ITC says Samsung copied 2 patents

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ITC says Samsung copied 2 patents

The International Trade Commission in the United States Friday upheld its preliminary finding that some Samsung Electronics mobile products copied Apple patents and thus should be barred from being imported and sold in the U.S.

The ruling, delayed eight days from the original timetable, came six days after the U.S. administration unexpectedly vetoed the trade agency’s decision to ban imports of some China-assembled Apple smartphones and tablet PCs for violating Samsung patents.

Of the six Apple patents the ITC found the Korean company had infringed on in an October preliminary ruling, the ITC cleared charges on four. The remaining two patents in question are: 949 patent, which deals with touch commands on touch-screen devices, and 501 patent, which is related to input and output detection for microphone and headphone jacks.

The trade body said in a statement it “has determined that the appropriate remedy is a limited exclusion order prohibiting Samsung from importing certain electronic digital media devices that infringe one or more of claims,” without listing the specific products to be stopped from entering the world’s largest smartphone market.

The Samsung products that were to be affected by the October finding are some earlier or retired smartphones and tablet PCs: the Galaxy S, Galaxy S2, Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy Tab 10.1. Some of the company’s recent and more popular products, like the Galaxy S3 and S4, are not on the list.

Unless U.S. President Barack Obama again intervenes in the patent fight between the world’s two top smartphone titans to overturn the ITC decision after a 60-day review period - as he did with the Apple products ban on Aug. 3 - Samsung plans to file an appeal to stave off the ban.

“We are disappointed that the ITC has issued an exclusion order based on two of Apple’s patents,” said the Korean tech giant in a statement. “However, Apple has been prevented from trying to use its overbroad design patents to achieve a monopoly on rectangles and rounded corners. The proper focus for the smartphone industry is not a global war in the courts, but fair competition in the marketplace.”

Some Korean media companies have accused the U.S. government of unfairly trying to protect its own company and trade terms.

The world’s No. 1 smartphone producer noted the company has already taken measures to ensure that its products will continue to be available in the United States, suggesting it has made some design tweaks necessary to continue selling all its products despite the ruling.

Apple welcomed the partial victory, saying the ITC “has joined courts around the world in Japan, Korea, Germany, Netherlands and California by standing up for innovation and rejecting Samsung’s blatant copying of Apple’s products,” in a statement.

But some analysts are skeptical about Samsung’s hope that the U.S. administration will again overrule the ITC decision. “Even though there may be expectations in South Korea that Samsung should benefit from a presidential veto only because Apple just won one last Saturday, ‘me too’ doesn’t make sense here,” said Florian Mueller, a patent expert, on his FOSSPatents blog.

The U.S. administration thinks the Samsung patent Apple was found by the ITC to infringe upon - a core 3G technology - falls under the standard-essential patent (SEP) category and comes with fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing obligations, thus cannot be the basis for an import ban. But non-SEPs - the design and technology patents that ITC ruled Samsung has copied from Apple - are traditional exclusionary rights and, most importantly, can be worked around, Mueller said.

“It remains to be seen whether Samsung can comply with today’s limited exclusion order in ways that don’t make its Android-based smartphones and tablet computers less attractive.”

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

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