In a highly unusual twist of events, the Obama administration basically slapped the U.S. International Trade Commission in the face by overruling a decision that would have banned Apple from importing some of its older products, including the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2 3G. Samsung and Apple had been negotating a patent license deal for these products, but talks broke off because Apple didn't want to pay what Samsung was asking, $18 per phone. Samsung took the matter to the ITC and received a favorable ruling. The Commission reviewed the negotation history between Samsung and Apple, and found that while Samsung offered reasonable licensing terms, Apple failed to negotiate in good faith.
The last time the White House vetoed a ITC decision was in 1987. The Obama administration's decision to veto the ITC's ruling sets a dangerous precedent, it sends out a message that US companies are allowed to break patent law without consequences. On top of that, the action also contrasts the US' recent push to tighten rules on patents in global trade negotiations.
Some of the leading US technology companies are worried that Washington's support of Apple could hurt their own interests around the world. It would be seen in China and elsewhere as an excuse to disregard US intellectual property rules, warned Horacio Gutierrez, chief patent attorney at Microsoft, who was speaking in the run-up to this weekend's decision.
Ron Cass, a former vice-chairman of the ITC, said that overturning the agency's ruling would "come to be seen as a mistake – it undermines protection for intellectual property."