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.
Most complaints get rejected, but there are cases where the ITC has banned imports, such as the Broadcom v. Qualcomm case in 2007.
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:
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.
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.
- Trend Micro v. Barracuda (2008, USA)
- Microsoft v. TomTom (2008, USA)
- Nokia v. Apple (2010, USA)
- Apple v. HTC (2010, USA)
- Elan Microelectronics v. Apple (2010, USA)
- Microsoft v. Motorola (2010, USA)
- Apple v. Motorola (2010, USA): Preliminary ruling: rejected.
- Samsung v. Apple (2011, USA)
- S3 Graphics v. Apple (2011, USA) - rejected in November 2011
Very few complaints actually result in an import ban, but it does happen.
- Qualcomm phones
- Buffalo's wireless routers
Only for industry, not trolls
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". "Licensing" can include litigation, but in that case the patent holder:
must show each asserted litigation activity is related to licensing.
Time will tell if this requirement is sufficient to block patent trolls or not.
Related pages on en.swpat.org
- USA patents courts and appeals
- Patent governance
- Phone patent litigation - a category of lawsuit that often includes an ITC complaint
- United States International Trade Commission, Wikipedia
- Non-Practicing Entities at the USITC, 23 Mar 2012, Patently-O
- At the ITC, Patent Litigation is Not a Domestic Industry, 16 Apr 2010, LegalTimes (quoted above)
- Apple Sued Over Touchpad Technology at ITC, 26 Apr 2010, LegalTimes blog
- ITC upholds Qualcomm phone ban, 22 June 2007, The Register - a case where the ITC banned the import of a device
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