Government

White House Intervention in Apple Patent Case Sets Bold Precedent

In the ongoing patent dispute between Samsung and Apple, the White House has finally put its foot down. It squashed a verdict handed down by a U.S. trade court that would have banned the import of some older Apple smartphones and tablets, a ruling that was likely to hurt the U.S. economy, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said. The White House joins the U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in arguing that such standard-essential patent cases should rarely lead to a product ban on US territory.

According to ZDNet, there are multiple reasons why the White House could have made this decision—which was a surprise, even though the government recently set up a task force to protect innovators from frivolous litigation.

Some (like the South Korean government) see this as a sign as favoritism for a U.S. company—especially because the Obama administration has ties with Apple.

What is more likely, ZDNet says, is that the White House is trying to stop the broken patent system from being abused as a tool of modern competition. Or it couldn’t ignore the economic egregiousness of a U.S. trade court barring a U.S. company from selling its products to its home base.

For now, the government has succeeded in pushing this particular patent battle back to the regular courts (as opposed to with the U.S. International Trade Commission). When Samsung faces the U.S. International Trade Commission in another case brought by Apple on Friday, it will be interesting to see whether the White House will make a similar move.

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