3d render of hitting judge hammer with added motion blurThe United States International Trade Commission (“ITC”) is an independent, quasi-judicial Federal agency with investigative responsibilities on matters of trade.  Among other things, the ITC adjudicates complaints filed by private parties involving imports that allegedly infringe intellectual property rights under the authority of Section 337 of the Tariff Act.  If imports are deemed to violate Section 337, an exclusion order will be issued to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which will exclude those products from entry into the United States.

During these Section 337 investigations, the ITC may face the issue of whether claims asserted in a patent recite patent-eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101.  In a significant development at the ITC on these Section 101 issues, the ITC has ordered an early hearing in Certain Portable Electronic Devices and Components Thereof, Inv. No. 337-TA-994, as to whether the asserted claims of the sole patent-in-suit recite patent-eligible subject matter.  According to the complaint, this case involves devices allegedly using the complainants’ patented methods for accessing “media tracks stored on the portable electronic device by navigating through a hierarchical categorization [such as artist name].”

This order is only the third Section 337 investigation designated under the ITC’s Pilot Program for early case disposition.  Both of the previously fast-tracked hearings involved non-patent issues.  The ITC’s fast-tracking of a Section 101 issue in Portable Electronic Devices may signal new uses for the Pilot Program.

Please read our full blog on The Trade Practitioner for more information.