A sales ban was looming after the ITC ruled against Apple in a patent infringement suit. The ban was to take effect tomorrow. The ruling was on hold pending a 60 day presidential review that technically was to expire today. Verizon's general counsel, Randal S. Milch, had an editorial published in the Wall Street Journal earlier in late July asking for the president to intervene in this case. Late yesterday the news from multiple sources came to light that President Barack Obama's administration stepped in to veto the ban of Apple's iPad and several iPhone models. Report Update Aug.05
CNN reports that "Ambassador Michael Froman, the U.S. trade representative, overturned a June decision of the U.S. International Trade Commission – which, according to its website, is an "independent, quasijudicial federal agency" that investigates trade issues - that certain Apple products designed for the AT&T network could not be imported to or sold in the United States."
An ITC judge ruled against Samsung on three patents, but the commission sided with Samsung on the fourth - leading to the ban announced in June. It would have affected models of the iPhone 4, 3GS and 3, as well as iPads and iPad 2s that were compatible with AT&T's network.
In a letter Saturday outlining the decision, Froman expressed "substantial concerns" about "patent hold-up," in which companies use a patent to gain "undue leverage" over use of technologies. He also noted that communications technology standards, including those covered by patents, "have come to play an increasingly important role in the U.S. economy."
Froman further stated that he had "reviewed ITC’s import ban and the various policy considerations of the ban. I have decided to disapprove of the USITC’s decision. This decision is based on my review of the various policy considerations discussed above as they relate to the effect on competitive conditions in the U.S. economy and the effect on U.S. consumers."
Froman noted that his decision does not stop the dispute between Apple and Samsung from continuing to play out in court. Last summer, Apple won a $1 billion lawsuit against Samsung over patent issues.
A Samsung spokesman said Saturday it was "disappointed" in Froman's decision. You could read more about that from the Korean Yonhap News Agency.
The Wall Street Journal reported that "The action marked the first time since 1987 that a presidential administration had vetoed an import ban ordered by the U.S. International Trade Commission."
An Apple spokeswoman said in a statement that "We applaud the Administration for standing up for innovation in this landmark case" and added that "Samsung was wrong to abuse the patent system in this way."
Reuters added that "The Obama administration has been pressing for most infringements of standard essential patents to be punished by monetary fines instead of sales injunctions.
Froman on Saturday said the ITC should thoroughly examine the public interest ramifications of its rulings in disputes over standard essential patents.
The veto concludes one of the most dramatic ITC cases in years. Samsung, meanwhile, is scheduled to face a ruling by the ITC this Friday on whether some of its products infringe Apple patents and should be barred from import as a result.
One person familiar with ITC proceedings said it might choose to delay that decision in the wake of the Obama administration's move Saturday.
It should be noted that he Obama administration has also taken action against patent trolls. On June 4, 2013, President Obama also called on Congress to take several steps to make it more difficult for so-called patent assertion entities (PAEs) to collect money from alleged infringers of their patents. PAEs, often called patent trolls, are patent-owning companies whose main business model is demanding license fees instead of making products based on their patents.
Congress and the White House need to take steps to curb patent abuse by companies that "essentially leverage and hijack somebody else's idea and see if they can extort some money out of them," Obama said in a statement.
Lawmakers in both the Senate and the House of Representatives are also pushing for bills targeting patent trolls.
During Senate hearings last month, Apple's CEO Tim Cook stated that "For us, our intellectual property is so important to our company. I would love to see the system strengthened to protect it." Recent moves by the Obama administration prove that the concerns echoed by Apple and other American tech companies are being taken very seriously.
Report Update August 05, 2013 – Korean Government Reaction:
Reuters reported on the Korean Government reaction to Saturday's ruling. "The move was vehemently criticized by the South Korean media as "protectionism." The Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy, said in a statement that they "express concerns about the negative impact that such a decision would have on the protection of patent rights." The ministry called on the U.S. trade body and the Obama administration to make "fair and reasonable decisions" as Samsung faces a decision on Friday as to whether some of its phones and tablets infringed on Apple's patents and should be banned from imports into the United States."