Apple lost a battle Tuesday in its global legal war with Samsung over intellectual property rights. The International Trade Commission, a U.S. agency, banned sales of several older models of Apple’s iPhone and iPad for infringement of Samsung’s patents, Cecilia Kang reports. The two companies have been at odds in courts in Europe, Australia and Asia as well, and Apple, so far, has won more of the battles. Judges in Germany and Japan awarded victories to Apple earlier this year. South Korean judges have already issued sales bans against both companies in that country. Apple also won a preliminary ruling against Samsung at the International Trade Commission in a separate case this year, as well as $1.05 billion in damages from a Silicon Valley jury last year. A judge later ordered a new trial on part of that amount.

Timothy Lee explains the relationship between the International Trade Commission and the regular court system:

The ITC is officially part of the executive branch, but it plays a quasi-judicial role in enforcing the nation’s trade laws. If the ITC determines that an importer has engaged in “unfair trade practices,” it can issue an “exclusion order” banning its products from the market.

That law has been on the books since 1922, but more recently the phrase “unfair trade practices” has increasingly been construed to include patent infringement. And because modern consumer electronics products are manufactured overseas, virtually all of those products are vulnerable to ITC exclusion orders.

The result has been two parallel systems of patent law. Patent holders can ask a district court to issue an injunction against the sale of a product. Or they can ask the ITC to issue an exclusion order. While the lingo is different, the basic result is the same: If the product is found to be infringing, it gets banned from the market.


Apple plans to appeal the decision in federal court.

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