President Obama and his administration today issued a veto on an International Trade Commission patent ruling that would have banned the import of some older models of the iPhone and iPad, dealing a blow to Samsung in its ongoing patent disputes with Apple.
The US International Trade Commission in June banned the import or sale of the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad 3G and iPad 2 3G distributed by AT&T Inc, saying the devices infringed one of Samsung’s standard-essential patents (SEP owned by the South Korean electronics giant. The ban would have gone into effect Aug. 5.
The administration, which had 60 days to review the ITC’s June 4 “final determination,” announced its decision in a four-page letter by Ambassador Michael Froman, a U.S. trade representative, to Irving A. Williamson, chairman of the U.S. ITC.
Ambassador Froman on Saturday vetoed the ban, saying his decision was in part based on its “effect on competitive conditions in the US economy and the effect on US consumers.” He said Samsung could continue to pursue its case through the courts.
“We applaud the administration for standing up for innovation in this landmark case. Samsung was wrong to abuse the patent system in this way,” an Apple spokeswoman told AllThingsD today, noting that this is this is the first time an administration has vetoed an ITC product ban ruling since the Reagan administration issued a veto in 1987.
“We are disappointed that the U.S. Trade Representative has decided to set aside the exclusion order issued by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC),” Samsung said. “The ITC’s decision correctly recognized that Samsung has been negotiating in good faith and that Apple remains unwilling to take a license.”
This ITC ban is specific to a Samsung patent on technology that allows devices to transmit multiple services simultaneously and correctly through 3G wireless technology.
Such patents are called “standard essential patents” and they cover technology that must be used to comply with standards set by industry organizations.
Under the “standards-essential patent” legal theory prevailing in federal courts, holders of such patents are obligated to license them to all comers on “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” terms.
U.S. courts have ruled that such patents cannot be the basis for import bans. The International Trade Commission follows a different standard than the courts, but the Obama administration wants it to adhere to the same principles.
Apple and Samsung have been waging a global patent war since 2010, filing multiple lawsuits against each other over the design and functionality of their devices.
Last year, a federal court ruled that Samsung owed Apple $1 billion in damages for infringing on non-essential Apple patents. But the judge refused to impose an import ban on Samsung phones and later struck $450 million from the verdict, saying the jurors miscalculated. The case is set for a rematch in appeals court.