Practice/Industry Group Overview
Sutherland attorneys have an extensive track record of defending clients in the fast growing, fast-moving area of ITC Section 337 actions.
The International Trade Commission has ramped up investigations under Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930—significantly increasing the number of investigations it has launched over the past five years. Sutherland attorneys are a step ahead of the trend, ready to assist clients in this fast-growing challenge. Under Section 337, the ITC polices imported goods that infringe patents, trademarks or copyrights, or otherwise represent unfair competition. When companies are named in Section 337 litigation, they must contend with complex issues on a fast timeline. They need lawyers who can hit the ground running, understand the technical issues and are not afraid to litigate.
The Sutherland Intellectual Property Litigation team has a proven ability to guide clients successfully through ITC cases. For inexperienced companies, the pace of ITC investigations can be overwhelmingly fast. The timelines are far more compressed than typical federal litigation. Before requesting an investigation of an importer alleging Section 337 violations, the complainant has to undertake a great deal of research. As a result, companies named in a complaint are inherently a step behind and must get up to speed quickly.
And the stakes are high. ITC Section 337 investigations can have far-reaching effects, including barring whole classes of products from importation into the U.S. if they infringe. Since these types of investigations name manufacturers and customers as respondents, they threaten to interrupt normal business operations. The ITC also has the authority to issue a general exclusion order barring all imports of an infringing item, even by importers that are not parties to the investigation. With so much on the line, clients turn to Sutherland to find attorneys with IP knowledge and relevant experience.
Agility. ITC procedures have much shorter deadlines than court cases. Sutherland’s IP Litigation team can quickly get up to speed, ensuring that our clients have as much time as possible to develop and implement the best strategy for each matter.
Efficiency. We staff cases leanly, so matters can proceed quickly and cost-effectively.
Technical know-how. Many of our IP lawyers have specialized and advanced degrees in electrical engineering, computer engineering, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, chemistry, molecular genetics, medicine and other scientific disciplines. We understand the technical aspects of our clients’ products, allowing us to advocate effectively.
A team approach. At Sutherland, we coordinate efforts between litigators and prosecutors, so we can spot issues and react quickly under the compressed time pressures of ITC Section 337 litigation. We identify all infringement and potential invalidity scenarios and respond thoroughly.
Deep familiarity with the ITC processes. For complainants, ITC investigations can be less expensive than traditional lawsuits, while burdening those being investigated. Sutherland attorneys know how the process works and what strategies complainants utilize, and can respond appropriately.
Willingness to fight for clients. ITC decisions can be difficult to overturn on appeal, proceedings are expedited, and discovery can be quick and broad, which often pressures respondents to settle. Sutherland attorneys have a great deal of litigation experience and are ready to do what it takes to meet the client’s business needs.
Nuts and Bolts
Sutherland guides clients through every step of the ITC Section 337 litigation proceeding’s fast-paced process, including:
- Responding to complaints within the 20-day window
- Investigating and evaluating claims and possible defenses
- Developing an overall strategy for the case, including whether to seek a settlement
- Conducting pre-hearing discovery
- Representing clients during the hearing before the ITC Administrative Law Judge
- Petitioning for Commission review of Initial Determination, when necessary
- Working with clients to appeal cases to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, when appropriate
Companies importing goods into the United States are more frequently finding themselves litigating at the ITC. Through our combination of deep technical knowledge and extensive industry experience, Sutherland’s IP litigators give our clients a competitive advantage in litigating ITC Section 337 disputes.
Sutherland successfully appeals patent infringement case in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Sutherland represented General Protecht Group, an international electronics manufacturer, in its appeal of an ITC exclusion order, which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed after concluding that the client’s products did not infringe the asserted patents. Sutherland also obtained a U.S. Customs ruling that the client’s new product did not infringe those patents, clearing the product for import while the appeal was pending and while the ITC finally rescinded the exclusion order post-appeal.
Won a four-week ITC Section 337 parallel import trial on behalf of Bearings Limited, Inc., an importer/wholesaler.
Represented Bearings Limited, Inc., an importer/wholesaler, in a Section 337 trademark infringement action before the ITC. After a four-week trial and a remand for further fact finding, the ITC issued its determination finding no violation of Section 337 by our client and the other respondent importers. This is believed to be the first time that importers have ever prevailed in a Section 337 parallel import case at the ITC.
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