The US International Trade Commission (ITC) on Friday blocked imports of some older model Samsung mobile devices following complaints by Apple that the South Korean company had violated its patents.
The ruling by the Washington-based trade body was the latest in a long-running and bitter global battle over alleged patent infringement between the two smartphone and tablet computer giants.
The ITC ruled that Samsung had infringed two Apple patents — numbers 949 and 501, dealing with touchscreen actions and headphone jack plug-ins — but cleared the South Korean company of charges that it had violated four more.
“With today’s decision, 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,” Apple said in a statement.
“Protecting real innovation is what the patent system should be about,” it said.
Spokesman Adam Yates said Samsung is “disappointed that the ITC has issued an exclusion order based on two of Apple’s patents.”
“However, Apple has been stopped from trying to use its overbroad design patents to achieve a monopoly on rectangles and rounded corners,” Yates said, referring to design features at issue in rejected patent claims.
“The proper focus for the smartphone industry is not a global war in the courts, but fair competition in the marketplace,” he said.
“Samsung will continue to launch many innovative products and we have already taken measures to ensure that all our of products will continue to be available in the United States,” the Samsung spokesman said.
It was unclear precisely which devices would be targeted in the ban, but it was aimed at early model smartphones and tablets that are no longer hot products in the US.
“It really doesn’t mean that much,” independent Silicon Valley analyst Rob Enderle said of the ITC ruling.
“It is not the new stuff they are talking about, but the older devices that are more likely to be shipped to emerging markets than here,” he said.
The import block is subject to a review by the White House and Samsung will be allowed to continue to sell the items at issue during the two-month review period.
The ITC ruling raised the question of whether US President Barack Obama’s administration will once again intervene in a patent fight playing out between the companies at the agency.