U.S. vetoes import ban on AT&T iPhone 4, 3G iPad 2

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 using 3G cellular technology, would be against the U.S. public interest. It cited concerns that patents essential to implementing technology standards, or so-called standards-essential patents, can be used to harm competition.

[ Galen Gruman explains what the Samsung-Apple patent fight is about. | Simon Phipps tells it like it is: Why software patents are evil. | Stay ahead of the key tech business news with InfoWorld's Today's Headlines: First Look newsletter. | Read Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog for what the key business trends mean to you. ]

Apple and Samsung have been fighting in the courts for years over several issues; the one in this case centers around cellulatr technology that is part of the cellular technology used in radios compatible with AT&T's 3G network, where Apple says Samsung wants to charge it more than Samsung charges other rivals. The patent is part of an international standard whose rules require the licensing be done in a "fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory" way, which Apple claims Samsung is not doing and so refuses to accept Samsung's terms.

"Licensing [standards-essential patents 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.

In a statement, Samsung said it was disappointed with the decision. "The ITC's decision correctly recognized that Samsung has been negotiating in good faith and that Apple remains unwilling to take a license," Samsung said.

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 3 GS, iPhone 3, iPad 3G, and cellular-equipped iPad 2. Only the iPhone 4 and the cellular iPad 2 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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