Judge Charles Bullock issued the ruling, taking care to mention that the patents in question weren’t invalidated ,just that the iPhone, iPod and iPad weren’t actively violating them. The four patents that HTC was using cover extremely basic phone operations, like touchscreens, dialer and battery management. HTC still has five other patents that they’re suing Apple with in other courts, but the outcome of those case may be heavily influenced by this one, and if HTC loses it could give Apple even more ammunition for a sales injunction.
Apple has been firing lawyers head-first at HTC and Samsung over the last year in courts all over the world, even winning some outright sales bans on Samsung tablets in Germany and Australia. Here in the U.S. they’re suing both HTC and Samsung and hoping to win similar bans on phones and tablets before the holidays. It’s a lot harder to block commerce in the United States, and even when Samsung was found to be in violation of one of Apple’s overly broad patents, the judge would not immediately commit to a sales ban. Google, Verizon and T-Mobile have come out in support of both manufacturers, alternately claiming that Apple is trying to create a monopoly using the courts and that a sales ban would irreparably harm their businesses.
Android can’t catch a break when it comes to patents. After enduring a few months of Apple’s legislative offensive in 2010, HTC acquired some mobile patents and decided to try a few volleys in the other direction. The first of those has been rejected by the International Trade Commission, which ruled today that the patents in question were not violated.