News Column

Veto on Apple Import Ban Benefits Consumers

August 6, 2013
ipad 2
iPad 2 (file photo)

We were within days of having the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 yanked from store shelves.

This was due to an order by the U.S. International Trade Commission that was about to go into effect until President Barack Obama vetoed it. This was the first time a president had vetoed an ITC import ban in 26 years.

It was also one of the biggest judgements the ITC had ever attempted to enforce on a company and, by extension, the customer. Though they're older devices, their cheap price helps them sell well to this day.

How did we get here? Simply put, patent litigation has gone nuclear.

For years now, a war has been waged in the patent courts. Sure, Apple and Samsung are now the two biggest manufacturers of smartphones and tablets, but seemingly every large tech company has been busy trying to sue the pants off of every other large tech company for years now.

These companies have been amassing increasingly broad patents that can cover everything from how rounded off the corners of a smartphone can be to, in the case of Samsung versus Apple, a specific type of wireless communication that happened to already be in wide use.

Granted, the creator of a technology is entitled to profit from their work, but these lawsuits aren't about that. Instead, they're about shutting down main competitors by any means necessary, and companies are working hard to get wide-ranging patents to allow them to do just that.

That's what seems to have happened in Samsung's suit. When he relayed the veto from the White House, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said the patented technology in this case covered technology that was already in the market and used by a large number of companies, including Apple.

If the ban against the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 were to go in place, it would have transformed these suits from legal document bombs that do little but cause deals to be struck behind the scenes and make the lawyers rich to truly damaging motions that could destroy competition and keep consumers from being able to buy the gizmos they want.

That's the real reason the White House opposed this. Obama isn't necessarily an Apple fan, he's standing up and saying "enough is enough." This move could have true precedent and greatly reduce the impact of this legalese cold war. In other words, these patent suits will be exactly as meaningless as they should be.


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Source: Copyright Tulsa World (OK) 2013

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