ITC Dismisses HTC Patent Claim Against Apple

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Taiwanese phone maker HTC has lost the latest leg of its increasingly bitter legal dispute against HTC

The US International Trade Commission (ITC) has dismissed HTC’s Patent complaint against Apple, ruling that the Cupertino-based company did not infringe HTC patents during the development of its iOS mobile operating system.

The ruling marks the end of the ITC’s investigation into this particular claim made by HTC, which was first filed eight months ago as part of a wider legal battle between the Taiwanese manufacturer and Apple.

ITC’s tough line on smartphone violations

In October 2011, a judge made an initial ruling that identified no violation of HTC’s patents, with the company withdrawing a fifth one. HTC then asked the ITC to review the decision, but it agreed to review just one patent, the one in question until today.

“Smartphone-related patents have a very high drop-out rate at the ITC,” noted analyst Florian Mueller. In my observation, only about 1 out of 20 asserted patents is deemed violated. The challenges that patent holders face at the ITC have contributed to the popularity of certain German courts, especially the Mannheim Regional Court and the Munich I Regional Court, among patent plaintiffs.”

The case is the latest in the long-running legal dispute between the two companies which began in March 2010 when Apple sued HTC for allegedly infringing 20 of the patents used in its iPhone. This sparked a tit-for-tat exchange of lawsuits and in May 2010, HTC attempted to block the sale of the iPhone, iPad and iPod in the US.

In September last year it bought a number of Google patents to strengthen its case and it also bought S3 Graphics. However in November an ITC ruling declared that Apple had not violated any of the patents held by the company, bringing the wisdom of the acquisition into question.

This most recent HTC ruling will no doubt please Apple, which is already buoyant after claiming a legal victory last week when a Munich regional court found that Google-owned Motorola had infringed on its ‘slide-to-unlock’ patent.