US Trade Representative Michael Froman overruled a June decision by the US International Trade Commission, which had banned imports of the iPhone 4 and some variations of the iPad 2.
The commission ruled that the Chinese-made Apple devices violated a patent held by Samsung and could not be imported. But the ban never went into effect, because the Obama administration had 60 days to decide if it would uphold the commission.
President Obama is against import bans on the basis of the type of patent at issue in the Samsung case. The White House has recommended that Congress limit the ITC’s ability to impose import bans in these cases.
Samsung and Apple are in a global legal battle over smartphones. Apple argues Samsung’s Android phones copy vital iPhone features and Samsung is fighting back with its own complaints.
Apple applauded the administration “for standing up for innovation”. Samsung did not immediately comment.
Mr Froman said he had concerns about patent holders having too much leverage over competitors that use their technology under licences.