The USITC ruled in June Apple had violated a Samsung patent, and issued a preliminary cease-and-desist order prohibiting the sale and distribution in the United States of older Apple products that infringe on Samsung's patent regarding the UMTS 3G cellular standard. The ban applied only to certain AT&T-specific products, covering the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, the original iPad 3G and the iPad 2 3G.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said in a letter to USITC Chairman Irving Williamson he was disapproving the cease-and-desist order, based on a "review of policy considerations."
Froman said his decision was not based on the merits of Samsung's case or its standing to seek compensation, the Los Angeles Times reported. He said the ban would have been too disruptive to the overall economy because the patent at issue has become a widely held technology standard.
It is the first time since 1987 the White House has vetoed a decision by the USITC, the Times said.
"We applaud the administration for standing up for innovation in this landmark case," Apple said in a statement. "Samsung was wrong to abuse the patent system in this way."
"We are disappointed that the U.S. trade representative has decided to set aside the exclusion order issued by the U.S. International Trade Commission," Samsung, the South Korean technology giant, said in a statement. "The ITC's decision correctly recognized that Samsung has been negotiating in good faith and that Apple remains unwilling to take a license."
The ban had been scheduled to take effect Sunday.