Apple scores another patent victory over HTC

The U.S. International Trade Commission said in a preliminary ruling that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) did not violate four of HTC's patents, providing another setback to HTC in its long-running patent battle with Apple.

However, the ruling was a preliminary one and the full ITC, which has the power to ban the importation of products that infringe on patents, will make a final decision on the case by February. For now, an administrative law judge at the ITC, Charles Bullock, said there was "no violation" of four patents related to phone dialing and power management. The two companies have been locked in patent litigation since last year, and it is one of a number of patent battles over mobile technology Apple is engaged in, including a battle across multiple continents with rival Samsung.

"This is only one step of many in these legal proceedings," HTC General Counsel Grace Lei said in a statement. "We are confident we have a strong case for the ITC appeals process and are fully prepared to protect our intellectual property."

There are also more ITC rulings in the Apple-HTC battle still to come. On Nov. 13, the ITC will likely decide on a preliminary ruling that Apple violated two patents owned by S3 Graphics, a company HTC purchased. Then on Dec. 6, the ITC will issue a final ruling on a case in which it ruled HTC had violated two Apple patents; that case was originally decided in July.

In September HTC used patents it bought from Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) to extend its patent-infringement suit against Apple in federal court. In all of the cases that Apple has brought against Android licensees, Apple has not directly targeted Google, but the disputes are widely seen as proxy fights between Apple and Google. Google's pending $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) and its patent portfolio is an attempt by Google to shield Android licensees from patent litigation. 

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Reuters article

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