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HTC Phones Don’t Infringe Apple Patents, U.K. Judge Says

HTC Corp. (2498), Asia’s second-largest smartphone maker, won a London court ruling against Apple Inc. (AAPL) over patents for touchscreen technology used for its mobile devices, including Apple’s slide-to-unlock feature.

HTC’s devices don’t infringe four Apple patents for the technology and three of those patents are invalid, Judge Christopher Floyd said yesterday.

The U.K. court judgment “marks a considerable defeat for Apple in the smartphone patent wars,” said Peter Bell, an attorney at Stevens & Bolton LLP, who isn’t involved in the case. “Two of Apple’s prize patents have been knocked out in the U.K.”

Apple is fighting patent lawsuits on four continents against rivals including HTC and South Korea-based Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) as it competes for dominance of the $219 billion global smartphone market. The firms have accused each other of copying designs and technology used in mobile devices.

“Competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours,” Cupertino, California-based Apple said in an e-mailed statement, without commenting specifically on yesterday’s decision.

While HTC was pleased with the ruling, “we remain disappointed that Apple continues to favor competition in the courtroom over competition in the marketplace,” Andrea Sommer, a spokeswoman for the Taoyuan City, Taiwan-based company said.

Photographs, Alphabets

In addition to the slide-to-unlock feature, yesterday’s ruling covered Apple’s patents on tools used to scroll through photographs and change alphabets, and software allowing users to touch the screen in two spots simultaneously.

While the court ruled that Apple’s photo-management patent is valid, Floyd found that HTC didn’t infringe it.

The same four patents are being contested by Apple and HTC in German lawsuits, scheduled to be heard later this year.

In the U.S., Apple tried to stop HTC from importing its newest phones, saying they violate a patent order issued in December. The U.S. International Trade Commission decided this week that HTC could continue to import the devices while it investigated claims a system for detecting telephone numbers in e-mails was copied.

Before his death, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs waged war on Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Android operating system, used by HTC, Samsung and other rivals in their phones. He told his authorized biographer he would spend every penny in the company’s coffers “to destroy Android” because it was a stolen product.

The case is: HTC Europe Co. v Apple Inc., High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, HC11C02826

To contact the reporter on this story: Kit Chellel in London at cchellel@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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