(Amends context on Munich ruling in December)
* Mannheim finds Qualcomm patent suit to be groundless
* Qualcomm, in earlier German case, won ban on some iPhone sales
* Patent battle plays out in United States, China and Germany
FRANKFURT, Jan 15 (Reuters) - A patent lawsuit filed by Qualcomm Inc against Apple Inc was thrown out by a German court on Tuesday, in a reversal for the U.S. chipmaker after it won a recent court ban on the sale of some iPhones in the country.
The regional court in the city of Mannheim dismissed the Qualcomm suit as groundless in an initial verbal decision, saying the patent in question was not violated by the installation of its chips in Apple's smartphones.
"We are happy with the decision and thank the court for their time and diligence," Apple said in a statement.
"We regret Qualcomm's use of the court to divert attention from their illegal behaviour that is the subject of multiple lawsuits and proceedings around the world."
Qualcomm, waging a worldwide patent battle with Apple, said it would appeal after winning a separate case before a court in Munich in December that enabled it to enforce a ban on the sale of older iPhones in Germany.
"Apple has a history of infringing our patents," said Don Rosenberg, Qualcomm's executive vice president and general counsel.
"While we disagree with the Mannheim court's decision and will appeal, we will continue to enforce our (intellectual property) rights against Apple worldwide."
Apple said after the Munich ruling, against which it appealed, that it would no longer stock the iPhone 7 and 8 at its 15 retail outlets in Germany, although its newer models would remain on sale.
All of its models remain available through carriers and resellers. Gravis, the leading Apple reseller in Germany, said on Tuesday it continued to stock the full range of iPhones.
Apart from the German order, Qualcomm has also secured a ban on the sale of some iPhones in China. Apple, which is also contesting that ruling, has continued to offer its iPhones in China but made changes to its iOS operating system following the order.
Qualcomm, meanwhile, faces a U.S. antitrust case brought by the Federal Trade Commission which accuses it of abusing a monopoly on mobile chip technology in a trial that could have a major impact on the smartphone industry.
If the government prevails in the trial that began on Jan. 4, Qualcomm could be forced to change its practices for licensing a trove of patents to device makers like Apple.
Apple is closely watching the FTC case, as it has its own pending lawsuit making similar claims against Qualcomm. (Reporting by Douglas Busvine Editing by Keith Weir)