The U.S. International Trade Commission was scheduled to issue a final decision in Samsung’s patent infringement case against Apple this week. Instead it issued a postponement.
The ITC said Wednesday that it is delaying its ruling on Samsung’s complaint until May 31 while it considers the consumer impact of an import ban against the Apple devices alleged to have infringed. With that in mind, the agency requested briefs on what effect the banning of certain models of iPad and iPhone would have on the smartphone and tablet markets and whether there are acceptable substitutes those devices if they were to be banned.
The postponement of the ITC ruling is good news for Apple, but the rationale for it suggests potentially bad news ahead. If the commission is soliciting comment on the implications of a product ban, it is clearly considering doling one out. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t bother itself with public interest considerations.
An unfortunate turn of events for Apple, particularly since a preliminary ITC ruling on the same complaint found that the company had not violated the FRAND patents Samsung asserted against it and that there was no justification for a sales ban. But that was a preliminary ruling by a single judge. Now that the matter is in review before the full commission, there’s a real chance things could go south for Apple if it reverses that preliminary ruling and finds the company guilty of infringement.