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What is the International Trade Commission?

The International Trade Commission (ITC) is an independent, quasi-judicial federal agency that adjudicates cases involving the importation of goods allegedly infringing on intellectual property rights. The holder of intellectual property rights may seek enforcement in the ITC either in parallel with or as an alternative to litigation in the court system.

Concerning intellectual property, the ITC is governed by Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, which makes any unfair methods of competition and unfair acts unlawful. The acts include patent and copyright infringement, importing articles that threaten to destroy or substantially injure an industry in the United States, preventing the establishment of such an industry, and restraining or monopolizing trade and commerce in the United States.

What is the difference between the ITC and the Federal District Court?

There are several notable differences between Federal District Courts and the ITC when attempting to enforce intellectual property rights. Unlike Federal District Courts, while investigating an infringement action, the ITC has national in rem jurisdiction over all products imported into the United States. Accordingly, the ITC's jurisdictional requirements are satisfied if an infringing product is physically present in the United States. Also, unlike the limited scope of district court subpoena powers, the ITC has nationwide subpoena power that affords a complainant an advantage in gathering evidence and testimony. As to relief, the ITC may impose strong injunctive measures after deciding on an investigation, including excluding infringing articles from entry into the United States. These exclusion orders may be enforced at every port and border. However, unlike district courts, the ITC cannot award monetary damages. As to evidence, the ITC allows all useful and relevant evidence. This broad scope contrasts with district courts, which must adhere to the Federal Rules of Evidence and limit discovery under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Do PTAB proceedings affect ITC proceedings?

Traditionally, ITC investigations are rarely stayed because of a proceeding before the Patent Trial and Appels Board (PTAB), such as IPRs. One reason for its reluctance to stay investigations is that the ITC has a statutory mandate to complete Section 337 investigations "at the earliest practical time after the date of publication of the notice of publication" of the investigation. In contrast, an IPR must be completed within eighteen months of its institution, and still not until all appeals have been exhausted. Typically, the ITC has suspended its investigations only when a PTAB proceeding has issued a final written decision before the ITC determines a violation and its issuance of remedial orders.

However, based on recent cases, the Commission may be willing to suspend enforcement of remedial orders because of a final written decision by the IPR issued after the Commission's determination of violation, as long as the final written decision addresses the validity of all the claims at issue in that determination.

Do you need information on an ITC proceeding?

ITC proceedings may be an effective means of enforcing a valid U.S. patent against importation into the U.S.

To discuss enforcing your patent rights before the ITC or Federal Court, contact TCP Law at or John Laurence by phone at 917-612-1059.


John Laurence TCP Law, Trademark Patent Copyright Lawyer

TCP Law focuses on helping individuals and businesses develop, secure, and enforce their intellectual property rights.

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