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ITC ruling banning IP-infringing Samsung products upheld

Federal furlough may make enforcement of the ruling difficult

And this round in the ongoing Apple-Samsung IP feud goes to… Apple.

On Oct. 9, President Barack Obama’s administration upheld a previous International Trade Commission (ITC) ruling that blocked Samsung from importing or selling any devices found to infringe upon Apple’s intellectual property rights dealing with finger swiping and headphone jack features. U.S. Customs and Border Protection now has the job of determining which Samsung products violate Apple’s patents.

Both companies will likely lobby Customs for favorable interpretations of the law, with Samsung hoping for a more lenient interpretation than Apple. “We have already taken measures to ensure that all of our products will continue to be available in the United States,” a Samsung spokesman told The Wall Street Journal at the time of the original ITC ruling in August. Samsung has also made plans to alter the patent-infringing features of their phones.

However, will the government’s ruling actually be enforced? According to one legal expert who spoke with Bloomberg, the federal furlough may make any attempted enforcement difficult. The Department of Homeland Security, which includes Customs, scheduled to furlough roughly 13 percent of its employees in the department’s budget contingency plan.

“Customs could say ‘Gee, we’d like to enforce the import ban, but we don’t have anyone,’” Carl Howe, an analyst with Boston-based researcher Yankee Group, told Bloomberg. “Things are going to get interesting.”

In addition, the South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy told Bloomberg it “regrets” the U.S. ban. Samsung Electronics Co. is based in Suwon, South Korea.

The Apple-Samsung fight is happening concurrently with litigation bouts between Nokia and HTC, with the Finnish Nokia suing Taiwanese phone maker HTC over allegations it used patent voice and text message technologies in its phones. Samsung is also embroiled in a dispute with LG over screen displays, while Apple has battled Google in court over e-book readers.

Assistant Editor

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Zach Warren

Zach Warren is Assistant Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he oversees online content submissions and administers InsideCounsel's enewsletters. Zach specializes in new media and multimedia...

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