Samsung Wins Import Ban on iPhone 4 & iPad 2 for AT&T

| Analysis

iPhone 4 BannedSamsung 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.

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Lee Dronick

  The import ban, or “exclusion order” as it is officially called, affects AT&T models of the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad 3G and iPad 2 3G. The ITC also went a step further, issuing a cease-and-desist order so that Apple is forbidden from selling any inventory of those iPhones and iPads that it has already imported into the U.S. after the exclusion order takes effect.

The order now goes to U.S. President Barack Obama for review. That part of the process can go as long as 60 days, and if he does not veto the order it will go into force.

I doubt that President Obama will sign the order before Apple takes it through the appeals process.



Bryan - thank you for a balanced and objective report.

Bryan Chaffin

Lee, I can’t imagine the president would do so at all, especially for products at the end of their commercial lifespan. It’s fraught with political peril, both domestically and internationally.

Sym, thanks for the comment.

Lee Dronick

  Lee, I can’t imagine the president would do so at all, especially for products at the end of their commercial lifespan. It’s fraught with political peril, both domestically and internationally.

As Frank Thring said in Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome, “We are dealing with subtleties here.”


Lee Dronick

Ashley Morrison, CBS Morning News reporter, had the facts half right.


I think there is a good chance the President will sign the order in light of his executive order calling for a higher ITC standard for import bans. The reality is Apple has been screwed over on the patent front mostly by US courts. The ITC ruled HTC violated Apple’s non standard patents, but refused to issue an import ban to the same extent it has against Apple. Samsung was found to violate Apple’s non-standard patents, but no import ban was issued. Samsung is asking for a 2.5 percent rate on the sale of all Apple products. Motorola asked for the same rate from Microsoft, but the federal court set the rate at well less than one percent.

The system is broken. I would be highly surprised if the President does not act.

Lee Dronick

There is another big player in this game, AT&T.

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