Obama reverses import ban on Apple products

THE Obama administration has overturned a US trade panel’s ban on the sale of some older iPhones and iPads, reversing a ruling that had favoured Samsung Electronics over Apple in their long-running patent battles.

The US International Trade Commission 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 a patent owned by the South Korean electronics giant.

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 recognised that Samsung has been negotiating in good faith and that Apple remains unwilling to take a licence,” 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 100m iPhones annually, but it does not break down sales by models.

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.

The Obama administration has been pressing for most infringements of standard patents to be punished by monetary fines, not sales bans.