Samsung Electronics Corp won a round in its long-running patent battle with Apple Inc on Tuesday when a US trade panel banned the import and sale of some older models of the iPhone and iPad.
The quasi-judicial International Trade Commission (ITC) said it issued a “limited exclusion order” for certain devices made by Apple, in a victory for the South Korean firm after a huge loss in a court fight with its US rival last year.
The loss dealt to Apple by the ITC could make the Cupertino, California-based company more amenable to negotiating settlements on some of the many legal fronts where it is waging patent war with Samsung.
“Up to now, Apple has been winning the big judgements, which means there was no reason to come to the table,” independent Silicon Valley analyst Rob Enderle said.
“It looked like Apple held all the cards,” he said. “But if this holds up and both companies have something to lose, you can get negotiation.”
Tuesday’s victory could be largely symbolic because the ban covers devices that are no longer actively sold in the US market — the AT&T Inc iPhone 4 and iPhone 3 and 3GS, as well as the iPad 3G and iPad 2 3G, also sold by AT&T.
However, it is likely that Samsung will explore the feasibility of launching similar legal attacks at newer products from the company, according to Enderle.
“Typically, once you win something like this you try to apply it to the new products,” the analyst said. “This may put enough risk on Apple to get them more open to talking with Samsung.”
The ITC ruling is a final order but may be appealed in the US Court of Appeals or reversed by a US presidential order.
“We believe the ITC’s final determination has confirmed Apple’s history of free-riding on Samsung’s technological innovations,” a Samsung statement said. “Our decades of research and development in mobile technologies will continue, and we will continue to offer innovative products to consumers in the United States.”
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, Apple expects to expand its Silicon Valley workforce by nearly 50 percent during the next three years, signaling the company’s faith in its ability to keep coming up with hit products like the iPhone and iPad.
The projections detailed in a report released on Tuesday envision Apple hiring 7,400 more workers at its Cupertino, California, headquarters between now and the planned completion of a new office complex in 2016. Apple now employs about 16,000 people in and around Cupertino, the company’s hometown for most of its 37-year history. That accounts for about one-fifth of Apple’s nearly 73,000 employees worldwide.
Apple submitted the report to Cupertino City officials as part of its effort to win approval to build a new 320,000m2 campus.