The Obama administration has until midnight Eastern time tonight to overturn an impending International Trade Commission ban on some older Samsung devices, reports note. Earlier this year, the administration vetoed an ITC import ban on AT&T models of Apple's iPhone 4 and iPad 2
. While the ban against Samsung would only affect a small number of outdated phones, that company and others have argued that failing to issue a veto could be a sign of economic protectionism, since Apple is US-based while Samsung is headquartered in South Korea. The administration has claimed that it opposes using patents to block competitors.
Late last week, US Trade Representative Michael Froman told Bloomberg
that he hadn't decided yet whether to go through with a veto. He added that he has told Samsung and the South Korean government that any decision he makes will have "nothing, zero, to do with the nationality of the parties involved," but instead "policy judgments" about patents, and "the appropriate use of exclusion orders in these cases." Samsung contends that an import ban is going too far when only one or two features of a complex device are infringing on patents; Apple's position is that it's contradictory to call features unimportant yet ask to continue using them.
The chance of a veto may be wrecked not by policy, but the current shutdown of the US federal government. The Obama administration likely considers reversing the shutdown a greater priority, and has reduced manpower available to look at ITC matters.