The International Trade Commission (ITC) noted last week that an ever-increasing number of companies seem to be pursuing patent infringement cases and seeking import exclusion orders through ITC under 19 U.S.C. §337. ITC has the ability under Section 337 to impose an import exclusion order that bars imports of products infringing on valid U.S. patents.
Only seven months into this fiscal year, ITC is already dealing with 34 Section 337 cases, equal to last fiscal year’s final tally and up from only 25 complaints in 2005. As a result of the increase in workload, ITC is currently looking to assign a fifth administrative law judge to the caseload.
Aftermarket concern for this development stems from a Section 337 case that was filed in December 2005 by Ford Global Technologies against Keystone Automotive Industries, Inc. and five other manufacturers or distributors. The case alleges that the importation of 14 automotive cosmetic part products for the F-150 by Keystone and others infringe on Ford design patents. Ultimately, seven of the design patents were held invalid while the court held that seven of the design patents were valid and infringed. A general exclusion order was placed on the infringing parts, although Keystone has appealed the underlying decision to the federal appeals court.