AT&T Mobility has an unlikely ally in Verizon Wireless. Though the leading wireless companies in the U.S. are also each other’s chief rivals, Verizon has called on President Obama to veto an ITC ruling that would ban AT&T from importing some Apple iPhone and iPad models. The ITC ruled that the Apple iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and iPad 2 all violate patents held by Samsung and should be banned from being imported into the U.S. The ban applies only to those devices on the AT&T network, but Randy Milch, executive vice president of Public Policy at Verizon, says that the president should intervene in the matter.
Milch penned a Wall Street Journal column detailing reasons that the ITC, which settles patent disputes by issuing products bans rather than lesser punishments, is not an ideal way to resolve disputes between rival companies. Milch notes that President Obama has the authority to overturn the ban, and he says such intervention should occur so consumers have more choices. Milch wrote:
“High-tech products can implicate thousands of patents. If the ITC finds that a product infringes even a single one, it can stop the product at the border. But that’s basically it. The commission can’t levy much in the way of a lesser penalty. In the end the consumer suffers when the use of such an enforcement tool is unwarranted.
By early August, the Obama administration must decide whether to veto the ITC’s decision to bar the devices alleged to have infringed on a Samsung patent. Should it?”
Verizon’s lead counselor stresses that he takes no position on whether Apple or Samsung is right in their lengthy court battles over patents, but Milch argues that the ITC is not the venue to settle these disputes. While it might seem odd that he would comment publicly on a matter concerning AT&T, it’s likely that Milch sees the writing on the wall. The number of cases before the ITC has increased steadily since 1998 and the highly competitive smartphone market will lead to more manufacturers using the ITC to have their rivals product’s delayed or banned. It could just as easily be Verizon forced to deal with an important ban in the future. Milch argues that White House intervention might discourage future cases from being filed.