On Saturday, the Obama administration vetoed a U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) decision to ban the sale and import of several Apple products, most notably the iPhone 4 and iPad 2. According to Ian Sherr of WSJ.com, this takes away from an earlier ruling in favor of tech giant Samsung. In a letter to the ITC, U.S. Trade Secretary Michael Froman stated that some patent holders may be gaining “undue leverage”. Froman also wanted to avoid any harm to consumers or competitive conditions in the U.S. economy.
The letter was posted on techcruch.com Saturday afternoon, and it went on to explain the Commission’s concerns. Froman stated in the letter that tech companies should offer licenses on certain patents on “terms that are fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory.” Also, he added that companies who use the technology should be open to negotiations with patent holders and not find ways to hold out of the talks. Froman ended the letter by saying that Samsung could continue to “pursue its rights through the courts.”
This was the first time a president had vetoed an import ban by the ITC since Reagan did it in 1987. The ban touched off a lobbying firestorm toward the Obama administration by tech companies who opposed the ban. Those against the order argue that companies should not be able to block patents on products that are used industry-wide. Samsung maintains that it has offered the license on these “standard essential” patents to Apple. However, Samsung has stated that Apple does not want to pay for the licensing of the patents.
A Samsung spokesman said the company was disappointed in the ruling. He went on to say that Samsung had negotiated in good faith with Apple “remains unwilling to take a license.” The two tech companies have been at odds since Apple released the first iPhone back in 2007, which used many of the same features set to be included in Samsung smartphones.