President Obama’s trade representative on Saturday vetoed a ban on imports of some Apple iPads and older iPhones, dealing a setback to rival South Korean electronics company Samsung.
U.S. trade representative Michael Froman overruled a June decision by the U.S. International Trade Commission, which had banned imports of the iPhone 4 and some variations of the iPad 2. The commission ruled that the Chinese-made Apple devices violated a patent held by Samsung and couldn’t be imported. But the ban never went into effect because the Obama administration had 60 days to decide if it would uphold the commission.
Obama is against import bans on the basis of the type of patent at issue in the Samsung case. The White House has recommended that Congress limit the ITC’s ability to impose import bans in these cases.
Samsung and Apple are in a global legal battle over smartphones. Apple argues Samsung’s Android phones copy vital iPhone features. Samsung is fighting back with its own complaints.
Last year, a federal court ruled that Samsung owed Apple $1 billion in damages for infringing on non-essential Apple patents. But the judge refused to impose an import ban on Samsung phones and later struck $450 million from the verdict, saying the jurors miscalculated. The case is set for a rematch in appeals court.
Samsung is the world’s largest maker of smartphones, but Apple’s smartphone business is more profitable.