Some older Samsung Electronics Co smartphones and tablets could be taken off store shelves in the US after the Office of the US Trade Representative opted not to reverse a ban ordered because the devices infringe Apple Inc patents.
The decision is the latest step in a patent battle across several countries as Apple and Samsung vie for market share in the lucrative mobile industry. Samsung and Apple are the No. 1 and No. 2 smartphone makers globally respectively.
Neither the US International Trade Commission (ITC), which made the patent ruling, nor the US Customs and Border Protection, which would enforce the ban, has spelled out which of Samsung’s many devices will be affected.
Despite the ban, AT&T expected to continue selling Samsung products.
“This decision will not affect our ability to provide the latest Samsung devices,” AT&T spokesman Marty Richter said.
The ITC said on Aug. 9 that some smartphone and tablet models made by South Korea’s Samsung infringed on Apple patents, and banned their importation or sale.
US Trade Representative Michael Froman had 60 days to overturn the ban, as he did in a recent case where Apple was found to have infringed on a Samsung patent, but decided not to.
“After carefully weighing policy considerations, including the impact on consumers and competition, advice from agencies and information from interested parties, I have decided to allow the commission’s determination,” Froman said in a statement.
“We are disappointed by the US Trade Representative’s decision to allow the exclusion order issued by the US International Trade Commission. It will serve only to reduce competition and limit choice for the American consumer,” a Samsung spokesperson said.
Apple filed a complaint in mid-2011, accusing Samsung of infringing its patents in making a wide range of smartphones and tablets.
The ITC ruled that the Samsung devices infringed on portions of two Apple patents on digital mobile devices, related to the detection of headphone jacks and the operation of touchscreens.
Samsung has said its newer models incorporate features that work around disputed technology, and that those changes have been approved by the ITC.
In August, the office overturned a proposed ban on some older-model Apple iPhones and iPads that had been found to infringe Samsung patents. Patents involved were standard essential patents, while the patents covered by Tuesday’s decision were not. Standard essential patents are central to the products at issue and are supposed to be licensed broadly and inexpensively. US antitrust authorities have argued that infringing on them should trigger requirements for license payments, but not import or sales bans.
Separately, Apple is planning to reveal iPad updates at an invitation-only event later this month, the technology news Web site AllThingsD reported on Tuesday.
The next-generation iPad is expected to be thinner than its predecessor and boast improved camera capabilities. An upgraded version of the iPad mini is likely to list an improved screen among its features.
The event will be held on Oct. 22, according to AllThingsD. Apple declined to comment on the report, which cited unnamed sources.
Apple is coming off a wildly successful launch of two new iPhone models last month. The California firm said it sold a record 9 million iPhones in the three days after launching two new versions of the smartphone.