With Latest Ban, Has Samsung Cornered Apple?

Wednesday, 5 Jun 2013 | 1:16 AM ET
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In an ongoing battle between the world's two leading tech giants, Samsung won a round against Apple when a U.S. trade agency ruled that the Silicon Valley bigwig had infringed on a patent owned by the Korean company.

The move by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has led to a ban on the import or sale of some older iPhone and iPad models like iPhone 3GS and iPad 3G in the U.S., distributed by AT&T.

Rob Enderle, principal analyst at technology consulting firm Enderle Group, said the new ban is "pretty serious" and could lead Samsung to try to extend it to newer Apple products, which would be more damaging.

(Read More: A Stretched Samsung Chases Rival Apple's Suppliers)

"Typically when these things are filed, they work with the products that are marketed at the time and that means they could be updated for existing products," Enderle told CNBC on Wednesday. "It is at least possible that Samsung will be able to [appeal to] alter the ruling for the more current products."

Enderle added that given the fact that Apple played "hard ball" with Samsung in the last U.S. ruling where they went for over $1 billion in damages, referring to an Apple win against Samsung in August 2012 where the damages were later reduced to about $600 million, Samsung is probably not going to be very "reasonable" when it comes to offering Apple a license to use the technology.

ITC Backs Samsung; Bans Older Apple Devices
"I don't think it's that big," said Jonathan Geller, Boy Genius Report, discussing Samsung winning the latest round in its long-running patent battle with Apple.

"It makes life pretty difficult for them [Apple] going forward," Enderle said.

While the ITC ruling is final, the ban could be reversed by U.S. President Barack Obama within 60 days before it is implemented. Apple has also said they plan to appeal the decision.

(Read More: Apple iPhones, iPads infringed on Samsung Patent: US Panel)

But Enderle said appeals are always difficult, even though the judgments are sometimes altered downward.

"This had to get to a cycle where Apple was at risk, and now that Apple's at risk, they're likely to come to the table to negotiate a settlement and if that happens, then we'll see much of this litigation go away," Enderle said.

The two tech giants that sell more than half of the world's smartphones and tablets combined are involved in legal battles in some 10 countries, with Samsung overtaking Apple as the world's top smartphone maker in 2011.

(Read More: Top-Ranked IT Analyst: Apple to Introduce 'Significant New Products')

Andrew Tonner, technology & telecom sector analyst at The Motley Fool, however, said that the win by Samsung is more "symbolic" and won't have a meaningful impact on Apple's business.

Ban Won't Have 'Meaningful' Impact on Apple
Andrew Tonner, Technology and Telecom Sector Analyst at The Motley Fool said the trade body ban against Apple products for infringing Samsung patent is only affecting older models and won't necessarily hurt their earnings.

"You're looking at this only affecting currently AT&T legacy-based models, and especially as Apple upgrades their product portfolio towards more 4G oriented devices this year, you are going to see their sales mix again continually moving away from the devices affected," Tonner told CNBC Asia's "Squawk Box."

Apple's New York-listed shares have, however, been falling out of favor with investors since hitting a high of $705 in September—dropping more than 35 percent since then. The company reported its first quarterly drop in profit in more than a decade in April. Seoul-listed shares of Samsung, meanwhile, are up more than 18 percent since September 20.

(Read More: Why Apple's Court Battle May Not Lead to Cheaper E-Books)

Brian Blair, principal & senior research analyst at equity research firm Wedge Partner, said that while consumers don't pay a lot of attention to court rulings as long as Apple continues to sell its products, the real impact would be seen only once the ban is implemented.

"I do think that it could change consumer sentiment if there was an actual ban—if a ruling on ban was upheld," Blair said. "That's different and could certainly impact the way consumers see things."

By CNBC.com's Rajeshni Naidu-Ghelani. Follow her on Twitter @RajeshniNaidu.

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