China's Premier Li Keqiang (left) shakes hands with Apple's chief executive Tim Cook. Photo: China Daily via Reuters

Apple was finally cleared on Friday of a patent violation ruling against them, a vindication in a small case that will have little effect on operations.

Nonetheless, as TechCrunch writes, the court decision was a positive sign that local players don’t always win legal battles that have at times been tinged with suspicions of protectionist motives.

In the original decision last May, Apple was sued for violating patents of a small firm Shenzhen Baili with its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models. Though they were ordered to stop selling the model in Beijing, a subsequent administrative appeal allowed them to continue while they awaited this later decision.

While the small court win may be unrelated, Apple has beefed up its investments in China big time since the original decision against the company. The company has recently announced four new research and development centers will open this year, along with a commitment to spend more than US$500 million on R&D work in China.