WASHINGTON – Samsung Electronics Co. wants the same favor from President Obama that he gave U.S.-based Apple Inc. — the right to keep importing smartphones and tablets found to infringe the other's patents.
Unless the White House overturns an import ban against Samsung for infringing two Apple patents, the world's biggest maker of smartphones will see some older models locked out of the United States Tuesday night..
The administration has been in this position before. On Aug. 3, it overturned an import ban won by Samsung against older versions of Apple's iPhone 4 and iPad 2 3G. The two companies are the biggest players in the $279.9 billion global smartphone market, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Samsung says blocking one competitor's products while letting another's remain on the U.S. market could be seen as pro-American bias.
"It's frustrating for Samsung — they won a big victory against Apple, or so they thought," said Jim Altman, of Foster, Murphy, Altman & Nickel in Washington, who represents Asian companies at the U.S. International Trade Commission, which issued the import ban. "The president gets rid of it. And then Apple wins a victory and the president says 'tough cookies'?"
Samsung, which reported record third-quarter profit on Friday based on sales of its smartphones, has said any ban will involve a small number of handsets. It sold 32 percent of all smartphones worldwide in the second quarter, compared with 13 percent for Apple.
"The world is watching how Samsung is treated by the United States in this 'smartphone war,' " Samsung wrote Aug. 28 to Obama's designee to review the case, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. "The administration has a significant interest in avoiding the perception of favoritism and protectionism toward U.S. companies."
Froman said in an interview with Bloomberg Television Sunday in Bali, Indonesia, that he hasn't decided yet whether to issue Samsung a reprieve.