Preserving the role of courts through ITC patent reform

Because courts are perfectly capable of hearing almost all patent cases involving imports, the ITC’s patent powers are largely redundant.  Meanwhile, having two litigation venues with different rules and remedies is bad for the U.S. patent system.  Congress can fix this problem—without leaving patent owners defenseless against foreign infringement—by limiting the ITC’s jurisdiction to cases where federal courts cannot act.

Top Points:

  1. While the ITC’s broad powers to block infringing imports may be useful in some circumstances, most Section 337 investigations duplicate, and even interfere with, the work of federal courts. Most ITC cases are brought against U.S. companies or large multinational who can easily be sued in court.
  2. Having a separate litigation venue outside the federal court system has frustrated congressional and judicial oversight of U.S. patent law. For example, recent reforms meant to prevent abusive litigation had no effect on the ITC, making the agency a more attractive venue for patent trolls.
  3. Section 337 should be amended to ensure that the ITC’s patent powers are available as a gap-filler for when courts cannot act—not as an alternative to them.



Image credit: cgstock

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