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Apple-HTC Patent Ruling Delayed Until Dec. 19 by Trade Panel

A decision on Apple Inc.’s bid to halt U.S. imports of some HTC Corp. smartphones was pushed back for a second time by the U.S. International Trade Commission.

The agency, which was scheduled to rule today, extended its target to Dec. 19, according to a notice on the Washington-based arbiter’s website. No reason was given for the delay, nor for an earlier postponement from the original target date of Dec. 6.

Apple contends HTC infringes four patents, and is asking the commission to ban imports of HTC phones that run Google Inc.’s Android operating system. The agency, which used to complete investigations in about 15 months, has extended that time frame amid a boom of patent cases, particularly involving disputes over smartphone technology.

The number of investigations begun reached 70 in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, beating the previous year’s record of 51 cases and more than double the number of probes begun in 2006.

A decision in favor of Cupertino, California-based Apple may limit HTC’s ability to maintain sales growth in the U.S., while bolstering Apple’s efforts to pursue claims against other handset makers. An outcome favoring HTC may help the Taoyuan, Taiwan-based company in separate patent cases brought by Apple.

HTC also filed complaints claiming Apple is infringing patents. The commission is scheduled to announce Dec. 16 whether it will review a judge’s finding that Apple didn’t infringe four HTC patents.

Apple’s case against HTC is In the Matter of Certain Personal Data and Mobile Communications Devices and Related Software, 337-710. HTC’s case against Apple is In the Matter of Portable Electronic Devices with Communication Capabilities, 337-721, both U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

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