ITC Apple import ban overturned

The Obama administration has overturned a ban on older models of iPhones and iPads being sold in the USA.

This is despite the ITC (International Trade Commission) ruling that Apple had violated Samsung patents.

The ITC, officially known as the United States International Trade Commission, is an independent, quasi-judicial, bipartisan, federal agency. The ITC says it provides trade expertise to both the executive and legislative branches.

It also determines the impact of imports on American industries and directs actions against unfair trade practices, including dumping, subsidies, and trademark, patent and copyright infringement.

Michael B. G. Froman, President Barack Obama’s trade ambassador has vetoed the ITC ruling. Froman claims that the ruling has a negative effect on competitive conditions in the American economy.

Presidents rarely veto an ITC ruling

Vetoing an ITC ruling is very uncommon. According to the Wall St. Cheat Street, ITC rulings have been vetoed by the President only six times since 1916, when the Commission was founded. This type of veto was last used 25 years ago.

The patent in question relates to wireless technology and the ability to transmit several services accurately and simultaneously. The ITC had ordered that all imports and sales of AT&T-sold models of iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3, iPhone 4 and iPad 2 3G be halted.

Some of the products listed in the ruling were not affected, because they were no longer being sold in the USA.

These patents, known as “standard essential patents”, include technology that has to be used to conform to standards established by the industry.

President Obama had 60 days to review the ITC import-ban ruling.

In a letter to Irving A. Williamsong, Chairman of the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), Mr. Froman wrote:

“After extensive consultations with the agencies of the Trade Policy Staff Committee and the Trade Policy Review Group, as well as other interested agencies and persons, I have decided to disapprove the USITC’s determination to issue and exclusion order and cease and desist order in this investigation. This decision is based on my review of the various conditions in the U.S. economy and the effect on U.S. consumers……
……This policy decision is not an endorsement or a criticism of the Commission’s decision or analysis. My decision to disapprove this determination does not mean that the patent owner in this case is not entitled to a remedy. On the contrary, the patent owner may continue to pursue its rights through the courts.”

Apple applauds and Samsung criticizes the veto

In a statement, Apple spokesperson, Kristin Huguet said “We applaud the Administration for standing up for innovation in this landmark case. Samsung was wrong to abuse the patent system in this way.”

Adam Yates, a spokesperson for Samsung, said “(the company is) disappointed that the U.S. Trade Representative has decided to set aside the exclusion order issued by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). The ITC’s decision correctly recognized that Samsung has been negotiating in good faith and that Apple remains unwilling to take a license.”

James Politi and Richard Waters wrote in The Financial Times that President Obama’s vetoing of the ITC ruling goes against America’s aggressive push for more stringent intellectual property regimes worldwide.

According to the BBC, Samsung and Apple are in the middle of a worldwide patent war. In 2012, a court ruled that Samsung had to pay Apply $1 billion in damages for violating Apple patients. That award was later reduced to $598.9 million.