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Samsung's pleas fall on deaf ears: Obama won't intervene on import ban

Imports of some Samsung smartphones and tablets have effectively been banned in the US, after President Obama declined to intervene in a ban handed down by the International Trade Commission.

Samsung asked the administration to overturn the ban on some of its older products, which was put in place after a patent-infringement dispute with rival firm Apple.

In August, the President's trade representative vetoed a ban on imports of Apple iPads and the iPhone 4S, and Samsung likely had similar hopes for its products.

However, US Trade Representative Michael Froman issued a statement claiming that "after carefully weighing policy considerations, including the impact on consumers and competition, advice from agencies, and information from interested parties..." he was decided to permit the ban on Samsung imports.

Some have accused the US administration of siding with an American company over a South Korean one, an accusation that could harm trade prospects in the future.

"The world is watching how Samsung is treated by the United States in this 'smartphone war'," said Samsung in its submission to the Office of the US Trade Representative. "The Administration has a significant interest in avoiding the perception of favouritism and protectionism toward US companies."

The Korean company added: "Samsung requests nothing more than equal and fair treatment in this, and future investigations."

The August decision was the first import ban overturned by a US president since 1987, and involved a policy issue that was being hotly debated in Congress and the courts at the time.

Samsung also touched on a topical nerve, suggesting that ruling in Apple's favour in this case could open the door to further exploitation of the patent system by patent trolls such as lodsys.

"Smartphones and other highly sophisticated electronic devices are increasingly targeted at the ITC by relatively insignificant patents that claim only a tiny fraction of the accused products' functionality. Exclusion orders are disproportionate remedies for infringement of such trivial patents, and are better addressed by damages in the district courts."

The Cupertino and South Korea-based companies dominate the $279.9 billion (£175.39 billion) global smartphone market, and have been fighting tooth and nail in courts across the world, so the decision to uphold the Samsung ban will no doubt be a welcome victory for Apple.

Samsung still has the option of seeking a delay on the ban from the US appeals court, a process that could buy them a little time. Still, with the interdiction only extending over a handful of old products - and with another overturn ruling unlikely - it may decide that its energies could be better expended elsewhere.

Image: Flickr (faithmonsoon)