Apple Wins Import Ban on Some Samsung Devices

Samsung was ordered by the U.S. International Trade Commission yesterday to stop importing some devices to the U.S. after they were found to have infringed on two patents held by Apple.

The ruling is unclear how many of Samsung’s phones would be affected by the import ban, which is subject to review by the administration of President Barack Obama. Photo: skynetcusco/Flickr

The U.S. International Trade Commission has sided with Apple in a decision to ban some of Samsung’s phones in the U.S.

The U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that Samsung violated two crucial mobile patents held by Apple and that products using the related technology should be banned from being imported into the U.S. The scope of the trade ban and exact products that it will cover has yet to be determined.

“If you use the analogy to a prize fight, it’s not a knock-out punch,” said Susan Kohn Ross, a lawyer with Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp in Los Angeles. “It’s a well-placed jab.”

Although this is a win for Apple, Samsung was not found guilty of infringing any of Apple’s design patents. Instead, Friday’s ITC ruling focuses on a pair of patents connected to touchscreen technology and I/O circuitry.

“With today’s decision, 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,” Apple representative Kristin Huguet said in a statement. “Protecting real innovation is what the patent system should be about.”

The ruling, which does not specify which Samsung phones are affected, found the South Korean electronics company had infringed on a multitouch and headphone jack patent.

“While other phone makers can attempt to find ways to avoid this feature in their user interface, or avoid the patent based in its hardware limitations, protecting this feature should help distinguish Apple’s products from its competitors,” said Joseph Casino, a patent lawyer with Amster Rothstein and Ebenstein, LLP.

“It certainly is a symbolic victory,” said Max Wolff, senior analyst and chief economist for Greencrest Capital. “It’s probably not transformative.”

The offending Samsung devices — which likely include older, less popular devices (as opposed to the current crop of Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note products) — will be banned from import/sale after a 60-day review period.

In a separate, but related, hearing in the Appeals Court for the Federal Circuit earlier on Friday, Samsung noted that 23 of the 26 devices that were originally a part of that suit – and closely tied to this one – were no longer for sale. The ITC case was considerably smaller, at six smartphones and two tablets, writes CNet.

Apple’s win comes six days after the Obama administration overruled a prior ITC ruling against Apple for infringing on Samsung patents, a ruling that would have prevented Apple from importing older iPhone and iPad models from manufacturing partners abroad.

With the veto, the administration reasoned that Samsung was using its patents to make Apple pay an unfair price to implement a widespread wireless standard. The administration’s ITC veto was the first such move since 1987, according to news reports.

Samsung can import all of its phones during that review period, while Apple can argue to U.S. customs officials that Samsung’s new models copy the inventions. Apple is seeking to limit Samsung’s increasing share of the U.S. smartphone market, saying the products emulate the iPhone’s unique look and features, reports the Bloomberg.

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