WASHINGTON – Samsung won a round in its long-running patent battle with Apple on Tuesday when a US trade panel banned the import and sale of some older models of the iPhone and iPad.
The quasi-judicial International Trade Commission said it issued a
“limited exclusion order” for certain devices made by Apple, in a
victory for the South Korean firm after a huge loss in a court fight
with its US rival last year.
The loss dealt to Apple by the ITC could make the Cupertino,
California-based company more amenable to negotiating settlements on
some of the many legal fronts where it is waging patent war with
“Up to now, Apple has been winning the big judgments, which means
there was no reason to come to the table,” said independent Silicon
Valley analyst Rob Enderle.
“It looked like Apple held all the cards,” he said. “But if this
holds up and both companies have something to lose, you can get
Tuesday’s victory could be largely symbolic because the ban covers
devices that are no longer actively sold in the US market — the AT&T
iPhone 4 and iPhone 3 and 3GS, as well as the iPad 3G and iPad 2 3G,
also sold by AT&T.
But it is likely that Samsung will explore the feasibility of
launching similar legal attacks at newer products from the company,
according to Enderle.
“Typically, once you win something like this you try to apply it to
the new products,” the analyst said. “This may put enough risk on Apple
to get them more open to talking with Samsung.”
The ITC ruling is a final order but may be appealed in the US Court of Appeals or reversed by presidential order.
“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 United States.”
Apple did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.
The case was filed in August 2011 amid a flurry of litigation between
the two rivals over patents in the hot market for tablets and
In a separate patent fight in US federal court, Samsung was ordered
last August to pay more than $1 billion for patent infringement, which
also opens the door to a ban on some Samsung devices.
A judge later slashed the award to $598.9 million.
Apple has been seeking to ban some of the newer 4G phones from
Samsung’s Galaxy line, as well as the Droid Charge sold through Verizon
in that case, which is being appealed.
The news came on the same day the White House moved to crack down on
abuses of the patent system, responding to mounting concern among
technology companies over a flood of litigation that some say stifles
The White House said new action is needed in the face of a flood of
recent patent litigation, particularly in the smartphone sector, and
because “several major companies spend more on patent litigation and
defensive acquisition than on research and development.”
The latest moves target so-called “patent trolls” which, according to
the White House, “hijack” ideas and take other companies to court with
an eye to collecting license or royalty fees.
Meanwhile, Apple has asked a federal judge in Silicon Valley to add
Samsung’s new flagship Galaxy smartphone to the list of devices targeted
in a patent lawsuit involving Siri personal assistant software.
The motion to amend the lawsuit to include the Galaxy S4 will be on
the agenda of a June 25 hearing before US District Court Judge Paul
Grewal in the California city of San Jose.
The trial is not expected to begin until early next year.
After years of following and refining the iPhone’s pioneering
innovations — a strategy that resulted in bitter patent battles with
Apple — Samsung has dethroned its rival to become the world’s top