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ITC issues import and sales ban on select Samsung devices

The International Trade Commission ruled today that a number of Samsung devices infringed on Apple design patents
August 9, 2013

You could be forgiven for assuming Samsung was clear of any patent wrongdoing Apple’s massive 2012 court win, but it looks like the Korea-based electronics manufacturer isn’t out of the woods quite yet. The International Trade Commission today found Samsung guilty of infringing Apple design patents covering software scrolling behavior and headphone jack capability. Accordingly, the panel of judges issued a ruling banning a number Samsung devices from import, including Android smartphones (Galaxy S and Continuum) and tablets (Galaxy Tab and Galaxy 10.1). A full list of devices restricted from sale is expected later today.

The ITC’s ban is a victory for Apple, but an arguably hollow one. Most of the banned devices were released more than two years ago, and many have been discontinued. Additionally, the scope of Samsung’s infringement has been narrowed: the ITC disagreed with a prior judgment, ruling that the company was not guilty of four patents, most of which dealt with hardware aesthetics and basic software functionality. That being said, the decision does set a precedent, and could factor into future lawsuits Apple may decide to bring against rival smartphone makers.

The ban on select Samsung devices will go into effect after a period of executive review. President Obama has, once again, the option to veto the ITC’s decision, but he’s unlikely to do so; the patents in question are, unlike in the case of the Apple product ban, of a design nature, and not standard-essential. Should the order proceed, Samsung and its U.S. subsidiaries have a period of 60 days in which to cease the sale and import of affected devices. After that, we can only hope that the smartphone patent wars ratchet down a notch