HTC has lost its first legal case against Apple in the US after a judge at the International Trade Commission (ITC) found that the iPhone maker did not infringe four of the Taiwanese firm's patents.
The decision is the latest in a string of legal victories for Apple, which has already seen off recent challenges from its chief rival Samsung after winning victories against the Galaxy Tab maker in Australia and the US.
Intellectual property expert Florian Mueller said the defeat for HTC was not a huge surprise as the case was essentially a gesture by the firm to show its willingness to engage in legal disputes rather than a genuine attempt to derail Apple.
"Even if they [the patents] were successfully enforced, I doubt they would pose a serious threat to Apple. At the time HTC filed its complaint, its patent position was very weak and this was basically just a way of indicating a willingness to fight," he said in a blog post.
"HTC still has the weakest patent portfolio of the three leading Android device makers, but it has since bought patents from various sources and brought additional complaints against Apple," he said.
One of these complaints will come from computer graphics firm S3, set to be acquired by HTC, but Mueller was again doubtful the case would have any noticeable impact on Apple's ongoing dominance.
"In the short term it's doubtful whether the acquisition of S3 Graphics will give HTC decisive leverage against Apple. The ITC had issued an initial determination in S3G's favour, but it was a win of limited commercial impact," he said.
Despite Apple's legal victories its rivals are not giving up, with Samsung taking more legal action against the firm in Japan and Australia, following cases already filed in Italy and France.
This is despite a Dutch court ruling against Samsung over a number of patent claims it had levelled against Apple – a decision that is likely to end the firm's chances of blocking sales of the iPhone 4S in the European Union.
Sales of the iPhone 4S have already wiped the floor with Apple's competition, hitting four million units in the first three days of launch.
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