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United States International Trade Commission

The United States International Trade Commission (ITC) is a government body of the USA which can block the importing of goods for various reasons including alleged patent infringement. The law used is section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930.[1]

Most complaints get rejected, but there are cases where the ITC has banned imports, such as the Broadcom v. Qualcomm case in 2007.[2]

Another possible motivation may be the press coverage. Whether the ITC finally accepts or rejects a request, the media will have, in the mean time, published articles warning that the targeted company may not be able to sell devices in the USA.

About its relation to the courts, an article in Wired wrote:[3]

The ITC is a trade body, not a court, so federal judges can ignore its findings. However, many of them pay attention to what goes on at the ITC.

Example cases

Below are some cases where patent holders have asked the ITC to block imports due to (what might be) software patents. The ITC rejects almost all such requests.

Banned products

Very few complaints actually result in an import ban, but it does happen.

  • Qualcomm phones[12]
  • Buffalo's wireless routers

Approved for trolls

The USITC exists to prevent "unfair" foreign competition entering the US market, so it includes a "domestic industry" requirement.[13] Some thought this could prevent trolls from using the ITC, but this seems to not be the case.

In a decision on 14 April 2010, the ITC rejected a complaint because the patent holder failed to show:

substantial investment in ... exploitation [of the patent], including engineering, research and development, or licensing

This is the decision titled "Certain Coaxial Cable Connectors and Components Thereof and Products Containing Same".[14] "Licensing" can include litigation, but in that case the patent holder:

must show each asserted litigation activity is related to licensing.

However, in a decision on 1 August 2012, a CAFC judge confirmed a decision by the ITC to allow a troll to block imports. CAFC Judge Bryson said:

the domestic industry requirement is satisfied if there is a domestic industry based on “substantial investment in [the patent’s] exploitation” where the exploitation is achieved by various means, including “licensing.”[15]

Related pages on ESP Wiki

External links

News article selection (newest first)