Verizon Wireless has turned to President Obama as it seeks intervention against an import on the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 that is set to take affect in less than two weeks.
The International Trade Commission ordered the ban back in June after finding that Apple’s older iOS devices infringed a patent owned by Samsung, but Apple is still awaiting a decision on its appeal. The Cupertino company has already asked the ITC to postpone the move, and now Verizon has stepped in to help.
Verizon’s head lawyer, Randal Milch, published a plea in The Wall Street Journal this week that calls upon the White House to intervene. Milch argues that the patent at the heart of the dispute isn’t a significant one, particularly when involved with a smartphone, which could conceivably be covered by more than 250,000 patents.
Milch now wants the White House to step in and prevent the ban from going into affect on August 5. If it doesn’t, Apple will no longer be permitted to import the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2 into the United States, and this would essentially wipe out the company’s cheaper, entry-level product offerings.
In other cases like this, the ITC has allowed companies time to tweak their products to avoid infringement, but that wasn’t an option offered to Apple.
The move will “sweep away an entire segment of Apple’s product offerings,” Apple told the ITC earlier this month. “Apple will lose not only sales of its iPhone 4 (GSM) and iPad 2 3G (GSM) products but also the opportunity to gain new smartphone and tablet customers who otherwise would have purchased these entry-level Apple devices.”
But Apple and Verizon shouldn’t hold out much hope for intervention from the president. GigaOM reports that although Obama can intervene during the 60 days it takes an ITC ban to take affect, none have done so since President Reagan vetoed an import ban in 1987.
What’s interesting in all of this is that Verizon is not directly impacted by the ban, because it does not affect CDMA devices, such as Verizon’s iPhone 4. In fact, the ban could help Verizon, because it means it could become the only U.S. carrier offering the cheapest iPhone.