What is the International Trade Commission’s role in patents?

On Behalf of | Aug 3, 2022 | Firm News |

Patent infringement disputes are traditionally resolved in federal court. If a federal court finds a claim of infringement proven, it can impose penalties on the accused, including a court order prohibiting their further marketing or distribution of a product.

However, some patent owners, including owners who acquire patents with the aim to secure licensing fees, will frequently turn to the U.S. International Trade Commission for relief.

The International Trade Commission, or ITC, is an agency with quasi-judicial powers to regulate imports and exports. The ITC has the authority to issue what is called an exclusion order. The order legally prohibits a person or business from importing products that the ITC believes are in violation of federal trade law.

Among other things, this law prohibits people and businesses from importing goods that appear to infringe on a patent. If the ITC’s investigation leads the ITC to find a product infringes, it will issue an exclusion order to hold the products up in port.

The federal Customs and Border Protection agency enforces these orders.

ITC exclusion orders are a powerful tool

For someone concerned about protecting a patent, ITC exclusion orders are a powerful tool. The ITC may act much more quickly than, say a federal court in California’s Silicon Valley would with respect to barring infringing products from the American market.

Once the ITC issues an exclusion order, the accused infringer may quickly decide to apply for a proper license or simply give up on the matter. Having one’s imports impounded is a costly proposition.

In the right circumstances, it may pay off for a patent holder to protect its rights through the quasi-judicial channels of the ITC instead of taking the route through federal court. Of course, the ITC option only applies if infringing products are being imported from foreign countries.

On the other hand, there may be some cases in which the ITC acts too quickly against an accused infringer. A person or business who is accused falsely and who has their goods tied up, as a result, may have to take prompt and strong legal action to clear up the matter.

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