On Friday, the U.S. International Trade Commission ordered a ban on the sale and import of some Samsung Electronics Co. mobile devices after they found that they infringed on two patents held by Apple Inc. The ruling put pressure on the Obama administration, which only a few days earlier had taken the unusual step of vetoing an International Trade Commission ruling in favor of Samsung that would have barred the sale of some older Apple iPhones and iPads.
The administration now has 60 days to come to a decision about whether to let Samsung’s ban take effect. The impression of favoring domestic over foreign companies could possibly raise trading tension with Samsung’s home country, which is in South Korea. Samsung, while having expressed disappointment in the ruling, said the order will not hurt the availability of its products, which many believe may have been a reference to design changes made to remove the infringing features from the company’s smartphones and tablets.
A Samsung spokesperson said, “We have already taken measures to ensure that all of our products will continue to remain available in the United States.”
While the International Trade Commission order did not spell out specific Samsung products, an older ruling by an agency judge pointed to older products that included the Galaxy S II smartphone and Galaxy 10.1 tablet. The order could potentially have an impact beyond the older Samsung devices that Apple had challenged at the time.
The ruling on Friday is another setback to Samsung in its global patent battles with Apple. Samsung had a difficult time during an appeals hearing in another patent fight between the two companies earlier on Friday.
The Apple and Samsung patent tangles have been in court since 2011. The tensions started after Apple shook up the mobile device market in 2007 with the iPhone and Samsung followed up with competing products.
Last week’s veto of the International Trade Commission order was the first of an ITC order in more than 25 years.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman made the decision based on policy concerns about companies obtaining product bans based on patents that cover technology used in industry wide standards. A spokeswoman for Froman said the representative would “begin a thorough interagency review process.”
In related news Friday, a federal appeals court pressed Samsung on whether the company should have been allowed to continue selling a range of phones and tablets after a California jury found the products infringed on other Apple patents.
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