The U.S. International Trade Commission cleared Samsung on four other patents in dispute.
President Obama’s administration has 60 days to veto ITC rulings. Over the weekend, Obama invalidated a June order that sided with Samsung and banned imports of Apple’s iPhone 4 and a variant of its iPad 2. The patents involved in Friday’s ruling aren’t of the type he found objectionable.
Apple argues that Samsung’s Android phones copy vital iPhone features. Samsung is fighting back with its own complaints.
Samsung is now the leading smartphone manufacturer and is pushing into Apple’s territory with its Android tablet computers.
These cases typically involve older products that are no longer widely sold. Two of the phones cited in Friday’s ruling were 2010 models – the Continuum and the Transform. Nonetheless, a victory in such cases could affect what features are included in future devices and could slow a rival’s momentum.
Samsung spokesman Adam Yates said the company was disappointed but that the ruling did reject Apple’s effort “to use its overbroad design patents to achieve a monopoly on rectangles and rounded corners.” Yates said Samsung will continue to release new products and has taken measures to ensure they will continue to be available in the Unites States.
Apple said the ITC “has joined courts around the world … by standing up for innovation and rejecting Samsung’s blatant copying of Apple’s products.”
Last year, a federal court in San Francisco ruled that Samsung owed Apple $1 billion in damages for infringing on nonessential patents. The judge refused to impose an import ban on Samsung phones and later struck $450 million from the verdict, saying the jurors miscalculated.
An appeals court in Washington heard arguments in that case Friday, but has not issued a ruling.
In June, the ITC ruled that Apple violated one of Samsung’s patents. That patent is deemed to be a “standards-essential patent,” meaning holders are supposed to license them to all companies on “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” terms. U.S. courts have ruled that such patents cannot be the basis for import bans. But the ITC, which is an administrative agency and not a court, follows a different standard than the courts.
The Obama administration wants the ITC to adhere to the same principles and has recommended that Congress limit the ITC’s ability to impose import bans in these cases.