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Just two years ago, the International Trade Commission (ITC) was ground zero for high-stakes patent fights—a place where some of the world's biggest smartphone and electronics companies met to duke it out. But since fiscal year 2011, the agency's intellectual property caseload has been on a downward spiral, with the number of cases filed since the fiscal year began on October 1 tracking at around half the level of what it was before, when a record 70 patent suits were filed.

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