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(2nd LD) Obama gov't overturns ban on sales of Apple products
By Lee Chi-dong, Kang Yoon-seung
WASHINGTON/SEOUL, Aug. 3 (Yonhap) -- The Barack Obama administration on Saturday overruled a ban on the sale of some of Apple Inc.'s products, upsetting its South Korean rival Samsung Electronics Co.

   The decision represents a new twist in the drawn-out patent war between the two firms.

   The U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman announced that he has decided to veto the ban imposed in June by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), an independent federal agency.

   "After extensive consultations with the agencies of the Trade Policy Staff Committee and the Trade Policy Review Group, as well as other interested agencies and persons, I have decided to disapprove the ITC's determination to issue an exclusion order, and cease and desist order in the investigation," he said in a letter to Irving Williamson, the head of the ITC.

   It is based on a review of the "effect on competitive conditions in the U.S. economy and the effect on U.S. consumers," he added.

   Samsung expressed disappointment over the decision, while Apple welcomed it, saying it is the right one for innovation.

   Samsung said in an official statement it feels "regretful" that the ITC's ruling, which stipulated Apple violated the firms' copyrights and failed to negotiate in a sincere manner, wasn't accepted.

   Market watchers said the U.S. Trade Representative's decision was based on the so-called Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) standard, which was introduced to prevent patent owners from abusing power.

   The FRAND license standard also prevents holders of patents from denying market access to latecomers.

   In June, the ITC banned the import and sale of the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad 3G and iPad 2 3G distributed by AT&T Inc, saying the devices infringed on Samsung's patent. The U.S.-based Apple manufactures its products in China.

   "The ITC's decision correctly recognized that Samsung has been negotiating in good faith and that Apple remains unwilling to take a license," it said in a statement.

   It is the first time that the USTR has vetoed a ruling by the ITC in 25 years.

   The ITC, meanwhile, plans to announce its final ruling on Apple's patent claim against Samsung later on Aug. 9.

   The upcoming reviews will decide whether to uphold a preliminary ruling by the ITC that stated Samsung's older mobile devices, including Galaxy S2 models, infringed on four patents held by Apple.

   Market watchers said Samsung may not benefit from the FRAND license standard concerning the dispute, as Apple also claim that the South Korean tech giant infringed on its design.

   Following the ITC's ruling, U.S. President Barack Obama must decide whether to veto the verdict within 60 days.

   The ITC is an independent federal agency -- working with the Department of Commerce -- that determines the impact of imports on U.S. industries and directs actions against unfair trade practices such as subsidies, dumping, and infringements of patents, trademarks and copyrights.

   lcd@yna.co.kr, colin@yna.co.kr
(END)
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