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Thursday, July 25, 2013, 09:48 am PT (12:48 pm ET)

Verizon asks Obama to intervene in Apple v. Samsung case, prevent impending iPhone ban

Verizon's top lawyer penned an editorial this week asking President Barack Obama to prevent the U.S. International Trade Commission from barring the sales of some older iPhones.

ITC


The ITC ruled in June that the AT&T versions of Apple's iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G all infringe on patents owned by Samsung, and that the devices must be banned from sale by Aug. 5. While the decision doesn't affect Verizon directly, the company's general counsel, Randal S. Milch, published an editorial in The Wall Street Journal this week calling on the Obama administration to veto the ITC's decision.

"Patent litigation at the ITC — where the only remedy is to keep products from the American public — is too high-stakes a game for patent disputes," Milch wrote. "The fact that the ITC's intellectual-property dispute docket has nearly quadrupled over 15 years only raises the stakes further. Smartphone patent litigation accounts for a substantial share of that increase."

While Verizon opposes the ban because of the precedent it would set, the carrier has not taken a position on the larger Apple v. Samsung patent dispute. The carrier simply believes that the Obama administration should do its part to discourage companies from "clogging the ITC's docket" with such patent infringement complaints.

Such a move would be rare — no president has vetoed an ITC decision since 1987. But no precedent has been set for patent infringement cases, which is where Verizon believes the president should set the tone on three specific instances:
  • When the patent holder isn't practicing the technology itself.
  • When the patent holder has already agreed to license the patent on reasonable terms as part of standards setting.
  • When the infringing device of the product isn't that important to the overall product, and doesn't drive consumer demand for the product at issue.

Apple, too, is attempting to fight the ITC ban, and has filed a stay in opposition. The company has said the ban would "sweep away an entire segment of Apple's product offerings," and negatively impact its carrier partners.