Samsung wins ITC patent case

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Samsung wins ITC patent case

The International Trade Committee (ITC) in the United States, after five delays, ruled on Tuesday that Apple violated a patent belonging to Samsung Electronics used on three rather outdated iPhone models and two iPads, all released before the iPhone 4S.

The unexpectedly favorable ruling for Samsung by the body holding the power to ban the import of products based on patent infringement - should President Barack Obama endorse it - could curb the entrance of the iPhone 4, iPhone 3, iPhone 3GS, iPad 3G, iPad 2 3G, assembled overseas including in China, into their home country starting Aug. 4.

The latest iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPad mini and the fourth-generation iPad will not be affected.
The decision reverses the ITC’s preliminary rulings in August and September, in which it said Apple did not infringe on Samsung’s patents.

The ITC in November announced it would start investigating the patent dispute from scratch, citing controversy surrounding the case. The final ruling was initially scheduled on Jan. 14 but has been postponed five times before Tuesday.

This time, the “determination is final, and the investigation is terminated,” the ITC wrote in its decision.

Although Apple Korea did not issue any statements concerning the ruling, a number of U.S. media sources quoted Apple spokeswoman Kristen Huguet as saying the company would appeal with the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

The ITC decision “has no impact on the availability of Apple products in the U.S.,” she was quoted as saying by the technology news site AllThingsD, adding, “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.”

Samsung, on the other hand, said in a statement, “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 technology will continue, and we will continue to offer innovative products to consumers in the United States.”

Apple could hope for a best-case scenario of President Obama rejecting the “exclusion orders” sent by the ITC for a 60-day review.

The ruling concerns a Samsung patent for a widely used telecommunication method that those Apple phones and tablets use to transmit data. In June 2011, Samsung filed the ITC complaint, which originally included five patents, but Apple was able to throw out four. Citing the Frand patent licensing terms Apple has claimed in defense that Samsung was obligated to license the patent on fair terms because it was part of an industry standard.

Under Frand, which stands for “Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory,” industry-standard patents are essential enough to be licensed out and thus cannot be the object of a patent suit.

The phones and tablet PCs made after iPhone 4S, including the most recent iPhone 5, use Qualcomm chips for the data transmission function.

Because Qualcomm paid royalties to use the chips to Samsung and Apple did not have to make a separate contract to use the Samsung patent, the ITC ruling won’t deal a blow to the sales of later Apple products.

“Newer iPhones and iPads coming with Qualcomm baseband chips [starting with the iPhone 4S] are definitely not affected, limiting the potential impact of this decision on Apple’s revenues,” said Florian Mueller, a patent expert, on his blog FOSS Patents, regarding the ITC decision.

Samsung and Apple are currently involved in a number of patent suits in 10 countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and Japan.

In some, the initial ruling has come out while in others a chain of appeals has followed one after another. In the U.S. court, two lawsuits are pending at the first trial stage, with one facing the confirmation of the damage Samsung should pay to Apple late this year by the judge and the other, set to start next year.

ITC’s ruling coincides with President Obama’s announcement on the same day the U.S. government would crack down on the so-called patent trolls with a series of executive actions and legislative recommendations.

Patent trolls merely exist to be paid for asserting the patents they hold are being infringed by others.

The president’s shot could signal a warning against rampant patent battles in the technology sector, including Samsung and Apple, trying to use patents like cannonballs.


By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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