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Apple loses key legal battle against HTC as patent war rages on

Apple has suffered a blow its legal war against rival manufacturers, with a UK High Court ruling that Taiwanese-competitor HTC did not infringe four of the Cupertino-based tech giant's patents, including its prized "slide to unlock" feature.

The verdict in London represents a key victory for HTC, who is locked in a series of lawsuits and counter-suits with Apple across a number of global markets. The decision means that HTC products will not face a UK sales ban, with Judge Christopher Floyd ruling three of the four patents being contested to be invalid entirely. It follows a pronouncement by the ITC earlier this week that denied Apple a pre-trial ban on HTC phones in the US.

"HTC is pleased with the ruling, which provides further confirmation that Apple's claims against HTC are without merit," the company said in a statement. "We remain disappointed that Apple continues to favour competition in the courtroom over competition in the marketplace."

Makers of other devices running Google's popular Android operating system are also likely to find yesterday's result encouraging, with Apple increasingly targeting its rivals with patent lawsuits as it seeks to maintain its enviable position in the multi-billion pound global smartphone industry.

HTC recently had shipments of it mobiles stopped and held by US customs, while Apple also secured two rare pre-trial injunctions against Samsung products last week, with a sales ban on the Tab 10.1 and Nexus smartphone coming into effect Stateside yesterday.

Outside of the courtroom, speculation continues to mount as to what products Apple is readying ahead of the lucrative holiday season in the face of increased competition. In addition to a predicted autumn launch for its latest flagship mobile – dubbed the iPhone 5 thus far – talk of a smaller, more affordable iPad hit the rumour mill yesterday.