ITC finds Samsung infringing on two Apple patents, sales embargo soon

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“60-day review process begins on infringing devices import ban”. The US International Trade Commission ruled in favor of Apple saying that some Samsung mobile products infringe on two of Apple’s four patents.  The panel also gave an import embargo on older mobile products of Samsung.  Thus this ruling starts the 60-day Presidential review process of the ITC ruling.

The recent ruling by the ITC against Apple, that was the subject of a presidential veto, was about standards-essential patents (SEPs).  However, this ITC ruling involved four Apple patents that are not standards-essential. “The preliminary ruling found that the Apple patents were in fact violated by Samsung”.  As most of these Samsung products are not on the market any longer, this verdict will not affect the public interest.

The two patents involved are “U.S. Patent No. 7,479,949 on a touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics” and U.S. Patent No. 7,912,501 on an “audio I/O headset plug and plug detection circuitry.  Apple’s design patent and its “translucent images” patent were found to be not infringed by Samsung devices”.

The following products will have an import and sales ban unless there is a Presidential veto for Samsung: Galaxy S 4G, Fascinate, Transform, Captivate, Intercept, Infuse 4G, plus the Galaxy Tab, and Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets.  These devices are not for sale in the US and the non-SEP nature of this Apple-Samsung patent grievance gives little chance of a veto.

Patent analyst Florian Mueller says even though there may be expectations in South Korea that Samsung should also get a Presidential veto in view of the fact that Apple just received one, this seems highly unlikely.  This is due to the fact that “standard-essential patents come with FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) licensing obligations and can’t be worked around without prohibitive switching costs”.

Samsung has in the meantime expressed their disappointment that the ITC issued an exclusion order based on two of Apple’s patents.  But Apple has also been prevented from using its elaborate design patents to obtain monopoly on rectangles and rounded corners.  The objective for the smartphone industry should be on fair competition in the marketplace rather than global war in the courts.  Samsung has expressed their intention of continuing with the launch of may innovative products and will ensure that the US market can enjoy their products.

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