UK likely to rule on Apple patents before Germany

A London court is likely to rule on the validity of four of Apple’s smartphone patents in the UK ahead of rulings in two German courts as part of the Californian technology group’s multifaceted legal battle with HTC, an Asian rival.

Mr Justice Arnold ruled on Monday that he would hear a trial grouping all four patents – which relate to multilingual texting and touchscreen technology – at the end of March 2012. This will probably be before courts in Mannheim and Munich hear cases brought by Apple that HTC has infringed its equivalent German patents.

HTC had asked the court to expedite the UK hearing and subsequent ruling so that the German court would be aware of any European decision already in HTC’s favour.

The German courts’ timetables have not yet been set and so hearings could be held any time between January and the summer.

“A decision by the UK courts may well persuade the German courts to grant a stay of injunction,” Michael Tappin QC, HTC’s barrister, argued on Monday.

The cases are part of an expanding web of legal disputes around the world between players in the fast-growing smartphone industry including Microsoft, Samsung and others.

Samsung is also involved in legal battles with Apple over patents related to their smartphones and tablet computers. While Samsung did not appear in court on Monday, it might be able to join the March hearing.

Mr Justice Arnold did not grant HTC’s request to expedite a hearing over the patent on multilingual texting to January, agreeing with Apple that too soon a hearing would put too much pressure on the US group.

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