Apple has scored another victory in its battle against Samsung copying of the company's non-essential patents. The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled on Friday that a variety of Samsung devices violated two Apple patents, and issued a sales ban for those products, the only remedy the ITC has at its disposal.
“With today’s decision, the ITC has joined courts around the world in Japan, Korea, Germany, Netherlands and California by standing up for innovation and rejecting Samsung’s blatant copying of Apple’s products,” Apple said in a statement given to AllThingsD. “Protecting real innovation is what the patent system should be about.”
As noted by FOSS Patents, patent 7,479,949 covers a, "touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics." Apple tried to have this patent labeled "the Jobs patent" in a case that ended up being dismissed by Judge Richard Posner.
Patent 7,812,501 is a less sexy patent covering an, "audio I/O headset plug and plug detection circuitry."
The ITC's ruling was a reexamination of an earlier ruling from Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Thomas B. Pender, who found that Samsung violated four of Apple's patents. The full commission upheld the ruling on two of those patents, as noted above, but overturned Judge Pender's ruling on the other two patents.
To that end, Samsung issued a statement to CNet, saying:
We are disappointed that the ITC has issued an exclusion order based on two of Apple's patents. However, Apple has been stopped from trying to use its overbroad design patents to achieve a monopoly on rectangles and rounded corners.
The proper focus for the smartphone industry is not a global war in the courts, but fair competition in the marketplace. Samsung will continue to launch many innovative products, and we have already taken measures to ensure that all of our products will continue to be available in the United States.
Samsung and a vocal portion of the Android fan base has long pretended that Apple has tried to patent "rectangles and rounded corners." However, the slightest effort to apply reason to the subject shows Apple has been trying to patent "rectangles and rounded corners" that look like Apple devices.
Samsung, has lost several cases against Apple, including a $1.05 billion verdict that it copied Apple's design and utility patents ($450 million of that damage award will be retried). At the same time, the company has been rebuffed over and over on its use of standards essential patents (SEPs) to fight Apple's charges of copying its non-essential patents.
As shown by the statement above, Samsung will continue to double down on its strategy, secure in its world view that it is free to copy when it where it wants.
Speaking of ITC bans, Apple watchers will remember that the Obama administration overturned an import and sales ban that Samsung had won based on an SEP from the same ITC. As with that case, there will be a 60-day presidential review period before the Samsung ban goes into effect.
It remains to be seen if the White House will veto this ban, as well. The Obama administration has made it clear that it is not OK with using SEPs to gain exclusion orders (import bans), but it is not yet clear if it feels the same way about non-essential patents.
Back to Friday's ITC ruling, Samsung claims it has the workaround necessary to avoid the sales bans. In addition, many of the products included in the exclusion order are no longer sold. Whether or not Samsung's claims are accurate remains to be seen and tested, and until then it's impossible to know how this ruling will effect Samsung's sales in the U.S. Florian Mueller has an excellent look at that topic at FOSS Patents.