Apple has suffered a defeat at the High Court over a lawsuit brought by HTC challenging several of its "prize" patents.
A judge said that HTC had not used Apple's technology, and that some of Apple's patents were "obvious" evolutions of older ideas.
The decision could affect other lawsuits in Europe that Apple is fighting against HTC, Motorola and Samsung. Recently the Californian company won a court injunction in the US to stop the sale of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus over patents including a "quick search box" embedded in Android, Google's popular mobile OS.
Apple said that HTC had infringed four of its key patents including:
- 'Slide to unlock' - or unlocking a device by performing a gesture on the screen
- Running multitouch and single touch technology alongside each other
- Having an image 'bounce back' when dragged offscreen.
But in the lawsuit, brought by HTC against Apple as part of a long-running, global dispute which has seen similar cases in Germany and the United States, the Taiwanese company said it did not infringe the patents.
The judge agreed, and said HTC's "arc unlock" feature was not based on Apple's patent.
He said that an older device - the Neonode N1 - also featured slide to unlock, and that the only difference was a visual slider that moved with the user's finger, which he claimed was "obvious".
HTC said in response to the ruling:
"HTC is pleased with the ruling, which provides further confirmation that Apple's claims against HTC are without merit. We remain disappointed that Apple continues to favour competition in the courtroom over competition in the marketplace."
Apple did not comment on the ruling, instead issuing an old statement which said:
"We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."