Gov’t breaks silence to stand up for Samsung

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Gov’t breaks silence to stand up for Samsung

The U.S. administration’s unexpected veto on Saturday of its trade agency’s June decision to curb imports of Chinese-made Apple products infringing on Samsung Electronics patents has led the Korean government to make its first official statement on the patent dispute that began in 2011.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a statement yesterday it is “concerned about the negative impact the U.S. Trade Representative’s decision will have on the protection of patents Samsung Electronics holds.” “We will closely watch the U.S. administration’s decision after the International Trade Commission’s ruling scheduled on Aug. 8 and Aug. 9 on the patent dispute filed by Apple against Samsung,” the ministry said, noting it “expects a decision on a fair and reasonable basis.”

The trade ministry’s statement, coordinated with the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning, which overseas IT policies, is its first since the two archrivals began legal battles over patents two years ago.

Even if the document has no hands-on effect, the Korean government appears determined to show it is ready to stand up for the home-grown company after the U.S. administration defended the interests of an American company. There is no legal ground for Samsung to appeal the U.S. administration’s decision.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, charged with overseeing a presidential review, on Saturday overruled the U.S. International Trade Commission’s June 4 decision to ban entry of some China-assembled Apple smartphones and tablet PCs that violated Samsung patents.

If the administration had endorsed the ITC decision, imports of the` iPhone 4, iPhone 3, iPhone 3GS, iPad 3G and iPad 2 3G would have been banned starting this week. It was the first veto of an ITC ruling since 1987.

Froman wrote in a letter to the ITC that his decision was based in part on the “effect on competitive conditions in the U.S. economy and the effect on U.S. consumers.”

Even in the tech community overseas, the U.S. government’s move has garnered a cold response. The Innovation Alliance, an industry group that includes patent holders Qualcomm and InterDigital, was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying it was “tremendously disappointed” by the decision. The alliance noted the U.S. government’s veto represented “perhaps the worst of all possible outcomes - a decision that overturns decades of settled understanding without clear guidance for licensing negotiations.”

The decision “risks undermining the U.S. administration’s aggressive push for stricter intellectual property regimes around the world,” wrote the Financial Times on Sunday. It noted the decision is “striking because it comes as the United States has embarked on a big push to tighten rules on patents in global trade negotiations.”

Now that the Korean tech bellwether has outpaced its American rival to become the world’s top smartphone producer, the U.S. government is under pressure to fend off the mounting threat from the foreign company. The New York Times reported the administration is “aggressively pursuing trade deals with Europe and with Pacific Rim nations. But Mr. Obama has also pushed to be more aggressive in protecting the rights of American companies.”



BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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