US Veto on Apple Ban Sparks Concern in South Korea
US revokes a ban on the sale of certain Apple devices, potentially hurting rival Samsung. (Credit: Reuters)

South Korea has voiced its concerns about a US government decision to revoke a ban on the sale of some Apple devices in the US, reversing a June ruling that favoured rival Samsung.

The US International Trade Commission (ITC) had banned the import or sale of certain iPhone and iPad models in the US, saying the devices, which include the iPhone 4 and the 3G versions of the iPad 2, violated a Samsung patent relating to how the devices connect to 3G networks.

South Korean media labelled the US action "protectionism" and urged the Obama administration to take "fair and reasonable decisions" as Samsung faces a ruling on 9 August as to whether some of its devices infringe on Apple's patents. The ITC will also rule on whether these Samsung products should be banned in the US.

In a statement issued to AFP and other news agencies, the South Korean government said: "Our ministry expresses concern about negative impacts the decision by the [United States Trade Representative] will have on protecting patents held by Samsung."

The US action hit Samsung's stock price on Monday, as the world's leading smartphone maker's stock price fell 0.93% to 1,274,000 won (£741, €852, $1,133) in Seoul, wiping out more than $1 billion of the company's market value.

Downright Absurd

Intellectual property expert Florian Mueller branded South Korea's response to the import ban veto as "downright absurd," adding that "there's no reason for such concern" from the South Korean government; the German blogger called the decision "a victory for consumers and fair competiton."

Mueller also points out that courts in other parts of the world - including the EU and Australia - would have done the same as the US.

Samsung said it was disappointed at the lifting of the ban, however Apple welcomed the news and applauded the US administration "for standing up for innovation".

"The problem now for Samsung is not that Apple can continue to sell its products, but whether Samsung's products will be banned," Bloomberg quoted Lee Sun Tae, a Seoul-based analyst at NH Investment & Securities, as saying.

The US and South Korea have strong economic ties, especially after the two military allies put a free trade agreement in place more than a year ago.


On 3 August, US Trade Representative Michael Froman vetoed ITC's June ban, citing its "effect on competitive conditions in the US economy and the effect on US consumers" as the reasons behind his decision.

Froman's decision scrapped the sales ban on Apple's iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, along with the 3G versions of the iPad and iPad 2. Samsung devices subject to a ban include older Galaxy models such as the Galaxy S, Galaxy S2 and Galaxy Tab 10.1 among others.

The ITC has become the favoured platform for patent lawsuits as the trade panel has powers to order import bans, which are more difficult to obtain from district courts.

However, ITC rulings can be appealed in the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and can proceed to the Supreme Court.