In a bit of a last-minute reprieve for Apple, the White House has officially overturned a looming ban by the US International Trade Commission (USITC) that would have prohibited sales and imports of the AT&T version of the iPhone 3G, 3GS, and 4, as well as the 3G-friendly iPad and iPad 2 tablets, starting this week.
The move, which was initially suggested as having little chance of happening by pundits and legal experts, represents the first veto of a USITC decision since 1987.
"After extensive consultations with the agencies of the Trade Policy Staff Committee and the Trade Policy Review Group, as well as other interested agencies and persons, I have decided to disapprove the USITC's determination to issue an exclusion order and cease and desist order in this investigation," wrote US Trade Representative Michael Froman in a letter to International Trade Commission chairman Irving Williamson.
"This decision is based on my review of the various policy considerations discussed above as they relate to the effect on competitive conditions in the U.S. economy and the effect on U.S. consumers," he added.
Apple, responding to the news via statement, praised the decision while simultaneously taking a dig at rival Samsung. The company said that Samsung "was wrong to abuse the patent system in this way."
Samsung representatives say that the company is "disappointed" by the decision.
"The ITC's decision correctly recognized that Samsung has been negotiating in good faith and that Apple remains unwilling to take a license," said a Samsung spokesperson.
While Samsung and Apple had originally attempted to go through a licensing process in regards to Samsung's patent that the company claims Apple infringed upon, talks between the two broke down.
Apple has alleged that Samsung demanded too high of a price for the patent — 2.4 per cent per chipset, per patent, across Apple's line of 3G-friendly iPhones and iPads — and the company was unwilling to entertain what it described as an "unreasonable" cost following Samsung's agreement to license certain parts of its patent portfolio on "fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms" (FRAND).
The final determination by the USITC, in part, commented that a dispute still remains as to whether the patent in question is even standards-essential – which would mean that it falls under Samsung's previously mentioned FRAND agreement. Additionally, the USITC found that Apple did not act "in good faith" in regards to negotiations over the patent licensing.
"In other words, Samsung offered Apple FRAND licensing terms for the patent in question, but Apple simply refused to accept them," wrote OSNews.
Samsung, however, is free to continue to pursue other legal avenues for its claims. As Froman notes in his letter, the decision "does not mean that the patent owner in this case is not entitled to a remedy."