ITC Slaps Apple in Samsung Infringement Case
Though the ITC import ban on some older iPhones and iPads isn't likely to hurt Apple's bottom line, any kind of court loss against its nemesis Samsung is sure to rankle the company's top brass and legal team, and Apple does intend to appeal. "This is harmful to Apple's reputation," said patent attorney Peter Toren. "Apple is the so-called great innovator."
The U.S. International Trade Commission on Tuesday partially reversed an earlier ruling and found that Apple infringed one of Samsung's patents after all, leading it to ban the import of certain older iPhones and iPads.
The ban includes such products as the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, original iPad 3G and iPad 2 3G. The iPhone 5 and the fourth-generation iPad remain unaffected.
The patent in question covers a method for encoding and decoding mobile communications.
Apple now has the option of appealing the ruling to the White House or the Federal Circuit.
Neither Apple nor Samsung responded to our request to comment for this story.
'You Know That Must Sting'
In its initial review of the case, the ITC found that Apple had not infringed Samsung's patents, so this decision -- a final one save for possible appeals -- likely came as a surprise.
That had to be a blow to the company -- or at the very least embarrassing, Peter Toren, a partner with Weisbrod Matteis & Copley, told MacNewsWorld.
"This is harmful to Apple's reputation," Toren said. "Apple is the so-called great innovator -- the company that put tablet computing on the map. Steve Jobs made a point of promising to defend Apple's rights and intellectual property no matter how much money it took."
Now, however, a judge has found Apple to be an infringer of technology it has long championed as its own creation. "You know that must sting," he added.
The Practical Issue
From a practical standpoint, though, the ruling should have little impact on Apple, Toren continued.
"These are all older models," he said of the banned products, and likely nearing the end of their sales cycles.
Nevertheless, Apple has said it intends to appeal the ruling.
At the very least, Apple has 60 days to get its supply chain and inventory management operations in order, Toren noted. ITC protocol calls for the court to present the exclusion orders to the White House for a review period of that length.
Apple did not come away from this ruling completely empty-handed. Samsung had asked the ITC to consider three other patents as well. While it reversed its earlier decision on this one patent, it maintained its stance that Apple did not infringe Samsung's three others.
A Far-Reaching Battle
Companies embroiled in patent litigation usually make a stop at the ITC. The agency can ban the import of infringing products -- a serious blow to any company. Also, it tends to make its decisions fairly quickly.
That said, this particular decision will not change one iota the course on which Apple and Samsung are set. Both companies are intent on defending the intellectual property that supports their respective mobile products.
This battle has reached courts and government offices around the globe, from Europe to the United States to Asia. Each side has claimed victory in its share of skirmishes, and there are likely many more to come.