The International Trade Commission today ruled in Apple's favor, saying the gadget maker does not infringe on a patent held by rival HTC.
The ruling (pdf), which was picked up by blog FOSS Patents this afternoon, comes exactly four months after an initial determination from the ITC's administrative law judge, who ruled in Apple's favor. That decision found Apple to be off the hook from HTC's complaint in early 2010 that accused Apple of being in violation of five HTC patents, a total that was later whittled down to four, then one, for review by the ITC's six-member commission.
"We are disappointed by the commission's ruling and look forward to reading the full opinion to understand its reasoning," Grace Lei, general counsel for HTC, said in a statement. "We'll explore all options, including appeal."
Apple was not immediately available for comment.
The ruling is just one component of an increasingly complex set of complaints and lawsuits between Apple and HTC filed in multiple courts and employing several different patents. That includes a second complaint against Apple by HTC filed last year that covers nine additional patents that were not a part of this case.
Apple has gone on the offensive against the various Android manufacturers, hitting even longtime partners such as Samsung Electronics with lawsuits and bans in an effort to halt the growing momentum of Google's mobile platform. While the iPhone remains a top-selling smartphone, the widespread nature of Android has fueled Google's market share gains.
Technology companies have increasingly used the ITC to settle their differences over the past few years. The process is quicker than a traditional district court, and holds the threat of a ban on the importation of devices or products.
An HTC win could have resulted in an exclusion order that would have barred Apple from importing and selling hardware and software that infringed on HTC's patents. No such ban has even been enforced on a technology company in the U.S.; the companies have always settled beforehand.
CNET's Roger Cheng contributed to this report.