Apple iPhone 4 Sales ‘Could be Banned in the U.S.’

Apple’s iPhone models and 4 and 3GS and iPad 3G and iPad 2 3G cannot be imported into the U.S. because they violate patents of rival Samsung.

The ITC ruled the devices violate a patent essential for 3G services that is held by South Korean rival Samsung Electronics; because they are assembled in China, the import ban would end Apple’s ability to sell them in the US. Photo: Witer/Flickr

Samsung and Apple are engaged in a global legal battle over their smartphones, with Apple arguing that Samsung and its Android phones copy vital features of the iPhone.

Finally Samsung Electronics Co. won a significant legal victory against Apple Inc. that threatens to halt the sale of some iPhones and iPads in the U.S.

The US key trade regulator – the International Trade Commission (ITC) –  agreed Apple violated a patent of South Korean rival Samsung.

The ITC decided that usage of 3G mobile data links by Apple in its iPhone 4 and 3-G capable iPad 2 infringed Samsung patent rights. The body rejected Apple’s claim that the South Korean company had failed to license the patent on “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” (FRAND) terms, as is required for standards-essential patents (SEPs).

“We believe the ITC’s final determination has confirmed Apple’s history of free-riding on Samsung’s technological innovations,” a Samsung statement said.

“Our decades of research and development in mobile technologies will continue, and we will continue to offer innovative products to consumers in the US.”

Newer iPhones and iPads which use Qualcomm baseband chips are unaffected. Apple began producing those models with the iPhone 4S.

President Obama has 60 days to review the ruling, and has already said that he does not think the ITC should have the power to impose import bands in such cases. Apple said it was “disappointed” with the ruling and will appeal.

The ruling overturned an earlier decision by ITC Judge James Gildea, who said in September that Apple did not violate the patents at issue in the case, which was filed nearly three years ago, reports the BBC News.

The iPhone 4 was launched in 2010 and is the oldest iPhone still sold by Apple. Likely to be retired later this year anyway, the ITC ruling related only to the iPad 2 and iPhone variants sold by AT&T. Although it also applies to older iPhones, though these are no longer sold by Apple, says the Telegraph.

Michael Carrier, a professor at Rutgers School of Law in New Jersey which specializes in intellectual property, said:

“Samsung has been on a bit of a losing streak. The importance of this case to Samsung cannot be understated.”

The ITC decision was announced on the same day President Obama said he planned to overhaul some US patent litigation systems.

The key aim of the President’s initiative is to target ‘patent trolls’. It’s “specifically designed to deal with abusive patent legislation” rather than sweeping patent reform, and is, “not designed in any way to pursue legit patent rights holders,” as a senior Obama administration official has claimed.

It’s the second bad court ruling for Apple in as many weeks.

A preliminary class settlement which agrees to pay $53 million in refunds to iPhone and iPod Touch customers for voiding their warranties was filed on Tuesday by Apple Inc in the District Court of Northern California in San Francisco.

The settlement would refund up to $200 to each customer who was denied repairs or replacement under warranty of their iPhone or iPod because a small red strip located on the outside of the device indicated that they had been in contact with water.

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