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WASHINGTON — The Obama Administration has vetoed a product ban that would have forced Apple to stop selling some iPhones and iPads in the United States this week, a rare intervention by the White House and a victory for Apple in its patent war with Samsung Electronics.
The U.S. International Trade Commission in June ordered a ban of older-model Apple products that worked with AT&T’s network, including the iPhone 4 and 3GS.
The commission had determined that Apple violated a patent that Samsung owned related to transmission of data over cellular networks.
The administration had until today to weigh in.
It was the first time that an administration had vetoed an International Trade Commission ban since 1987, according to Susan Kohn Ross, an international trade lawyer for Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp.
Michael Froman, the U.S. trade representative and President Obama’s adviser on international trade issues, wrote in his decision that it was based in part on the “effect on competitive conditions in the U.S. economy and the effect on U.S. consumers.”
Apple argued that Samsung had committed to licensing its patents related to wireless technology standards, but was refusing to keep that promise.
Samsung said Apple refused to pay licensing fees for its patents.
Samsung said that it was disappointed.
“The ITC’s decision correctly recognized that Samsung has been negotiating in good faith and that Apple remains unwilling to take a license.”
Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokesman, said, “We applaud the administration for standing up for innovation in this landmark case.” She added, “Samsung was wrong to abuse the patent system in this way.”
Mr. Froman said his decision did not mean that Samsung was “not entitled to a remedy. On the contrary, the patent owner may continue to pursue its rights through the courts.”
Samsung and Apple were once tight partners — the South Korean company makes some key parts needed to produce iPhones and iPads. But over time, as they made products that competed in different markets, their friendship turned into rivalry.