Samsung has won an import ban from the U.S. International Trade Commission. On Tuesday, the ITC announced the import ban for the iPhone 4 for AT&T, T-Mobile and some regional carriers, as well as the iPad 2 with Wi-Fi +3G for the same networks. The ITC found that the two Apple devices infringed on a Samsung patent.
This marks the first import ban Samsung has been able to secure against Apple in the epic patent battle the two companies are fighting. It won't go into effect immediately, but according to Bloomberg, the ruling is at a stage where it can only be overturned by the White House (which rarely happens) or by a U.S. appellate court, which will review the decision.
The patent in question is #7,706,348, and is titled, "Apparatus and method for encoding/decoding transport format combination indicator in CDMA mobile communication system."
Apple had argued that the patent is a standards-essential patent. Courts and regulatory bodies—including the ITC—have so far refused to grant import bans on standards-essential patents, but be that as it may, Samsung won a ban for this patent.
“We are disappointed that the commission has overturned an earlier ruling and we plan to appeal,” Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman, said in a statement. “Today’s decision has no impact on the availability of Apple products in the United States.”
She added, “Samsung is using a strategy which has been rejected by courts and regulators around the world. They’ve admitted that it’s against the interests of consumers in Europe and elsewhere, yet here in the United States Samsung continues to try to block the sale of Apple products by using patents they agreed to license to anyone for a reasonable fee.”
Apple has accused Samsung of asking for unreasonable licensing fees for its standards-essential patents (SEPs), fees far in access of those paid by other device makers. Courts and regulators around the globe have largely agreed, refusing to grant import bans based on such patents. Again, however, that wasn't the case with this patent.
For its part, Samsung saw the ruling as vindication, saying, "We believe the ITC’s final determination has confirmed Apple’s history of free-riding on Samsung’s technological innovations. 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.”
Neither company mentioned Apple's historic patent infringement victory against Samsung in 2012. The irony is that the post-trial process involved in that victory is going to take forever and a day, meaning that Samsung could see its ban implemented long before Apple.
Whether it will be before Apple stops selling the iPhone 4 as a matter of its product cycle is another question. The iPhone 4 is three generations old, and it was first released in the summer of 2010. Apple is expected to discontinue the device when it releases the next iPhone model, likely in the fall of 2013.