19 USC 1337 (Section 337) authorizes the International Trade Commission (ITC) to investigate complaints filed by owners of US patents against allegedly infringing imports. The ITC is run by a panel of six commissioners each serving a nine-year term.
One of the benefits of filing suit in the ITC is speed. Another benefit is its en rem jurisdiction used to block imports regardless of the location of the maker of the infringing product. Similarly, the ITC can issue broad exclusion orders against an entire product line even if some of the importers were not parties to the litigation. Finally, 271(g) is not a defense to patent infringement in ITC cases.
That said, the number of ITC cases filed each year is relatively small compared with the number of federal district cases. In 2007, for instance, 33 ITC investigations were initiated under Section 337. This number has been on the rise over the past decade.
ITC appeals to the CAFC have also been on the rise. The table below shows both the number of ITC appeals and the number of parties appealing (a single ITC action may investigate multiple accused infringers).