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(EDITORIAL from the Korea Times on Aug. 6)
Double standards of US
Protecting Apple is pennywise, pound-foolish move

When vetoing an import ban on Apple's products infringing Samsung Electronics' patents Saturday, U.S. officials cited "competitive conditions and consumers."

   It's up to the U.S. government whether it places unhindered competition and consumer benefits ahead of promoting free trade and protecting intellectual property rights, or vice versa. But it should maintain the same principle regardless of the firms' nationalities.

   Washington has failed to do so.

   The decision to protect the U.S. company at the expense of free trade, made by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, an organization under the direct control of President Barack Obama, came as a surprising double standard, considering that the United States has been a most ardent advocate of free trade and protector of trade-related IPRs on the global stage.

   When a jury in San Jose, Calif., concluded last August that Samsung should pay Apple over $1 billion in damages for infringing on the design patents of the U.S. firm, this page, on the one hand criticized this "patriotic" decision, while on the other called for the Korean company to use the verdict as an occasion to focus more on innovation rather than remaining content to be a copycat.

   But it is feared that Washington's reversal of a quasi-judicial decision by the U.S. International Trade Commission will hinder such self-motivation.

   Global consumers, including Koreans, admired and respected Apple's innovative passion and ability. When the U.S. company appeared to be bent on unduly capitalizing on its strength by trying to smother its imitating competitors, however, it lost a considerable part of consumer respect. It was natural that fast followers such as Samsung, which could provide similar, even better, products at lower prices, filled the void with consumer preferences.

   Apple reportedly pledged to bring back part of the jobs it had outsourced abroad when lobbying for the veto to the U.S. legislative and administrative branches. There is room for inequity in this area, too, as what matters should be worker productivity ― output vs. cost ― and not where they work.

   If the Obama administration ignores this simple principle in pursuit of only national interests and political gains, America's status as the world's leader in free trade will experience a serious setback, starting with the U.S.-EU free trade and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks.

   The USTR's move might reflect President Obama's negative views of undue lawsuits filed by "patent trolls," calling for both Apple and Samsung to reconcile with each other and move together toward maximizing consumer benefits. Even so, Washington should have pressured the U.S. firm, which has been recalcitrant to conduct sincere negotiations with its Korean competitor.

   All eyes will be on ITC's another decision Friday, regarding Apple's accusation of Samsung for infringing on the U.S. IT giant's patents. If the ITC rules in favor of Apple citing a technical issue concerning the degree of those patents' innovativeness, it will deepen suspicion abroad about U.S. discrimination against foreign competitors. This suspicion will turn into a conviction if the U.S. administration bans the import of Samsung products after two months based on such a decision.

   Apple will be the only winner, if temporarily, and almost everyone else will be losers with global free trade being the biggest victim.