US vetoes import ban on Apple products

The Obama administration has vetoed a ban that affected certain iPhone and iPad models due to patent claim by Samsung

The Obama administration has vetoed a decision by the U.S. International Trade Commission to ban the import of certain Apple products to the U.S. on the grounds they infringed a Samsung Electronics technology patent.

In its decision Saturday, the administration said banning the products, which include older models of the iPhone and iPad, would be against the U.S. public interest. It cited concerns that patents essential to implementing technology standards, or so-called standards essential patents (SEPs), can be used to harm competition.

"Licensing SEPs on [fair and reasonable terms] is an important element of the Administration's policy of promoting innovation and economic progress and reflects the positive linkages between patent rights and standards setting," the administration's trade representative, Michael Froman, wrote in his decision.

The ruling will be a setback for Samsung, which is engaged in a broad, worldwide legal battle with Apple in which both companies accuse the other of using their patented technologies without a license. Samsung could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.

The South Korean electronics maker filed its complaint with the ITC almost two years ago. In June this year, the ITC determined that the Apple products involved should be banned from import because they infringe one of Samsung's patents. The products affected were the AT&T models of the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3, iPad 3G and iPad 2 3G. Only the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2 3G are currently sold in the U.S. by AT&T.

The administration noted Saturday that it can overturn ITC rulings when it considers they conflict with U.S. policy and the public interest. It said Samsung can continue to pursue remedies against Apple through the courts.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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