It is officially illegal for Samsung to bring certain smartphones into the U.S. That's because President Obama chose to allow a veto period to pass that would have allowed him to overturn a ruling by the International Trade Commission that found Samsung to be in violation of two smartphone patents held by Apple. The patents in question have to do with a multitouch display feature and headphone jack sensor.
The ban, which went into effect at 12 am on Oct. 8, makes it illegal for South Korea-based Samsung to import any device found in violation of the patents, specifically, the Samsung Galaxy S 4G, Galaxy Tab and Fascinate. Newer devices such as the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3 are not affected by the ban, as they use a work around for the patent, according to Bloomberg.
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The ITC originally banned the devices in August, though the White House had up to 60 days to overturn the ruling. What makes the decision to allow the veto time to pass controversial is the fact that Obama had previously chosen to overturn a ruling against Apple in which the ITC found that the company had infringed on Samsung patents. By vetoing the Apple ban and allowing the Samsung ruling to stay intact, it is believed that the White House could be seen as taking a protectionist stance toward American companies.
Of course, the situation is more nuanced than that. The patents held by Apple and Samsung were of different types. The Apple patents were considered non-essential, meaning they had to do with specific Apple features. The Samsung patents, on the other hand, had to do with industry standards, namely those dealing with data transmission. The Obama administration has been careful not to promote the use of industry standard, otherwise known as standard-essential patents in lawsuits.
Apple and Samsung have been locked in a series of courtroom battles across the globe in what has been dubbed the Patent Wars. Both companies have spent a fortune on legal fees to block each other from being able to sell devices in various countries. And while this latest development is a clear win for Apple, it is largely symbolic, as it doesn't impact any of Samsung's current devices. It seems as though the patent wars may simply peter out with neither company coming out on top.