courtroom gavel

This is huge. The United States International Trade Commission just ordered a US import ban against older iPhones and iPads, after finding Apple guilty of infringing on a cellular standard-esential patent asserted by Samsung.

The ban, which encompasses a number of various iOS device models including the iPhone 4, the iPhone 3GS and 3G iPads, will go into effect within 60 days unless vetoed by the White House during a Presidential Review period…

From the ITC ruling:

“Under the modified constructions, the Commission has determined that Samsung has proven that the accused iPhone 4 (AT&T models); iPhone 3GS (AT&T models); iPhone 3 (AT&T models); iPad 3G (AT&T models); and iPad 2 3G (AT&T models) infringe the asserted claims of the ’348 patent. The Commission has further determined that the properly construed claims have not been proven by Apple to be invalid and that Samsung has proven that a domestic industry exists in the United States with respect to the ‘348 patent. The Commission has determined that Apple failed to prove an affirmative defense based on Samsung’s FRAND declarations.”

Samsung filed the ITC complaint, which originally included 5 patents, back in June of 2011. And Apple was able to get 4 of the 5 thrown out with its FRAND defense (basically saying the patents are essential enough to license them out).

But obviously, the Commission wasn’t buying it on the fifth one, as they just handed Samsung one of the largest (for them) and most surprising patent victories in recent memory. Here’s patent expert Florian Mueller’s take on the ruling:

“This decision is a major surprise. The ITC has completely thrown out Apple’s FRAND defense, taking a position that is fundamentally inconsistent not only with how U.S. federal courts have recently adjudged SEP-based injunction requests but also with opinions expressed by antitrust regulators and, especially, U.S. lawmakers. “

Unfortunately, Apple will have a hard time appealing the decision. Exclusion orders will be sent to President Barack Obama, who has 60 days to review and veto them based on “public policy.” If he chooses not to veto, the ban will go into effect.

Update: Apple has released a statement saying that it is “disappointed” with the ITC’s ruling and that it does plan to appeal. It also promises that the decision will not impact the availability of Apple products in the United States.