updated 04:42 pm EDT, Thu July 25, 2013
Possible sales ban wouldn't affect Verizon directly
Verizon's general counsel, Randal Milch, has published an editorial in the Wall Street Journal calling for the Obama administration to veto an International Trade Commission ban on some iPhone 3G, 3GS, and 4 sales. In June the ITC ruled that AT&T versions of the phones must be removed from sale by August 5th. Even though it wouldn't directly affect Verizon -- which has never sold the 3G or 3GS, and carries a different model of the 4 -- Milch claims that the ban would set a bad precedent.
"Patent litigation at the ITC -- where the only remedy is to keep products from the American public -- is too high-stakes a game for patent disputes," the lawyer comments. "The fact that the ITC's intellectual-property dispute docket has nearly quadrupled over 15 years only raises the stakes further. Smartphone patent litigation accounts for a substantial share of that increase."
Milch argues that President Obama could help set a better legal example in disputes where a patent holder isn't practicing the concept, has already agreed to license a patent on reasonable terms in order to set a standard, and/or when an allegedly infringing aspect of a product isn't that important to overall design and appeal.
Presidential intervention is unlikely. No President has vetoed an ITC ruling since 1987, and a ban would have little immediate impact, since the iPhone 3G and 3GS are already outdated and the 4 is on the verge of retirement. Pre-Retina iPad models would also be affected. Apple has filed to stay a ban pending appeal.