U.S. Government Faces Veto Ruling in Apple-Samsung Patent War

The Wall Street Journal reports that many companies — even rivals like Microsoft — are raising their voices in defense of Apple in light of the forthcoming product ban.


Apple and Samsung are engaging in patent fights across the globe in several countries, but in the U.S., the Californian tech giant has lost an important battle. An import ban which goes into effect on August 4, 2013 will keep some older models of iPhones and iPads outside the country’s borders.

The import ban was handed down in June by the U.S. International Trade Commission. The Commission said that some older Apple products such as the iPhone 4 infringe on Samsung 3G patents. The twist in the story: the Samsung patent is a standard-essential patent and should have been licensed under FRAND (fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory) terms.

Smartphone rivals Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. have dueled over patents in courts around the globe. Now they are sparring in front of the Obama administration, which faces a looming decision on whether to veto a trade body’s order blocking the U.S. sale of some Apple devices.

BSA, a trade group which includes Microsoft, Oracle and Intel, alongside with AT&T and Verizon have raised their voice to say the use of essential industry patents to ban products shouldn’t be allowed, except in unusual circumstances.

The WSJ says that antitrust officials from the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are also analyzing the ruling. The two agencies have already expressed their concern over companies which assert essential technology patents in lawsuits which have one aim: to block their rivals from the marketplace.

The final decision, however, is in the hands of U.S. Trade Representative Michael Forman. He has the authority to allow or reject the ITC ban.

Apple says Samsung shouldn’t be allowed to block iPhone or iPad sales because the South Korean manufacturer isn’t licensing its standard-essential patents under FRAND terms.

The ITC ruled back in June that the AT&T version of the iPhone 4, 3GS and 3G infringe on Samsung’s 3G patents. These products will therefore be banned from sale starting August 4.