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Obama Administration Vetoes Import Ban on Select Apple Devices

By Brett Snider, Esq. on August 06, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

President Obama's administration put the kibosh on an order from the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) which effectively banned select Apple products from being imported to U.S. markets.

The Saturday veto came from U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, the man tasked with presidential view of the USITC's ruling, who believed the ruling would "hurt the U.S. economy and its consumers" as well as encourage a strange result in a standard-essential patent case, reports CNET.

What does this mean for the future fights between Apple and other colossal tech corporations like Samsung?

USITC's Ruling

This veto comes on the heels of a ruling by the USITC court which found Samsung and Apple fighting over a few key patents, only this time Samsung won. The USITC found that Apple had infringed on Samsung's '348 patent, a fairly standard communication technology that was utilized in many of Apple's older model iPhones and iPads, and imposed an import ban on those models in the U.S.

Many saw this ruling as a way for Samsung to shortcut the normal patent litigation system, using the USITC as a loophole to freeze out Apple and their products despite losing battles in state court over the same patents.

Obama Administration Veto

The Obama Administration responded to the order by vetoing the import ban on those earlier Apple products; the first time a USITC ban has been overturned by the White House since the Reagan Administration, reports CNBC.

By doing so, the White House put its foot down on using the USITC to ban products when the patent being infringed is simply a standards essential patent (SEP). These patents, like '348, are necessary for the industry and need to be licensed, so a much less drastic solution would be to impose money damages for unlicensed use and not a product import ban, reports Forbes.

Future Executive Action

A letter from the USITC Chairman Irving A. Williamson explained that the Obama Administration reviews these types of orders subject to the following factors:

  • Public health and welfare
  • Competitive conditions in the U.S. economy
  • Production of competitive articles in the U.S.
  • U.S. consumers
  • U.S. foreign relations

Based on these factors, and a prior statement by the DOJ, the Administration expressed worry about the negative effects to competition and public welfare if SEPs were used to stop products from being sold, as opposed to a court ordered payment for the licensed technology.

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