Apple beats HTC legal challenge

US trade regulators have cleared Apple of patent infringement, messing up HTC's carefully laid plans.

Apple has won the latest round of legal shenanigans with rival phone makers. US trade regulators have cleared Apple of naughtiness, messing up HTC's carefully laid plans.

HTC's plan was to challenge Apple by buying a company called S3 graphics, then challenge Apple for infringing patents owned by S3. But the US International Trade Commission has ruled that Apple has not infringed any of S3's patents.

HTC splashed out £192m on S3 to acquire patents relating to graphics chips. A US judge had preliminarily ruled that Apple had indeed infringed the patents in some Mac computers, but that has now been reviewed and rejected.

The ITC is also reviewing a ruling that HTC infringed Apple patents. That case is set to be decided by the ITC on 6 December. Other cases involving Apple against HTC and Samsung continue around the world, with each side attempting to ban the other from selling their latest phones and tablets.

In response to today's news, HTC's share price has dipped, making it an expensive day for the Taiwanese company thanks to legal harassment from Apple.

All this patent tit-for-tat is the result of Apple's vendetta against mobile phone rival Android, in the form of disputes with manufacturers of Android phones. The weapons of choice on both sides are patents -- sort of copyright for infringement.

Manufacturers who use Android software in their phones have circled the wagons against the Apple onslaught by agreeing to share patents, or making strategic purchases like HTC's buy-out of S3. Although Apple hasn't directly gone after Google yet, the search giant recently bought phone maker Motorola to scoop up its hardware patents.

Apple's assault on Samsung, HTC and Android has its roots in founder Steve Jobs' obsession with destroying the rival operating system. Jobs, who died in October, declared 'thermonuclear war' on Android.

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