You are right about that. The University of Minnesota owned the patent on the HC apple up until last year. They had very strict quality control requirements for anyone they licensed to grow HC because (I'm assuming this part) they wanted to grow the brand reputation.
That patent expired last year. The up-side is that HC apples are now available much longer than in previous years. The down-side is that they aren't as good. The Washington ones are close, but not quite as good. I'm hoping that, as other growers learn and develop, the quality will improve and we will have them year round.