What is the International Trade Commission (ITC)?
The ITC is an independent Federal agency with investigative responsibilities on matters of international trade and its impact on U.S. domestic industries.
What is Section 337?
Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. § 1337) is a means of fighting unfair practices in international trade, predominately, importation into the United States products that infringe U.S. intellectual property rights such as patents or trademarks.
What is a Section 337 investigation?
These unfair practices investigated by the ITC include the importation of products covered by a U.S. patent. A Section 337 investigation generally involves at least three independent litigants: the complainant that asks for the investigation, the respondent that is accused of committing the unfair trade practice, and in most cases the ITC’s Office of Unfair Import Investigations, who looks after the public’s interest. The investigation is conducted similar to a civil trial before an administrative law judge. In the event that the ITC determines that Section 337 has been violated, the ITC may prevent the products that violate Section 337 from being imported into the United States by an exclusion order and also issue cease-and-desist orders directing the parties who violated Section 337 to cease certain activities, such as selling such products that have already been imported. Section 337 cases are know for the speed with which they are completed compared to traditional district court litigations.
What is a violation of Section 337?
A violation of Section 337 is shown when the complainant establishes (1) unfair competition or acts, such as patent infringement, that causes or threatens injury to the complainant, (2) importation into the U.S., sale for importation into the U.S., or sale after importation in the U.S., and (3) the existence of a domestic industry relating to the unfair competition.
What is a domestic industry?
Section 337 requires a complainant to show that an industry relating to the article protected by the patent exists in the U.S. or is in the process of being established. This consists of two prongs, an economic prong and a technical prong. The technical prong is shown by establishing that the complainant practices at least one claim of its asserted patent. The economic prong is satisfies by showing that the complainant has made a significant investment in plant and equipment, a significant employment of labor and capital, and/or a substantial investment in exploitation of the intellectual property, including engineering, R&D, or licensing.
How does an ITC Investigation relate to a parallel federal district court patent infringement case?
Because the ITC is not an action geared towards identifying monetary damages to a complainant, in the vast majority of 337 cases, companion district court cases will also be filed. These district court cases are generally stayed to allow the much faster ITC cases to proceed.