Does Apple Have Samsung in a Vice Grip?

The U.S. International Trade Commission has upheld a preliminary ruling by one of it administrative judges that found Samsung in violation of four Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) patents. The ITC’s Office of Unfair Import Investigation decided that Judge Thomas Pender “did not commit legal or factual error” in his initial determination regarding guilt. Both parties had petitioned for a review, with Samsung opposing the judgment and Apple asking for broader sanctions, FOSS Patents said.

What Does the Legal Case Deal With?

Samsung was found to be infringing on a design patent for the flat front face of the iPhone with wider borders at the top and bottom and a speaker slot above the display screen. It was also found to be violating a touchscreen technology patent co-invented by Steve Jobs, one covering the translucent images for applications displayed on a screen, and one to detect when headsets are plugged in. Violations were not found for a design patent for the phone’s shape and a patent for headset-jack detection. Apple had asked for a review of both those counts.

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What Does the Decision Mean for the Companies?

The commission has the power to halt sales of products, but is only scheduled to finish its investigation by February 25, 2013. According to FOSS Patents, if the commission was to adopt the latest recommendation, a sales ban could be instituted “rather quickly.”

However, such an injunction would possibly be meaningless if workarounds to the technologies have already been created by Samsung. Samsung has reportedly already submitted documents about changing its designs to address the concerns. Apple is trying to get injunctions on U.S. sales of more than a dozen of Samsung’s Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android devices, including the Galaxy Tab, the Galaxy Nexus, the Galaxy SII, and Galaxy Note.

This case is just one of several between the two global smartphone leaders. The ITC is also set to review a decision that cleared Apple of infringing on Samsung’s wireless patents.

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