Apple patent victory could spell US ban for Samsung
ITC moves to block imports of offending devices
The US International Trade Commission ruled on Friday that Samsung Electronics was in violation of two Apple Inc-held patents, according to Reuters - a decision that could lead to the prohibition of Samsung devices found to be in breach.
The news comes within a week of President Barack Obama's move to overturn an ITC ruling in June that blocked the sale of older iPhones and iPads for violating Samsung patents.
US Trade Representative Michael Froman vetoed the ITC decision on Saturday, over concerns of its impact on competition and US consumers. The USTR post, which Froman has held since June, is part of the executive office of the president and was created by President Kennedy in 1962 as an ambassadorial and advisory role that would help presidents formulate trade policy. Froman's veto is the first of an ITC ruling in decades, according to Reuters, and is expected to throw intense scrutiny on the commission, especially from the South Korean government.
South Korea's Samsung leads the world smartphone market, a position it took from California-based Apple, which is now number-two in global handset sales. The companies have engaged in a fierce legal battle in a number of territories in recent years, both seeking sales injunctions through the use of patents.
Friday's ITC ruling involves patents on an auto-detection system for headphone jacks and the architecture of touch interfaces. But the June decision that was overturned by Obama involved breach of essential standards patents. These are patents held by companies on components that become industry standards. Companies are expected to license such innovations at a reasonable rate, but mobile handset and software platform vendors have previously used essential standards patents as a legal tool to delay or block the commercial release of competitors' products.
"The ITC has joined courts around the world in Japan, Korea, Germany, Netherlands and California by standing up for innovation and rejecting Samsung's blatant copying of Apple's products," said Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet.
"We are disappointed that the ITC has issued an exclusion order based on two of Apple's patents," said Adam Yates, a Samsung spokesman.
"However, Apple has been stopped from trying to use its overbroad design patents to achieve a monopoly on rectangles and rounded corners."