The Korea Herald


Samsung buys time with ITC review

By Korea Herald

Published : Jan. 24, 2013 - 08:34

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The U.S. International Trade Commission has decided to review a previous preliminary ruling to ban the sales of Samsung Electronics’ smartphones.

The move is likely to buy the company some time, but may not be all good news for the Korean electronics maker.

The review will be for four of the six patents that a judge of the commission had ruled to be infringing Apple’s patents. Both Samsung and Apple appealed the ruling, which had been reached in October last year.

Many viewed the ruling at the time to be quite harsh: Aside from an import ban, during the 60-day presidential review period, the judge, also ordered the company to pay a pricey bond of 88 percent of its U.S. smartphone sales should it be confirmed in a final ruling that Samsung had indeed infringed on Apple’s design property.

On the upside, Samsung will buy some time and avoid penalties involving the ban or import of its products in the U.S. during the review period, which was expected to take a couple of months since the judge who previously ruled for the import ban will be given 30 days to set a target date for his remand ruling.

On the downside for Samsung, sources said the move may signal that the ITC, the six-member decision-making panel at the very top of the U.S. trade agency, could decide to move in tandem with the European authorities, which have already expressed that it would crack down on companies that try to abuse their patent power.

The European Commission, early last year, opened a formal antitrust investigation into Samsung’s licensing terms for patents covering wireless technologies.

Later in December, it was discovered that Samsung Electronics dropped its request for a ban on the sales of a number of Apple’s smartphones and tablet computers in Europe.

Samsung claimed it was a part of its strategy to compete using product quality, and not litigations, but analysts at the time predicted that the European Commission’s crackdown may have played a part in Samsung’s latest decision.

From the start, the commission had been concerned that patent holders such as Samsung would try to abuse essential technology, such as Samsung’s “standard essential patents,” without which phones cannot properly function, according to Florian Mller, a patent consultant in Germany who runs the popular blog Fosspatents.

Mller in August last year said that as the Korean court ruled that Apple was in violation of what some experts consider to be “essential patents” for the companies, Korea has decided to become a “rogue state” in regards to standard-essential patents.

The litigation battle between Samsung and Apple has dragged on for over a year, with two companies showing a mixed score in the courts around the world.

In the U.S., a jury ruled in a high-profile ruling in August last year that Samsung had violated a number of key design patents by Apple, prompting the Korean company to appeal. The final decision in the U.S. is still pending, with neither side ready, at least officially, to back down or settle outside of court.

In the U.K., Apple was forced to issue a notice on its website to publicly declare that Samsung had not copied the design of its iPad. 

By Kim Ji-hyun