Following an ITC ruling which would have banned the sale of the iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, and iPad 2 in the US, the Obama administration has ruled that the ban can not be upheld and therefore the AT&T versions of the Apple devices can still be sold.
The ITC ruled against Apple after Samsung stated that some of Apple’s products were infringing upon one of their cellular data chip patents. Even though the patent in question was a standard-essential patent–meaning that it should not be unique to any specific device–the ITC decided that Samsung was correct in filing the suit against Apple.
In the end, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman released a letter on behalf of the Obama administration stating that Apple did not violate any patents and therefore none of their devices can be banned. From the beginning, Apple had argued against Samsung’s claims by saying that the patents were not just standard-essential patents but that Samsung had agreed to license them.
Most analysts agreed that these SEPs should not be used to attack companies, this sort of administrative action has rarely occurred. The last time that an ITC ruling was overturned by an administration was in 1987, leaving many people uncertain as to whether or not Apple would lose out.
Samsung says that they are “disappointed” by the veto, while Apple applauded the decision and even went as far as to add that “Samsung was wrong to abuse the patent system in this way.”
Of course it is hard for Apple to necessarily accuse Samsung of not being fair or abusing the system, since they have been known to abuse patent holdings as well. However, in this situation, Samsung was definitely at fault and luckily the Obama administration agreed.
Apple currently has their own complaint with the ITC against Samsung for similar “patent infringements.”