The International Trade Commission (ITC) has refused to ban imports of several Apple products following a complaint by HTC.
HTC had called for the ban claiming that four of its patents were being infringed. These relate to data protection, managing contact data and power supply management.
But, says Judge Charles Bullock, while the patents are valid, Apple's iPads, iPhones, and iPods don't violate them.
Earlier this year, Apple was successful in persuading the ITC that HTC had infringed two of its patents, and HTC is hoping to improve its bargaining position when it comes to making cross-licensing agreements.
There'll be a final decision on the case in February.
"To be honest, I don't expect anything meaningful to come out of this ITC investigation. I didn't take it seriously from the day it was filed," says patent expert Florian Mueller.
"The patents look weak. Even if they were successfully enforced, I doubt they would pose a serious threat to Apple. At the time HTC filed its complaint, its patent position was very weak and this was basically just a way of indicating a willingness to fight."
The FTC is shortly to deliver two more patent rulings relating to the two companies. Next month, it will rule on whether Apple's violated two patents held by S3 Graphics, currently being acquired by HTC, and in December it will announce the results of a review of an earlier decision that HTC violated two Apple patents.