Earlier this year, the U.S. International Trade Commission issued an import ban on several Apple iPhone and iPad devices that it felt had infringed upon a Samsung-held patent. The Obama administration today made the decision to intervene and veto the ban, though, the first time that a president has overturned an ITC product ban since 1987.
The products targeted by the ban included the AT&T iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad 2 and iPad. The ITC had ruled that those devices infringed a standards-essential Samsung patent, a fact that appears to have influenced Obama's decision to overturn the ban. In his letter announcing the veto, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said that "licensing SEPs on FRAND terms is an important element of the Administration’s policy of promoting innovation and economic progress and reflects the positive linkages between patent rights and standards setting."
While the Apple products facing a ban are several years old at this point, the Cupertino firm still sells some of them at reduced prices. For example, the iPhone 4 is currently being offered by AT&T for $0.99 with a two-year commitment. These lower-priced devices are popular with consumers that want a smartphone but either can't or don't want to pay for the latest models that can often cost upwards of $200 on contract.
In a statement to AllThingsD, Apple said that it “[applauds] the Administration for standing up for innovation in this landmark case" and that it feels that "Samsung was wrong to abuse the patent system in this way.”
Samsung has yet to issue a statement on the Obama administration's decision. However, Froman says in his letter that today's veto "does not mean that the patent owner in this case is not entitled to a remedy. On the contrary, the patent owner may continue to pursue its rights through the courts." That means that Samsung could continue to take the patent fight to Apple in the courts, and considering how heated the legal battle between these two has been so far, it wouldn't surprise me if that's exactly what happened.
The entire letter posted by U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman can be found in PDF form right here.