Some iPhones and iPads could be banned from sale in the United States, unless President Obama vetoes a surprise ruling by a U.S. trade agency.
The International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled on Tuesday that Apple had infringed on Samsung patents related to 3G wireless technology used in older AT&T models.
That technology is only used in older models of the iPhone and iPad, and with a new iPhone release expected in a few months, a ban would have limited impact.
But the ruling will come as a blow to Apple in its ongoing wrestling match with Samsung over patents, and as it tries to recover from tangling with Congress over accusations of tax avoidance.
The trade commission said Apple “failed to prove an affirmative defense” against Samsung’s allegations and ordered the sale of relevant products banned.
Apple has 60 days before the ruling comes into effect, unless it is overturned.
The ruling came within hours of the White House announcing plans to overhaul the U.S. patent system.
Under the new legislation, the ITC would not have been able to rule in favor of Samsung, prompting some speculation over whether Obama may use his presidential power of veto to overturn the ruling.
Florian Mueller, an intellectual property analyst said in his blog: “Under these circumstances it is quite possible that the White House will veto the ITC’s decision, and the ITC could not have done more to show to Congress that its granting of injunctive relief is far too permissive and a threat to the U.S. tech sector, irreconcilable with the ITC’s original mission to protect domestic industry against unfair imports.”
The ruling reversed an earlier opinion by an ITC judge that Apple had not infringed upon a Samsung patent. The presidential veto is one of only two avenues of appeal for Apple in this latest legal tussle in its ongoing patent war with rival Samsung.
“[The decision] has confirmed Apple’s history of free-riding on Samsung’s technological innovations,” Samsung spokesman Adam Yates said in a statement to the Washington Post.
“We are disappointed that the Commission has overturned an earlier ruling and we plan to appeal,” Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said in a statement to AllThingsD. “Today’s decision has no impact on the availability of Apple products in the United States.”