Trade agency bans older iPhone imports

Apple must stop selling an older model of the iPhone and certain other devices in the United States, a trade agency ruled late on Tuesday.

The International Trade Commission ruled that the devices violate Samsung patents involving wireless technology and should not be imported into the country. Apple assembles most of its devices in China and imports them into the United States.

President Obama has 60 days to overturn the decision, and Apple can also appeal in federal court.

The decision would ban the AT&T versions of the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3, iPad 3G and iPad 2 3G. It did not cover the newest devices, such as the iPhone 5.

The case is the latest battle in a global legal war between Apple and Samsung over smartphone patents.

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In 2011, the South Korean company Samsung filed a petition with the commission, charging that Apple had violated a portion of the 1930 Tariff Act. After an administrative law judge first dismissed the case, Samsung asked the ITC to review whether Apple violated the law.

The ITC began its review in November 2012.

As result of the finding, the commission is "prohibiting Apple from importing into the United States or selling or distributing within the United States wireless communication devices, portable music and data processing devices, and tablet computers that infringe claims" of Samsung's patent, according to the order.

An Apple spokeswoman told the website AllThingsD that it will appeal the decision, and that it "has no impact on the availability of Apple products in the United States."

In a statement, Samsung said the ruling "confirmed Apple’s history of free-riding on Samsung’s technological innovations." 

"Our decades of research and development in mobile technologies will continue, and we will continue to offer innovative products to consumers,” the company said.

The case is the latest battle in a global legal war between Apple and Samsung over smartphone patents.

Last year, a federal court in California ruled that Samsung violated a number of Apple's patents and awarded the iPhone maker more than $1 billion in damages. That award was later reduced.

Samsung's latest victory at the ITC involved a "standard-essential patent," which Samsung had agreed to license to other companies on fair and reasonable terms.

The Obama administration has tried to limit lawsuits over standard-essential patents, which cover core technologies that industries agree to use as technical standards. The Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission have warned that lawsuits over standard-essential patents can stifle competition.

The ITC ruling came the same day that the White House took steps to crack down on frivolous patent litigation. The administration sent a set of proposals to Congress, including limiting the ability of the ITC to ban products. 

— This story was updated at 9:56 a.m. and 12:13 p.m.