A record number of new intellectual property (IP)-related investigations were filed at the USITC
during FY 2011, yet the average time it took the agency to complete a case dropped significantly
during the year, according to Commission statistics.
The Commission's caseload under section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended, has grown
rapidly in recent years, and 70 new investigations were instituted during FY 2011. That is up
from 51 new investigations instituted in FY 2010 and is a record for the number of new
For investigations concluded during FY 2011, the average completion time from institution to a
decision of violation or no violation was 13.7 months. That is down from 18.4 months in FY
2010 and 17.9 months in FY 2009, according to Commission statistics.
Under the statute, the USITC investigates allegations of unfair practices in import trade. The
great majority of cases under this statute involve allegations of patent infringement. Violations
involving trademarks, copyrights, mask works, trade dress, trade secrets, and other forms of
intellectual property may also be alleged. These investigations are typically complex and in
recent years have frequently involved products or processes related to telecommunications or
The Commission began to see a surge in its section 337 caseload in the mid-2000s. Lynn Levine,
Director of the USITC's Office of Unfair Imports Investigations (OUII), says that attorneys who
practice before the USITC most often cite two reasons for the increase in filings. The first is that
the USITC is able to provide a form of relief against infringing imports that is not available
through other judicial fora specifically, the Commission can issue exclusion orders, which keep
infringing products from entering the United States. The second is the speed with which the
investigations have traditionally been completed at the agency.
The growth in the number of intellectual property investigations and their complexity has posed
challenges for the agency, but the Commission has taken a number of steps to meet them. In FY
2011, the Commission rebalanced its resources to accommodate the expanding section 337
caseload. In particular, the Commission increased the number of attorneys in the agency's Office
of the Administrative Law Judges and Office of the General Counsel. Upon Congressional
approval, the Commission also allocated funds to build a third courtroom and related work areas.
The agency expects to complete the courtroom construction during FY 2012. In addition, the
Commission also hired two new administrative law judges during FY 2011 to replace two who
The Commission anticipates these actions will contribute to continued timely adjudication of
section 337 investigations. The Commission remains committed to meeting its mandate to
adjudicate these investigations fairly, thoroughly, and expeditiously, completing them at the
earliest practicable time.