Trade agency rules against Samsung in patent dispute with Apple


The ruling by the International Trade Commission could result in the U.S. government banning certain Samsung products from being imported, although it’s not clear yet how much U.S. consumers will be affected. (Justin Sullivan/GETTY IMAGES)

It’s the patent war that won’t end.

A quasi-judicial agency that advises the government on trade issues ruled Friday that Samsung had infringed on two of Apple’s patents, adding another chapter to the two-year-long battle between the world’s biggest smartphone makers.

The ruling by the International Trade Commission could result in the U.S. government banning certain Samsung products from being imported, although it’s not clear yet how U.S. consumers will be affected.

The White House still has to review the decision before finalizing it. And the patents covered in the ruling don’t apply to some of the company’s newer phones.

Regardless, some experts say, the ruling is unlikely to resolve the legal squabble between Apple and Samsung as they vie for dominance in the global smartphone market.

“What we’re continually seeing with this whole war is the can keeps getting kicked down, and there’s no decisive move,” said Brian Kahin, senior fellow at the Computer & Communications Industry Association and fellow at the MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business.

The view from Apple — and its late co-founder Steve Jobs — has been that Android phonemakers such as Samsung ripped off the idea for the iPhone wholesale. In 2011, Apple filed a complaint against Samsung saying the Korean company infringed on a total of 15 Apple patents. Samsung then alleged in return that Apple infringed on 12 of its patents.

Last year, a jury decided that Samsung had infringed on a number of Apple’s patents, although the court denied Apple’s request that there be an injunction against Samsung phones.

Also on Friday, there was a hearing by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reviewing whether the decision to allow Samsung to continue selling the products in question — after they were found to violate Apple’s patents — was correct.

Kahin said the battle will continue so long as there isn’t a settlement. So far, Apple has not shown much interest in licensing its technology to Samsung.

“It’s mainly interested in trying to keep the Android phones off the market, and it hasn’t been doing very well at that, obviously,” Kahin said, pointing to Android’s continued popularity around the world. “So what’s its game plan?”

New data from the research firm IDC this week showed that Apple’s share of the global smartphone market is slipping, from 16.6 percent in the second quarter last year to 13.2 percent in the same time period this week.

Samsung said in a statement Friday that it was “disappointed” with the ITC’s ruling.

“The proper focus for the smartphone industry is not a global war in the courts, but fair competition in the marketplace,” the company said. “Samsung will continue to launch many innovative products and we have already taken measures to ensure that all of our products will continue to be available in the United States.”

Meanwhile, Apple hailed the decision, saying, “The ITC has joined courts around the world in Japan, Korea, Germany, Netherlands and California by standing up for innovation and rejecting Samsung’s blatant copying of Apple’s products.”

Jia Lynn Yang is a business editor at The Washington Post.
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