The UK High Court of Justice's Chancery Division has today ruled that HTC smartphones are not in violation of any of the EU patents Apple brought to the court. In addition, Judge Christopher Floyd, who presided over the case, declared three of the four Apple patents invalid. The patents in question are applicable solely within the European Union, and are focused on slide-to-unlock, multitouch, and the handling of foreign language text input.
Apple and HTC are fighting multiple legal battles across Europe and the US, but the High Court's decision does not directly affect any cases outside of the UK as other courts don't have to follow the UK's lead. The two companies are fighting over the same group of patents in Germany, and HTC may attempt to use the High Court's ruling to influence decisions elsewhere.
Slide-to-unlock patent declared invalid
The slide-to-unlock patent, #2964022, was declared invalid in the UK due to its similarity to the unlocking paradigm found on the Neonode N1, a Swedish touchscreen phone launched well before the iPhone. For the multitouch patent, #2098948, Judge Floyd deemed multitouch to be a computer program and so not patentable as an invention under UK law. Finally, patent #1168859, which relates to the way a phone handles switching between foreign-language characters, was found too close to systems found elsewhere, and was not "novel." The Judge also noted that Apple's implementation was an "obvious" extension of prior work. Floyd did rule that a photo management patent, #2059868, was valid, but found that HTC's products did not infringe on it.
Just a small part of a far larger picture
While today's ruling is a definite victory for HTC in the UK, it's just a small part of a far larger picture. Apple, Samsung, HTC, and all of the companies involved in the current round of patent disputes will take their fights around the world looking for favorable courts. In May, Apple's litigation resulted in the HTC One X and S being held at US customs for two weeks, and just yesterday the ITC denied Apple's request for an emergency ban on some HTC devices in the US. At least UK citizens don't have to fear a similar ban any time soon.
Wish the US courts were as good as resolving these patent issues....