Apple banned from importing iPhone 4 and 3G iPad 2

Citing patent violations, the US Trade Commission ruled against Apple and in favor of Samsung, banning the imports of the iPhone 4 and the 3G iPad 2.  

Dado Ruvic/ Reuters/ File
Men are silhouetted against a video screen as they pose with Samsung Galaxy S3 and iPhone 4 smartphones in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica in May.

The United States International Trade Commission’s decision to ban imports of the Apple iPhone 4 and 3G-capable iPad 2 provided another twist in a series of patent battles between Apple and Samsung. This decision overturned an earlier ruling from Sept. 2012 that ruled in favor of Apple.   

In the case, Samsung claims that Apple failed to pay a reasonable royalty fee on four phone features, a largely symbolic ruling for both companies. Apple stands to lose $1 billion, which is a pittance considering that Apple generates over $100 billion dollars in revenue from the sales of iPhones and iPads, according to Bloomberg reports.   

Shortly after the ruling, Samsung issued a statement saying that the ITC’s decision “confirmed Apple’s history of free-riding on Samsung’s technological innovations.”    

Apple has already stated that it will appeal the ITC’s decision in federal court. The company also has a 60-day review period before the ITC’s ruling goes into effect during which time President Obama could overturn the ITC’s decision, an unlikely outcome. The last time an ITC decision was overturned was under Ronald Reagan. However, it is worth noting that Mr. Obama issued a statement expressing concerns about the ITC issuing orders to block imports sold by American companies, a possible sign that the president could break with tradition and overturn the case, though this is still extremely unlikely, according to Colleen Chien, a law professor at Santa Clara University who has written extensively about patent law.      

Apple seems unconcerned by the mounting cost of waging patent fights around the globe, says Timothy Holbrook, a law professor at Emory University. If it can't slow the rising popularity of Android in the marketplace, maybe it can do so in the courtroom.

Completely banning Apple imports, even of an older model of one of its products, is a particularly unpleasant snub for the California-based company, says Ms. Chien. 

“The ITC exists to protect domestic industries from unfair foreign imports. In this case though, it's poised to block a US company from selling its products here,” Chien say. This sets a precedent of the ITC being able to regulate patents by controlling what is imported into the United States.

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