U.S. Ban Unlikely To Affect Samsung's Bottom Line

The Obama administration has upheld a ban on the import and sale of some Samsung smartphones and tablets. The move represents a victory for Apple, which is embroiled in a longstanding patent dispute with Samsung. But the import ban is unlikely to affect Samsung's profits since the devices at the heart of the case are no longer big sellers.

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The White House has upheld a ban on importing some Samsung products into the U.S. The ban is based on an International Trade Commission ruling that several of Samsung's older phones and tablets infringed on Apple's technology.

As NPR's Steve Henn reports, Samsung is asking the White House for a reprieve.

STEVE HENN, BYLINE: This import ban is unlikely to affect Samsung's bottom line. The devices at the heart of this case are no longer big sellers. Mark Lemley is a patent law expert at Stanford.

MARK LEMLEY: The wheels of justice turn a lot more slowly than the wheels of commerce, at least in the iPhone industry.

HENN: Samsung and Apple have been battling over patents for years. Back in August, the White House sided with Apple, overturning a similar a ban aimed at its products, including the iPhone 4. Samsung then accused the U.S. of playing favorites - but Lemley doesn't think these two patents disputes are very similar.

LEMLEY: Well, there is one fundamental difference between the two. Samsung had previously promised to license its patents to all comers on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms.

HENN: The patents that Samsung refused to license to Apple are what's called standard essential patents. They cover technology that every phone has to use in order to work. Before technology can become essential in an industry this way, the company that creates it has to agree to license it, even to competitors, on fair and reasonable terms.

Steve Henn, NPR News, Silicon Valley.

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