HTC was directed to stop importing smartphones into the United States by April next year [AFP]

Apple has scored a partial victory over smartphone rival HTC in a US patent case, although the Taiwanese manufacturer also claimed success after it was ruled to have infringed on only one of four patents following a complaint by the makers of the iPhone.

The US International Trade Commission (ITC) on Monday ordered HTC to halt US imports of smartphones violating the Apple patent by April 2012, which analysts said gave HTC some time to develop a workaround solution.

The commission's decision also reversed a previous ruling that HTC had broken multiple claims of two separate patents in a complaint filed last year.

"It's a limited victory [for Apple] for a variety of reasons," said Peter Toren, an intellectual property litigator. He said the ruling did not stop HTC from importing as many phones as it likes until April.

"It gives HTC plenty of time to implement a design-around, which I understand they are already working on," he said. "The order does in fact take effect in April, but the practical impact won't be felt for some months after that."

HTC, which gets almost half its revenue from the US market, said it was pleased by the ruling.

"This decision is a win for HTC... We are very pleased with the determination and we respect it," it said in a statement.

Shares in HTC jumped as much 5.4 per cent in Taipei trading on Tuesday, also helped by a company announcement that it would buy back 10 million of its shares between December 20 and February 19.

HTC described the patent it had broken as a "small user interface experience" and it would "completely remove it from all of our phones soon," suggesting it did not expect the ruling to affect sales in the US too much.

The patent related to technology that helps users clicking on phone numbers and other types of data in a document, such as an email, to either dial directly or click on the data to bring up more information.

Apple spokeswoman Carolyn Wu said of the ruling: "We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."

Patent lawsuits are a regular occurrence among technology giants. Apple is currently being sued by Finland's Nokia for patent infringement, and has fired back a countersuit against the mobile phone giant.

Source: Agencies