President Barack Obama's move to overturn a looming import ban on older iPhone and iPad models – favoring Apple over Samsung in a long-running legal battle – risks undermining the US administration's aggressive push for stricter intellectual property regimes around the world.
The office of the US trade representative announced the decision on Saturday, reversing a ruling by the International Trade Commission, a government agency which in June had found that Apple had infringed a Samsung technology patent.
Michael Froman, USTR, said the veto by the White House – the first of its kind by a president since 1987 – came after a review of "the effect on competitive conditions in the US economy and their effect on US consumers".
(Read More: Ban on sales of certain Apple products overturned)
The decision – which allows Apple to keep selling cheaper versions of the iPhone4 and iPad2 in the US – is striking because it comes as the US has embarked on a big push to tighten rules on patents in global trade negotiations.
"I think it's likely the decision will be used as an excuse by other countries that don't want strong patent enforcement," said Bill Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, a business lobby group that champions trade liberalization. "The circumstances are different - in particular, the US has employed an extensive legal process, and Samsung can continue to pursue the matter in court - but other countries are likely to ignore the differences," Mr Reinsch said.