In August the International Trade Commission issued a ruling that banned the import of some older Samsung smartphones and tablets for violating Apple's patent portfolio. The White House had 60 days during which it could have stepped in to veto the decision, but according to multiple reports President Obama declined to do so — and the ban is now in effect.
The ITC ruling doesn't specify precisely which devices will be covered, but it has been established that older devices like the Galaxy S 4G, Fascinate, and Galaxy Tab do infringe. At issue are two Apple patents that cover scrolling behavior and a device's ability to detect when headphones are plugged in. The ITC found that Samsung had infringed upon the two patents, though the ruling wasn't a total win for Cupertino; there were several other Apple patents that the ITC found were not infringed by Samsung products.
Apple itself faced a similar situation in August, only at that time President Obama did opt to veto the ban. The iPhone 4 and several iPad models were in play at that time, but the ban stemmed from Apple having infringed upon standards-essential patents owned by Samsung rather than patents covering specific features. The aggressive use of standards-essential patents in lawsuits has been an area of particular interest for the Obama administration, with trade representative Michael Froman stating in a letter from the president's office that companies like Samsung were "gaining undue leverage" from their use of standards-essential patents. Of course, that didn't stop Samsung for drawing comparisons when lobbying for a veto on its own import ban, warning that "the administration has a significant interest in avoiding the perception of favoritism and protectionism toward US companies."
Update: A Samsung spokesperson has provided us with the below statement in response to the news.
We are disappointed by the US Trade Representative's decision to allow the exclusion order issued by the US International Trade Commission (ITC). It will serve only to reduce competition and limit choice for the American consumer.