UK Judge rules HTC phones don’t infringe Apple patents, including slide-to-unlock

A judge in London has ruled that HTC phones don’t infringe upon Apple’s prized smartphone patents, Bloomberg reported this morning. The ruling includes Apple’s patented slide-to-unlock feature which famously drew the most ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ at the original iPhone introduction five years ago, but also other features such as flipping through a bunch of photos…

Author Kit Chellel writes:

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

The four patents in question cover user interface features popularized by the iPhone: slide-to-unlock, the photo gallery page-flipping, changing alphabets and detecting multi-fingered touches. Apple successfully used the slide-to-unlock patent in its lawsuit against the Galaxy Nexus device.

HTC and Apple are scheduled to battle it out on the same four patents in Germany later this year. So far, Android has been found to be infringing upon a total of eleven Apple patents.

HTC commented:

We remain disappointed that Apple continues to favor competition in the courtroom over competition in the marketplace.

A spokesperson for Apple issued the following statement:

Competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.

This comes as a blow to Apple after a recent streak of wins that saw Cupertino secure a ban on the sale of Google’s Galaxy Nexus smartphone and Galaxy Tab tablet in the United States.

Patent expert Florian Müeller expects the UK ruling to have “very limited relevance in the United States, but it will have some relevance in other European countries and in Australia”, adding:

In the short term, this means HTC has nothing to fear in Europe (unless Apple wins a preliminary injunction somewhere), but the Apple-HTC dispute will continue, and Apple will find new patents to assert.

Bloomberg also reported yesterday that the U.S. International Trade Commission denied Apple’s emergency request to temporary detain all shipments of 29 different HTC devices at the U.S. border, including the EVO 4G LTE and the flagship One X smartphone.

Today’s ruling begs the question whether Google helped HTC dodge the four Apple patents.

It’s worth remembering that Google openly admitted to supporting HTC in its legal dealings with Apple. Furthermore, Samsung also confirmed it is getting help from Google as the two technology giants aim to create a strong opposition to Apple in the hope of forcing a cross-licensing agreement upon Cupertino.

Today’s decision might easily spell trouble for Apple’s legal fight against other Android backers, namely Samsung and Motorola. At the least, the ruling just knocked out Apple’s patents over in the U.K.

What do you guys think?

Should Apple agree to a cross-licensing agreement with Google like it’d done with Nokia?