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Obama May Have Had a Legitimate Reason to Step in and Reverse the Apple Import Ban


Editor in Chief
Jul 27, 2011
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Over the weekend, the big news in the mobile world was that President Obama stepped in and over-turned the ITCs import ban on several Apple products. Previously, Samsung had won a victory over Apple in the ITC showing that Apple had infringed upon some of its patents. This resulted in an import ban on the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2, and would have meant that Apple could no longer sell these devices in the USA.

This was a big victory for Samsung, and the deadline for Apple to either fix the infringement or face the final import ban had come. At the last second President Obama reversed the ruling, and while this is not the forum to debate the politics of his action, several industry analysts have pointed out that he actually had a valid reason to do so.

As it turns out, when the ITC commission finally ruled, they were not in full agreement. One ITC commissioner, Dean Pinkert, made the assertion that the infringed patents in question were actually standards essential FRAND (fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory). He also asserted that Samsung didn't handle these patents fairly with Apple, thus his colleagues at the ITC shouldn't have issued the import ban.

There are several reasons why this matters, and here is a quote below with the details,

An opinion filed by ITC commissioner Dean Pinkert that was initially redacted when ITC documents related to the case were released outlines several reasons that his colleagues were wrong to issue the ban. From Fortune:
  • The patent in question was part — and only a tiny part — of an international standard, and as such Samsung had agreed to make it available for licensing under terms that are fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory (FRAND).
  • Samsung had made no effort to demonstrate that the licensing terms it offered Apple “satisfied an objective standard of reasonableness.”
  • That the only time Samsung made such an offer — in oral discussions in December 2012 — it came with strings attached to which Apple could not agree.
  • What those strings were are blacked out in the document, but Pinkert adds in the next sentence: “it is neither fair nor non-discriminatory for the holder of the FRAND-encumbered patent to require licenses to non-FRAND-encumberd patents as a condition for licensing its patent” (emphasis his).
In other words, Samsung used standard-essential patents in its claim against Apple. This, of course, is not how the system works. According to Pinkert, Samsung tried to force Apple to license the company’s non-essential patents in order to get a standards-essential patent license from Samsung. For that reason, President Obama stepped in and stopped the impending ban.

As you can see, the facts of the matter make the picture a bit clearer. Of course, it's possible that behind the scenes all of this was motivated by money and power, which is most often the case in politics. Regardless, it seems like the right thing was likely done in the end.

Lately, there are many scholars including technical experts, judges and economists, who have called for the end of software patents. They make the valid argument that software patents only slow innovation rather than protect it. What do you think? Does the patent system need an overhaul?

Source: BGR
As a software developer with 30 years in the industry, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that the software patent system of today is beyond flawed.

The software package that I have been developing for the last 21 years has over a million lines of code and over $8 million dollars invested in it. The software is given out for free and the competitors in the HVA/C market have copied several key aspects of my design, work flow and final output. My package has, since 1996, had a minimum ROI of $4 million each year. And rather proud to say that my software, at present, is still considered the industry leader.

So if the software is free, gets an ROI of 8 to 1 and not have a single patented design and do this with only a three man team, why can't these large development teams do the same thing?

Provide a better product regardless of who copies you and people will give you money. Let the best survive on their merits. Not on their patents.
Thanks for sharing your input Skull One! It's great to hear from industry leaders like yourself regarding this subject.
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