NPEs Solidify Enforcement Jurisdiction at USITC
By Dennis Crouch
InterDigital v. USITC and Nokia (Fed. Cir. 2013) (en banc)
An en banc request for rehearing in the Interdigital case has been denied, but the panel majority has released a new opinion particularly addressing the patent-troll-domestic-industry question. Judge Newman has also released a new dissenting opinion.
The question in the appeal raised by Nokia is whether InterDigital’s patent licensing activities satisfied the “domestic industry” requirement of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, 19 U.S.C. §§ 1337(a)(2) and 1337(a)(3). Here, the court again sided with InterDigital and held that the “most natural reading” of the statute indicates that section 337 relief is “available to a party that has a substantial investment in exploitation of a patent through either engineering, research and development, or licensing.” There is no requirement for manufacture by the patentee or any other domestic party. Rather, “[a]s long as the patent covers the article that is the subject of the exclusion proceeding, and as long as the party seeking relief can show that it has a sufficiently substantial investment in the exploitation of the intellectual property to satisfy the domestic industry requirement of the statute, that party is entitled to seek relief under section 337.” The majority opinion was written by Judge Bryson and joined by Judge Mayer.
In dissent, Judge Newman argued that a domestic industry requires domestic manufacture. No other judge joined Judge Newman in dissent – suggesting that the majority opinion is on solid footing with the court. And the result is that NPE lawsuits in the ITC are also on solid footing. The benefit of ITC litigation is the stronger likelihood of injunctive relief and the potential of industry-wide enforcement. To collect monetary damages, that injunction would need to be translated into a license agreement.
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19 U.S.C. §1337(a)(2) creates a prerequisite to IP enforcement in the USITC that “an industry in the United States, relating to the articles protected by the patent, copyright, trademark, mask work, or design concerned, exists or is in the process of being established.”
19 U.S.C. §1337(a)(3), as amended in 1988 describes the “industry in the United States” as follows:
[A]n industry in the United States shall be considered to exist if there is in the United States, with respect to the articles protected by the patent, copyright, trademark, mask work, or design concerned—
(A) significant investment in plant and equipment;
(B) significant employment of labor or capital; or
(C) substantial investment in its exploitation, including engineering, research and development, or licensing.
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Apart from jurisdiction, there has been a recent push for the USITC to consider delaying, reducing, and rejecting injunctive relief in situations where the patentee’s motivation for an injunction is to force a monetary settlement. See Colleen V. Chien and Mark A. Lemley, Patent Holdup, the ITC, and the Public Interest, 98 Cornell Law Review 1 (2012). The statute provides that:
If the Commission determines, as a result of an investigation under this section, that there is a violation of this section, it shall direct that the articles concerned, imported by any person violating the provision of this section, be excluded from entry into the United States, unless, after considering the effect of such exclusion upon the public health and welfare, competitive conditions in the United States economy, the production of like or directly competitive articles in the United States, and United States consumers, it finds that such articles should not be excluded from entry.