Apple won a seemingly decisive victory against Samsung in its patent-centric court battle last year, but the legal back-and-forth is far from over. The Cupertino company asked the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. to allow a sales ban on certain Samsung devices earlier today, and now the International Trade Commission has ruled that some of Samsung’s older Android devices violate two of Apple’s patents.
The punishment? A ban on the importation and sale of those devices in the United States, should the decision pass muster during a period of presidential review. President Obama has the option to overrule the ITC’s decision in this case (an ability he took advantage of before, to Apple’s benefit), but unless he does so Samsung and its U.S. subsidiaries can only continue to sell those devices for 60 days.
The ITC’s ban hinges on patents no. 7,479,949 and no. 7,912,501, which deal with touchscreen heuristics and the ability to detect when something is plugged into a headphone jack, respectively. The body also investigated claims that those same Samsung devices violated four additional Apple patents which mostly dealt with cosmetic issues like the ornamental design of a smartphone and the ability to display translucent images, but the ITC ultimately found no infringement there. Curiously, one of those four patents (no. 7,789,697 to be specific) seems thematically similar to the headphone jack patent the Samsung was found to have infringed, but Samsung managed to avoid getting dinged a third time.
Of course, we have to take age into account here — Apple and Samsung have been arguing over the fate of these gadgets for years now, which means Samsung’s bottom line probably won’t be hurt too badly if the president doesn’t swoop in to overturn the ITC’s decision. We don’t yet have a full list of the devices that fall under the ITC’s exclusion order, but The Verge reports that we’re primarily looking at phones like the Samsung Continuum, Captivate, Fascinate, and the Galaxy S 4G. No one could blame you if you didn’t recognize any of those names: those devices are all pushing three years old, and it’s very unlikely that Samsung had any left sitting its in sales channels anyway. That said, the ITC’s ruling is final so there’s no way for Samsung to appeal the decision even if it wanted to — it’s all up to a higher power now.
UPDATE: Here’s Samsung’s official response on the matter:
“We are disappointed that the ITC has issued an exclusion order based on two of Apple’s patents. However, Apple has been stopped from trying to use its overbroad design patents to achieve a monopoly on rectangles and rounded corners. The proper focus for the smartphone industry is not a global war in the courts, but fair competition in the marketplace. Samsung will continue to launch many innovative products and we have already taken measures to ensure that all of our products will continue to be available in the United States.”
In case you’ve got a hankering for legal jargon, the full ruling can be found below:
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