Apple loses patent battle with smartphone rival HTC

Jul 5, 2012

Ruling allows Taiwanese firm's 'slide to unlock' products to be sold in UK

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APPLE has lost a significant legal battle in the High Court in London against rival smartphone manufacturer HTC, whose products it was trying to have banned from import into Britain.

In a judgment that could have Europe-wide ramifications, the court ruled that the Taiwanese firm had not infringed an Apple patent relating to the 'slide to unlock' feature to access the main screen on their devices, and so HTC were allowed to sell those products that had been deemed in breach.

The ruling is being seen as a considerable defeat for Apple in its ongoing international patent battles with companies producing handsets and tablets that run on Android mobile software, as produced by search engine giant Google.

"Two of Apple's prize patents have been knocked out in the UK," Peter Bell of law firm Stevens & Bolton LLP told The Guardian, "including the patent that protects the 'slide to unlock' mechanism that consumers are likely to associate with Apple's products, and a third patent has been knocked out in part. The fourth patent that was in dispute was held not to be invalid, but not infringed by HTC's devices."

Apple may yet appeal against the decision, while HTC and the other smartphone makers who use the Android system will look to see how it can help them in cases being fought elsewhere.

According to Richard Windsor of Nomura, "The issue here remains Android. If these [Apple] patents stand up to examination at trial and are found to be valid then there are substantial implications for all Android devices, as it's that software where the infringement claims are being made."

It's been a busy six days legally for Apple, who won an injunction to ban Samsung's Galaxy Nexus phone from being sold in the US at the weekend for allegedly copying iPhone technology. However, as The Week reported, they were forced to cough up $60m to a Chinese tech firm in a trademark dispute on Monday.

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