International Trade Commission

In today’s fast-paced and technology-centered economy, the U.S. International Trade Commission (“ITC”) has become “a forum of choice for intellectual property rights holders looking for speed and certainty.” An independent federal agency responsible for enforcing U.S. trade laws and regulations, the ITC has the authority to investigate and address unfair trade practices, including intellectual property infringement and unfair competition, that harm domestic industries. ITC proceedings typically involve intellectual property disputes, with the primary mechanism used by the ITC to address these disputes being Section 337 investigations, named after Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930. Section 337 investigations focus on unfair methods of competition and unfair acts in the importation of goods that infringe upon U.S. intellectual property rights.

Some key aspects of ITC proceedings, include …

Section 337 Investigations: Section 337 investigations are initiated by a complaint filed with the ITC, usually by a domestic company or individual claiming that their intellectual property rights are being infringed upon by imported goods. The complainant alleges that the importation, sale, or distribution of these goods is causing or threatening to cause injury to a U.S. industry. The ITC investigates and ultimately determines whether a violation has occurred.

Remedies: If the ITC finds a violation of Section 337, it can issue exclusion orders and cease-and-desist orders. An exclusion order prohibits the importation of infringing goods into the United States, while a cease-and-desist order prevents the sale and distribution of existing inventory of infringing goods within the United States.

Enforcement: The ITC does not have the authority to award damages or monetary compensation to the complainant. However, its exclusion orders and cease-and-desist orders have significant trade implications, as they can effectively block infringing goods from entering the U.S. market.

Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”): Section 337 investigations are typically assigned to an Administrative Law Judge, who presides over the proceedings, reviews evidence, hears arguments from both parties, and issues an initial determination. The initial determination is subject to review by the full Commission, which can affirm, modify, or reverse the ALJ’s decision.

ITC proceedings are known for their speed and efficiency compared to district court litigation. They provide a forum for intellectual property holders to address unfair competition and protect their rights in the international trade context.