The International Trade Commission’s Authority In Domestic Patent Disputes

Key Points

The International Trade Commission is a federal trade agency that is supposed to protect domestic companies from foreign competitors that infringe U.S. patents. Yet in a recent decision, it issued an order against Comcast, an American service company.
This is an enormous expansion of the trade agency’s jurisdiction, to reach purely American companies who never even think about foreign trade. Hardware store retailers, bike share services, and American manufacturers are just three examples of industries that could now find themselves in the midst of a federal trade agency dispute.
This result is not good policy. The ITC is not equipped to be a court: It offers insufficient protections to defendants brought before it, and the powers its wields are not properly tailored to the nuances of general dispute resolution. Enabling the ITC to reach into domestic activities will thus harm those businesses and firms that should never have needed to see the inside of that agency.

The U.S. International Trade Commission, a federal agency that deals with foreign trade, has issued an order against a purely domestic company that engages in no foreign trade. That order, now on appeal, could greatly change the power of that agency and affect all sorts of American companies.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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