President Obama made one of the easiest decision of his tenure in August when he acceded to Apple’s request to overrule an obscure agency that had imposed an import ban on certain iPhones. Now he has a chance to do the same for Samsung, which is asking for the same favor to stop a ban set for October 8 — but the outcome may not be the same.
As Bloomberg reports, the Korean company asked the White House in August to override a finding by the International Trade Commission that its phones infringed two Apple patents, including one for “headset plug and play detection.” As a result of that ruling, the ITC imposed a ban on older Samsung units (it’s unclear which ones but, since the complaint dates from July 2011, new models are unlikely to be affected).
The US trade representative, who speaks for Obama on the issue, said he has yet to make up his mind on the issue, but did tell Bloomberg that the decision would have nothing to do with national favoritism. The comment likely reflected the fact that the Korean company, which has lost a number of high-profile court decisions, has suggested that American officials may be Apple-biased.
Another complication for the import ban, slated to go into effect at midnight on Tuesday, is the ongoing government shutdown. I looked for an update on the website of the ITC (an agency I’ve argued has no business in the patent game), and here is a screenshot of what I found: