International Trade Commission headquarters in Washington. (Photo: Toytoy via Wikimedia Commons)
The number of new intellectual property cases filed at the U.S. International Trade Commission has fallen sharply since 2011 according to a new report by the agency, and patent infringement cases brought by patent trolls have yielded scant results over the past seven years.
In 2013, 42 new cases were brought under Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, compared to 69 in 2011. In the first quarter of 2014, eight cases were filed. Seventy-two cases were completed last year, the most ever, according to the June 10 report.
The ITC analyzed cases brought by nonpracticing entities, which since the U.S. Supreme Court’s eBay v. MercExchange decision in 2006 have made up about 20 percent of the agency’s docket.
The ITC distinguished between infringement claims brought by patent trolls—companies that don’t make products and whose business model depends on buying and asserting patents—and entities such as universities, research laboratories and startups. Patent trolls filed 33 complaints with the ITC since 2006 and settled 50 percent of the time. Only two of the cases resulted in exclusion orders.
Universities and other patent owners brought 34 cases, settled 30 percent of the time, and also won two exclusion orders.
During this time frame, the ITC issued a total of 69 exclusion orders, according to an agency spokeswoman. Cases involving companies that use their patents to make products settled about 48 percent of the time.
The eBay decision made it more difficult for patent owners to win injunctions in district court, and some commentators have suggested the ITC’s caseload rose as a result.
The ITC also analyzed cases by industry sector. In 2013, computer and telecom products accounted for 38 percent of the cases. Cases involving pharmaceuticals and medical devices jumped last year to 14 percent, up from 5 percent in 2012.
The ITC also reported that an average of 7.5 companies are named in each ITC suit.
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