From Litigation Daily:
Apple Inc. and its lawyers at Morrison & Foerster won another round in their patent battle with Samsung Electronics Co., when an Obama administration official refused to override an Aug. 9 order blocking Samsung from importing certain smartphones and tablets into the country. Samsung wanted the U.S. International Trade Commission’s import ban lifted as a matter of fairness, pointing out that just two months ago the White House lifted an ITC order banning the importation of Apple devices. But the administration rejected that argument, indicating that it thinks the two cases raise entirely different policy issues.
“After carefully weighing policy considerations, including the impact on consumers and competition, advice from agencies, and information from interested parties, I have decided to allow [the Samsung order] to become final,” U.S. trade representative Michael Froman said in a statement. The ITC’s import ban takes effect at 12:00 a.m. on Oct. 9.
As we explained on Monday, Froman based his prior decision lifting the import ban against Apple on the fact that Apple was found to infringe so-called standards-essential patents. The two Apple patents infringed by Samsung, in contrast, aren’t essential to industry standards.
Notwithstanding Samsung’s protests, the ban isn’t likely to have much of an impact on the mobile device market. The ITC determined that a handful of Samsung products, including the original Galaxy tablet, infringe two Apple patents relating to screen and headphone jack design. Those infringing Samsung devices, like the early Galaxy tab, are already outdated and now represent a small fraction of Samsung’s sales. Samsung has also said in court filings that it found ways to design around Apple’s patents.
In hopes of getting the import ban lifted, Samsung’s lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan had argued that it’s bad policy to block the sale of complex devices just because two “minor” features infringe someone else’s patents. Citing the Obama’s administration’s ITC veto favoring U.S.-based Apple, Samsung also suggested that refusing to grant similar relief to Korea-based Samsung would give the appearance of protectionism.
Even before Tuesday’s decision, Froman has sought to put the accusations of bias to rest. In an interview with Bloomberg TV over the weekend, Froman said that his decisions have “nothing, zero, to do with the nationality of the parties involved.”