The head of the cellular industry association sent a letter to President Bush, asking him to strike the U.S. International Trade Commission's recent ban on the import of Qualcomm phones in the U.S.
The ban, issued by the commission on June 7, can be vetoed by the president within 60 days of the ruling. Historically, presidents have rarely overturned such a decision from the ITC.
The ban will "freeze innovation" for wireless networks in the country and will adversely affect public safet, wrote Steve Largent, president and CEO of the CTIA cellular industry association, in a letter to the president dated Wednesday.
In addition to diminishing public safety agencies' ability to conduct basic communications, the ban will also hinder the mobile industry's efforts to improve emergency 911 services, he wrote. That's because the ban only covers future phone models while allowing existing phones to continue to reach the market. As a result, new technologies that can allow better pinpointing of 911 callers won't be imported if the ban stands, Largent wrote.
He paints a broad picture of woe across the industry that will result from the ban. "Substantial investments will be stranded and jobs will be lost if the ITC importation ban is allowed to stand," according to the letter.
Largent warns that the ban will force the redesign of all handsets that use the chips, a process that could take 18 months to two years and could cost millions of dollars. That process will reduce the international competitiveness of the companies and pass on costs to consumers, he said.
The ITC took unusual steps in order to develop the parameters of the ban, holding hearings with the two companies and entertaining ideas from the industry. It is rare for the ITC to grandfather in products, allowing them to be imported even though they have been found to infringe intellectual property. The only similar cases historically have involved products that could directly harm lives if they became unavailable.
If the president doesn't strike the ban, Qualcomm can appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, asking for a stay of the ban. However, the court rarely issues stays to such decisions.
Qualcomm has said that it plans to urge the president to overturn the ban and if he doesn't, the company will appeal the decision in court.