Digital import suffices for jurisdiction of the US International Trade Commission in patent infringement

Update November 2015 the CA reversed the finding of jurisdiction on 10 November 2015, confining it to material items. However its judgment was not unanimous (one dissent) nor unequivocal in argument. The case is likely therefore to be continued.

Update 26 August 2015 the CA reportedly was skeptical of the jurisdictional line taken by the ITC, citing in particular enforcement challenges as well as seperation of powers: extension of jurisdiction such as in this case may have to be determined by Congress, not by a regulator.

Update 4 August 2015: the US Court of Appeals will hear arguments on the case mid August.

The US International Trade Commission has held (in re Align Technology Inc, 337-TA-833) that electronic /digital import of plans and manuals with a view to producing moulds for dental aligners (braces) suffices to give the ITC jurisdiction. As I understand the case, the companies violating Align Technology’s patents were based in Pakistan, without domestic residence of any kind in the United States. The data were then used by US-based dental practices to produce the braces.

The foreign residence of the patent infringers fed into arguments made by defendants that a cease and desist order by the ITC would be very difficult to enforce, an argument against upholding jurisdiction in the first place. The ITC was not swayed.

I understand Google, among others, argued that digital data do not qualify as ‘articles’ under relevant US law. Reminiscent to some degree of the dismissal of Google’s arguments by JÄÄSKINEN AG in  Google Spain, the ITC disagreed: digital data are very real articles as, I would argue, the massive market for digital download already amply illustrates.


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