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HTC's iPhone, iPad ban bid derailed by US judge

Prelim decision rules no patents infringed

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Legal blows continue to rain down on Google's Android partners. In a preliminary ruling, the US International Trade Commission said Apple isn't infringing the patents of rival HTC Corporation.

The ITC is a popular venue for intellectual property cases because it can stop the import of goods, which was what HTC wanted it to do to Apple's iPods, iPads and iPhones.

However, the judge's preliminary decision (PDF) found "no violation" by Cupertino of the four patents asserted by HTC, although he did say that those patents were valid. In February next year, the full commission will rule on whether to uphold or reject the judge's decision.

HTC is staying upbeat, though; it sent out a canned statement reminding folks that an ITC judge ruled in July that Apple did infringe patents of HTC's subsidiary S3 Graphics in another case.

“This is only one step of many in these legal proceedings," Grace Lei, HTC general counsel said in the statement. "We are confident we have a strong case for the ITC appeals process and are fully prepared to protect our intellectual property. We look forward to resolving this case, so we can continue creating the most innovative mobile experiences for consumers.”

However, coming on the heels of three court decisions swinging Apple's way in its cases against Samsung – another Android partner – it must be leaving Google feeling a bit antsy.

Apple and Android are manoeuvring for position in the lucrative smartphone and fondleslab markets through the courts, with various IP infringement suits and countersuits worldwide. But the cases are not being fought by the Chocolate Factory directly. Instead Apple is in the courts with phone manufacturers that are using Google's Android OS.

The fight is hottest between Apple and Samsung, with over 20 cases between the two in a number of countries, but Taiwanese firm HTC and phone-maker Motorola are also in the ring with Cupertino.

Lately, it all seems to be going Apple's way, with early decisions in the Netherlands, Australia and the US going against Samsung and now the ITC's preliminary judgement going against HTC – although both companies seem to be keen to fight on. ®

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