Obama administration overturns ban on some Apple products
August 3rd, 2013
04:52 PM ET
12 months ago

Obama administration overturns ban on some Apple products

Washington (CNN) - A ban on the sale of some Apple products - including iPhones and iPads - will not go into effect after President Barack Obama’s administration stepped in Saturday, a day before the prohibition was to go into effect.

Ambassador Michael Froman, the U.S. trade representative, overturned a June decision of the U.S. International Trade Commission – which, according to its website, is an “independent, quasijudicial federal agency” that investigates trade issues - that certain Apple products designed for the AT&T network could not be imported to or sold in the United States.

The Obama administration's 60-day window to address, and possibly reverse, that decision was to end Sunday.

The trade representative’s rare move stems from a patent dispute between the tech giants Apple and Samsung over patents on wireless communications.

An ITC judge ruled against Samsung on three patents, but the commission sided with Samsung on the fourth - leading to the ban announced in June.

It would have affected models of the iPhone 4, 3GS and 3, as well as iPads and iPad 2s, that were compatible with AT&T’s network.

In a letter Saturday outlining the decision, Froman expressed "substantial concerns" about "patent hold-up," in which companies use a patent to gain "undue leverage" over use of technologies. He also noted that communications technology standards, including those covered by patents, "have come to play an increasingly important role in the U.S. economy."

Froman noted that his decision does not stop the dispute between Apple and Samsung from continuing to play out in court. Last summer, Apple won a $1 billion lawsuit against Samsung over patent issues.

A Samsung spokesman said Saturday it was “disappointed” in Froman’s decision.

“The ITC’s decision correctly recognized that Samsung has been negotiating in good faith and that Apple remains unwilling to take a license,” David Steel said in a statement.

Apple and the ITC did not immediately answer calls from CNN on Saturday for reaction to the U.S. Trade Representative’s decision.

– CNNMoney's Julianne Pepitone and CNN's Janet DiGiacomo contributed to this report


Filed under: Technology
soundoff (118 Responses)
  1. Geoff

    Judging by the comments, I guess Obama is a little too conservative for the conservatives on this one.

    August 4, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  2. Angela

    I still remember Obama's speech about the importance of Free Trade Agreement. So, basically he wants to rip off poor developing countries by signing on FTA but at the same time, he support unfair and government-involving trades to help American companies. What an irony.... what happened to American capitalism??

    August 4, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  3. poxpopuli

    Good Lord Carlton, it's been a while. You seemed to have fully recovered from that paint thinner incident.

    August 4, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  4. nytw

    Just amazing how much liberals hate success.

    August 4, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  5. Lee

    Either you're for capitalism or you aren't. If it were a Conservative leaning company you'd be all for the decision, since they aren't, you complain. What I'm wondering is why it only affected AT&T products, and not Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile devices?

    August 4, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  6. Mr. Butters

    "Designed in California"

    (made in China)

    August 4, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  7. FKell

    A little background missing from this story is that Apple has refused to submit to any court order or arbitration process in this dispute if the value assigned to the patents in question will cost them more than the value Apple believes they should be worth. In other words, Apple is refusing to go negotiate with Samsung on the use of these fundamental technology patents (in other words, the patents that are on real science/technology inventions like how to communicate over a wireless network, and not something like curved corners on a hand-held device), unless Apple gets to set their price. Apple didn't do the research for this, Samsung and the previous owners of the patents did, yet Apple wants to be free to use them in their devices without having to pay back the people who created the technology that enables Apple to even make a "smart-phone" to begin with. Without these patents, there would be no such thing as a smart phone. Apple also thinks their patents on things like curved edges are worth more money than something that required breakthroughs in broadband wireless communication protocols. Apple doesn't want to pay more than $0.06 per device to use the fundamental technology, while they also want others to pay upwards of $0.10 per device to have curved corners.

    August 4, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  8. Diddy

    This is a good step towards stopping patent trolls. Neither company should be able to patent a methodology such as a menu structure, it is ridiculous, patent technology and change the term for technology patents, then this garbage will stop.

    August 4, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  9. Tom

    Hmmm...Obama administration helping out big business. Whodathunkit?

    August 4, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  10. Gaby

    Are you guys complaining for real??? Do you know Apple is a US company and Samsung is NOT! Why would any American or its government side with a foreign company before our own??? You should expect our president and government to ALWAYS protect our corporations and economy. Why would any foreign company have the right to decide what a US company sells or deals inside its own country??? Well done Mr. President...could care less if its fare or not. US products come first inside the US.

    August 4, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  11. mgkdrgn

    ""substantial concerns" about "patent hold-up," in which companies use a patent to gain "undue leverage" over use of technologies. "

    Um .... excuse me, but isn't that EXACTLY what a patent is for?

    August 4, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  12. cranston somaonilia

    apple is old news anyways, who wants an iphone anymore when the android phones are so much better...

    August 4, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  13. j

    Obama needs overturned

    August 4, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  14. To the highest bidder!

    Government for sale!

    August 4, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  15. Another Voice

    If Samsung wins in court, they should get a piece of the profits from all of these Apple products that get sold, so it is potentially a win for them.

    August 4, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  16. Mr. Hoffman

    Who cares?? Apple had another fun in the Sun moment with it's little personalized devices, last time Apple was a mover and shaker Apple could have been bigger then IBM/Microsoft but it got too greedy and prohibited third parties from developing any hardware or software to adapt to to it's proprietary Junk...Yes Samsung may not be an innovator, but it is an outstanding Developer...

    August 4, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  17. theorycraft

    not cool administration... other nations will begin dishonoring our patents if we start taking national stances on these disputes and since we have more patents than most of the world combined, we have the most to risk

    August 4, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  18. Steve in MA

    So the Obama administration is playing favorites, bending over and excusing the lawless behavior of its industrial giant. Whatever happened to fidelity to duty, adherence to the truth, or the upholding of the law? This shows the Obama administration is as profligate and immoral as the corner hooker. It is bought and sold, without regard for ethics. Apple doesn't make these products in the United States, and should get no help from our government until they do so. When they are paying U.S. employees, U.S. wages and U.S. corporate income taxes, then maybe, we should help them. Until then, this is just another example of politics as usual.

    August 4, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  19. geodude11

    Samsung is copy and produce chinese technology by definition. Purchase more of their products to support china and north korea.

    August 4, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  20. gjk

    Well said Gaby, and well done Mr. President...could care less if its fare or not. US products come first inside the US.

    August 4, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  21. phil_177

    huh ... evidently quite a few wrongs DOES make it right ... no wonder the USA, its' white, Kenyan-American President are showing the rest of the world how to do it their way ... courts-be-damned ...

    August 4, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  22. Keith

    When Samsung was accused of Patent infringement, they blocked sales of Samsung products. When Apple does the same thing the US shows it doesn't respect ANY international law!

    August 4, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  23. Mrmustang

    Obama for Dictator! Oh Sorry I forgot he already was. Hey we don’t really need the courts or Congress, do we?

    August 4, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  24. KaceyF

    Why not ban import of all electronics coming out of China? It makes me SICK knowing that the majority of electronics are made in countries with lax pollution laws. Labor isn't the only reason they do business in China. IT product companies get away with murder. Maybe not all the companies themselves, but their suppliers most definitely. Then the people there don't make squat. Force them to set up shop here, under our rules.

    August 4, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    Hard to believe that Obama would actually aid an American company from Korean incursion. Samsung has stolen everything from Apple. Every idea Apple has had as been bagged by Samsung.

    August 4, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
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