Samsung asks ITC to ban the import of Apple devices

The back-and-forth in the patent dispute between Samsung and Apple continues, with Samsung filing a request for a U.S. import ban against the iPhone, iPad and iPod, FOSS Patents reports. The complaint was filed with the International Trade Commission (ITC) on Tuesday.

The ITC is a government regulatory body, which acts independently of the courts. Apple seems to be gearing up for a preliminary injunction request in its legal case against Samsung in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, but it hasn’t sought any action from the ITC, unlike in previous cases against competing smartphone manufacturers such as HTC. Samsung’s move is a clever way to beat Apple to a potentially hobbling import ban, since the ITC’s decision is independent of the ongoing court case, and a final decision is reached within a fairly set time frame of 16 to 18 months, once the ITC agrees to investigate.

Apple is likely to respond with a complaint of its own, according to FOSS Patents’ Florian Mueller. Mueller says that Apple has to do so, “because otherwise Samsung might obtain an import ban against Apple long before Apple wins an injunction against Samsung.” The only reason that Apple hasn’t filed with the ITC already, Mueller says, is because doing so in its initial complaint with the U.S. courts “raises legal issues that go beyond the scope of an ITC investigation.”

Even though this action appears to raise the stakes in the ongoing patent dispute between the two companies, Mueller says it shouldn’t affect the likelihood of a settlement being reached by the two companies. It’s a common step in this kind of confrontation, and one which Apple is probably prepared for. Still, even though it isn’t very likely, there’s a small chance we could be living in a world where both Apple and Samsung smartphones aren’t available in the U.S. in a year or two. It’ll be like 2006 all over again.