Wednesday, January 9, 2013

ITC pushes back resolution of Apple v. Samsung case by two weeks to March 27, 2013

The United States International Trade Commission (USITC, ITC) just gave notice of its decision to extend the target date for the investigation of Apple's complaint against Samsung by two weeks to March 23, 2013. Accordingly, the trade panel's decision on whether to review Administrative Law Judge Thomas Pender's initial determination (which was handed down on October 24, 2012, held Samsung to infringe four Apple patents and is supported by the ITC staff, which participates as a third party -- not a decision-maker -- in many investigations), has been postponed from today to January 23, 2013.

This is not the first delay affecting this investigation. The most recent postponement had been ordered in mid-October.

In late December, Judge Pender's recommended remedies entered the public record. He recommended an import ban (the standard ITC remedy), a cease-and-desist order (which is frequently but not always concomitant with an import ban) and a hefty bond of 88% of Samsung's U.S. smartphone sales during the 60-day Presidential review period.

This part of the world-spanning Apple-Samsung dispute is quite important especially in light of Judge Lucy Koh's denial of a permanent injunction (over a separate set of patents found to be or have been infringed by Samsung), which Apple has appealed. The ITC investigation is now Apple's only nearest-term shot at injunctive relief against Samsung in the U.S. market unless the United States Court of Appeals grants a rehearing of a Galaxy Nexus decision with wider implications (which is now quite possible) and modifies that decision in Apple's favor.

One tricky part for the ITC's leadership to rule on is the question of designarounds (workarounds). Samsung presented products that it claimed did not infringe Apple's patents even if the ITC agreed with Apple's infringement arguments (which Samsung also disputed and still disputes). No details of the technical characteristics of those designarounds have been made public, which is why it's impossible to tell right now whether those workarounds are commercially viable options for Samsung or would adversely affect its competitiveness in the U.S. market. Apple took the position that Judge Pender didn't have jurisdiction over those workarounds since Apple didn't accuse the related technologies and a complainant should be in charge of his infringement contentions. But the judge ruled on them anyway, and now the Commission, the six-member decision-making body at the top of the U.S. trade agency, will have to resolve this question as well as various issues concerning the actual infringement contentions brought by Apple and Samsung's invalidity theories.

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