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Note: This post was co-written with Rashmi Rangnath, Director of Global Knowledge Initiative, and Staff Attorney
The Administration overturned a decision to ban imports of technology products that infringe patents. This reaffirms the principle that an automatic ban on product importation is not in the public interest.
The public interest has to be a central concern in decisions about technology policy. The Obama Administration, through the United States Trade Representative (USTR), reaffirmed this principle this past Saturday when it overruled a recent International Trade Commission (ITC) decision to ban imports of certain Apple products including the iPhone 4.
The ITC is a specialized court that decides patent infringement cases. If the ITC finds that a product infringes a patent in certain circumstances, then the ITC will, as a matter of course, ban importation of that product. This is exactly what happened as part of the Apple /Samsung litigation: the ITC ordered a ban of the iPhone 4 and other Apple products on the ground that they violated patents owned by Samsung and relating to CDMA encoding and decoding (CDMA is a cell phone network technology used mostly by Verizon and Sprint in the US.)