The fastest IP court in the country just got faster. The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) recently announced a new pilot program that empowers its Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) to issue an “interim initial determination” that resolves a case-dispositive or otherwise significant issue early in an investigation. Now, instead of being in trial nine to 10 months after the filing of a complaint, parties could be in trial in half that time on a discrete issue that ends the investigation entirely or dramatically tips the scale in one direction. This pilot program—assuming ALJs embrace it—provides §337 litigants with another tool to efficiently win these high stakes cases.
Overview of §337 and the New Pilot Program
Section 337 (19 U.S.C. §1337) empowers the ITC to investigate claims of unfair foreign competition relating to imported products. The most common claim is for patent infringement, but the ITC also adjudicates other acts of unfair competition, including trademark and copyright infringement, trade secret misappropriation, and violations of the Lanham Act and antitrust laws. Section 337 offers complainants several advantages over comparable actions in federal court, most notably speed—the ITC endeavors to render a final decision in 16 months or less—and a near-automatic exclusionary remedy that bars infringing products from entering the United States.