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Judge denies Apple's pre-trial bid to ban HTC devices

Apple this week lost a bid to have HTC devices banned in the US while the International Trade Commission (ITC) considered the patent complaint.

The ITC agreed to hear Apple's case, but declined to ban the import and US sale of HTC devices while its investigation proceeds.

At issue is an early June filing from Apple that looked to ban 29 HTC devices in the US. According to Apple, a recent HTC patent workaround that allowed the HTC One X and HTC EVO 4G LTE to be sold in the States did not solve the patent infringement problem, so Apple said those and other HTC devices should not be sold in the country.

Apple might ultimately prevail on its complaint, but at this point, HTC phones remain on US store shelves and will continue to clear US Customs.

An HTC spokesman said the company "has no comment on the ruling, as this was an expected outcome."

As patent blogger Florian Mueller noted, the ITC's decision "is great news for HTC, but doesn't represent a setback to Apple."

"Apple was being ambitious and aggressive by pushing for an immediate ban. But I'm sure Apple and its lawyers knew that this was not going to be easy," Mueller wrote in a blog post. "I wouldn't call it a long shot: given that HTC did not ask the ITC for an advisory opinion (it didn't have to, but it should have), the ITC might have taught HTC and everyone else a lesson by being more willing than otherwise to grant emergency relief. But the hurdle was reasonably high."

The ITC in December found that HTC smartphones infringed on Apple-held patents, and banned the import of devices with Apple-owned technology after 19 April. HTC developed a workaround, but the HTC EVO 4G LTE and the HTC One X were held up at US Customs while officials verified that the offending technology had been removed.