smartphones to new markets. While HTC is a strong mobile partner of Microsoft, HP and Dell have far more ties to the Redmond giant across their PC, server, and service offerings.

You could say that Apple opened a fresh revenue stream for archrival Microsoft here. Don't you just love cosmic irony?

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Google, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. He quotes Alanis for National Poetry Month without a hint of irony or sarcasm. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletters services free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.