The administration of US President Barack Obama has overturned a US trade panel’s ban on the sale of some older iPhones and iPads, reversing a ruling that had favored Samsung Electronics Co over Apple in their long-running patent battle.
The US International Trade Commission (ITC) in June banned the import or sale of the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad 3G and iPad 2 3G distributed by AT&T, saying the devices infringed on a patent owned by Samsung.
US Trade Representative Michael Froman on Saturday vetoed the ban, saying his decision was in part based on its “effect on competitive conditions in the US economy and the effect on US consumers.”
He said Samsung could continue to pursue its case through the courts.
Samsung said it was “disappointed” at the lifting of the ban.
“The ITC’s decision correctly recognized that Samsung has been negotiating in good faith and that Apple remains unwilling to take a license,” it said in a statement.
Apple welcomed the news and applauded the administration “for standing up for innovation.”
It added, “Samsung was wrong to abuse the patent system in this way.”
The Apple products targeted by the ITC ban are more than a year old, though some models such as the iPhone 4 remain solid sellers. Apple sells more than 100 million iPhones annually, but it does not break down sales by model.
Apple and Samsung have been waging a global patent war since 2010, filing multiple lawsuits against each other over the design and functionality of their devices.
This ITC ban is specific to a Samsung patent on technology that allows devices to transmit multiple services simultaneously and correctly through 3G wireless technology.
Such patents are called “standard essential patents” and they cover technology that must be used to comply with standards set by industry organizations.
The Obama administration has been pressing for most infringements of standard essential patents to be punished by fines instead of sales injunctions.
Froman said the ITC should thoroughly examine the public interest ramifications of its rulings in disputes over standard essential patents.
Designed to be a trade panel, the ITC has become a popular venue for patent lawsuits because it acts relatively quickly and can order import bans, which are more difficult to get from district courts.