Today a letter from the leaders (chairmen and ranking members) of the intellectual property and antitrust subcomittees of the House of Representatives, which is dated May 10, 2013, entered the electronic document system of the United States International Trade Commission (USITC, or just ITC). The letter is part of the public record in the investigation of Samsung's complaint against Apple, a final ruling on which is scheduled to come down on May 31 (next week's Friday) and will apparently have to address issues specific to the pursuit of exclusion orders over standard-essential patents (SEPs). The letter takes no position on the merits of this particular case, but "reiterates the prior request [made by the bipartisan leadership of the Committee on the Judiciary in June 2012] that the Commission carefully assess the substantial public interest considerations that exist with regards to this and other cases at the ITC in which SEPs are at issue".
These are the signatories:
Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet:
Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law:
Here's the letter along with the attached letter sent during the previous legislative term (this post continues below the document):
The ITC won't have forgotten about last year's letter from the Committee on the Judiciary, but in the meantime there have been elections and this is a reminder that the 113th Congress is still keeping an eye on these SEP issues. Should lawmakers feel that the ITC facilitates SEP abuse, they could always reform Section 337, the statute governing the ITC's intellectual property infringement investigations. There are already three other patent reform proposals in Congress (SHIELD Act, Patent Quality Improvement Act, and the End Anonymous Patents Act), but if need be, there can always be a fourth to deal with the ITC's jurisdiction over certain categories of cases.
This continued vigilance of Capitol Hill with respect to SEP issues in general and at the ITC in particular also makes it harder for other SEP-asserting ITC complainants such as InterDigital and Ericsson to obtain exclusion orders (import bans).
It will be very interesting to see next week what positions the ITC takes on SEP issues, even more so after a federal district judge in California just barred an ITC complainant from enforcing an exclusion order should he win one.
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