Older iDevices are banned after ITC finds Apple infringed a standards-essential SEP
The US International Trade Commission (ITC) has ordered a sales ban on some older iPhone and iPads sold by AT&T after ruling that Apple had infringed one of Samsung’s patents.
The agency ordered that the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad 3G and iPad 2 3G should be removed from US shelves and has sent the order to President Barack Obama. If he doesn’t over-rule it, the ban will comes into force in 60 days.
Samsung had accused Apple of infringing three other patents but the ITC did not find any instance of violation.
Apple Samsung patent dispute
Apple has vowed to appeal the ruling, which overturned a previous decision made by the ITC in September, and was keen to stress that it did not affect the immediate availability of the products in question.
Samsung on the other hand was pleased with the outcome and said that it was evidence Apple had profited from the Korean manufacturer’s innovations.
The patent in question relates to 3G technology and the ability to transmit multiple services simultaneously and correctly – and is essential to ensuring that such devices are interoperable.
The ruling is limited to devices stocked by AT&T, although Samsung has reserved the right to allege infringement against Apple products running on other networks, and does not affect devices that use Qualcomm chips, such as the iPhone 4S.
A major surprise
The patent is a standards-essential patent (SEP), which must be offered under fair reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms, and infringements are usually punished with a fine rather than a sales ban unless the offender has refused to pay.
Observers have called the decision by the ITC to throw out Apple’s FRAND defence a “major surprise.”
“I can’t believe that the ITC has completely thrown out Apple’s FRAND defence, taking a position that is fundamentally inconsistent not only with how US federal courts have recently adjudged SEP-based injunction requests but also with opinions expressed by antitrust regulators and, especially, U.S. lawmakers,” said analyst Florian Mueller.
“Last year the Senate and the House of Representatives held hearings on this issue, with bipartisan consensus that holders of SEPs should not be allowed to renege on their FRAND licensing pledges by seeking import bans from the ITC that federal courts would likely deny.”
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