Unless President Obama steps in, Apple will have to stop selling some older iPhones and iPads beginning August 5.
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Apple's legal push against competitor Samsung has cultivated some bad fruit. Earlier this year, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) upheld a decision that found Apple guilty of infringing on a patent owned by Samsung. Apple will be punished for its wrongdoing come August 5, when it will have to cease selling certain iPhone and iPad models. This is likely not the outcome Apple was seeking when it commenced legal proceedings against Samsung in 2011.
The ITC-instituted ban applies to the AT&T versions of the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2. Apple will need to stop selling these devices on its website and in its stores, and will no longer be able to import them into the country. iPhone 4 and iPad 2 models that are already on shelves at third-party retailers, such as AT&T shops or Best Buy, can remain on sale.
The ban does not apply to iPhone 4 devices that are sold by other network operators, such as Verizon Wireless. The ban does not apply to the iPhone 5 or iPhone 4S, nor the iPad 3 or iPad 4. It also doesn't apply to the iPad Mini.
The iPhone 4 was first released in 2010. It remains available for sale often at a deep discount (i.e., for free) with several U.S. carriers. Apple uses the iPhone 4 as its "low-cost" model.
The patent in question pertains to how mobile devices send and receive data over wireless networks. Apple argued the patent is "standard essential," which means it must be licensed at fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory rates by the patent owner. Samsung said Apple was never willing to negotiate for the patent. Samsung was seeking a monetary value of about $18 for each sold iPhone and iPad to license its patent.
Companies use the ITC to file grievances expressly for the outcome Apple is now facing: The ITC has the power to block sales of competitors' products. Despite this power, other government agencies have warned the ITC that products should not be banned when standard essential patents are in question. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission sent such guidelines to the ITC last year. The ITC has apparently chosen to ignore the guidelines in this case.
The ban can be prevented, but only by President Barack Obama and U.S. Trade representative Michael Froman. The President and Froman are allowed to stay ITC bans. Since the ban goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on August 5, the both Obama and Froman have until midnight August 4 to make a decision.
There's been no indication from either that a stay on the ban is forthcoming.