“It used to be when you went to the ITC to file a paper or visit someone who works there, the courtrooms would both be dark for the most part. Now you don’t see that,” says Paul Brinkman, who heads Alston & Bird’s ITC practice. Things were so busy last year that some hearings were moved to the commission room, and the agency sought permission to hold others at the U.S. district court for the District of Columbia. “We’re coming upon a point where there’s just always a trial going on at the ITC.”

Brinkman remembers quieter times. “When we started doing this, you could never predict what was going to show up as the next item in the docket. It would be a case on faucets followed by a case on something fairly high-tech, followed by something totally random,” he says. While miscellaneous matters still pop up—last year, the ITC tackled everything from caskets and adjustable-height hospital beds to guitars and sex toys—Brinkman notes, “These days you can put your money on something very electrical engineering–focused, like GPS, televisions, and mobile phones.”