The quasi-judicial International Trade Commission said it issued a "limited exclusion order" for certain devices made by Apple, in a victory for the South Korean firm after a huge loss in a court battle with its US rival last year. But the victory could be largely symbolic because the ban covers devices that are no longer actively sold in the US market -- the AT&T iPhone 4 and iPhone 3 and 3GS, as well as the iPad 3G and iPad 2 3G, also sold by AT&T.
The ITC ruling is a final order but may be appealed in the US Court of Appeals or reversed by presidential order. "We believe the ITC's final determination has confirmed Apple's history of free-riding on Samsung's technological innovations," a Samsung statement said.
"Our decades of research and development in mobile technologies will continue, and we will continue to offer innovative products to consumers in the United States." Apple did not immediately respond to an AFP query. The case was filed in August 2011 amid a flurry of litigation between the two rivals over patents in the hot market for tablets and smartphones. In a separate patent fight in US federal court, Samsung was ordered last August to pay more than USD 1 billion for patent infringement, which also opens the door to a ban on some Samsung devices.
A judge later slashed the award to USD 598.9 million. Apple has been seeking to ban some of the newer 4G phones from Samsung's Galaxy line, as well as the Droid Charge sold through Verizon in that case, which is being appealed.
The news came on the same day the White House moved to crack down on abuses of the patent system, responding to mounting concern among technology companies over a flood of litigation that some say stifles innovation.
The White House said new action is needed in the face of a flood of recent patent litigation, particularly in the smartphone sector, and because "several major companies spend more on patent litigation and defensive acquisition than on research and development."
The latest moves target so-called "patent trolls" which, according to the White House, "hijack" ideas and take other companies to court with an eye to collecting license or royalty fees.