Rather Than Pressuring The ITC Over Key Patent Cases, Congress Should Fix A Broken Patent System
from the stop-the-favoritism,-fix-the-problem dept
For years we’ve talked about how many patent holders these days have two cracks at anyone they accuse of infringing: through the courts and then separately through the ITC, which can issue an injunction (but not monetary awards) that block a product made elsewhere from entering the US. The ITC doesn’t have to follow the same rules as the courts. So, for example, it doesn’t need to abide by specific Supreme Court precedent, which can lead to some wacky outcomes. But, really, it’s just one more example of a broken patent system.
It’s interesting to see that in a high profile case that the ITC is handling, between Intel and X2Y Attentuators LLC — which describes itself as “an intellectual property company” — various members of Congress are so worried about the possibility of an injunction issued against Intel, that they’ve specifically sent a letter to the ITC urging it to “consider the broader public interest” before making a decision. Two letters were sent — one from the two Senators and all five House reps from Oregon, and another from the two Senators and all eight House reps from Arizona — telling the ITC that a ruling against Intel would have a “detrimental effect” on the workforce and such an injunction could “discourage” US production and “could do more harm than good with respect to the public interest.”
While they’re right, this does seem like blatant pandering to constituents. Intel has very large presences in both states (16,000 employees in Oregon and 11,000 in Arizona). However, as the National Law Journal article linked above notes, this is becoming pretty standard, any time a large tech company faces an injunction from the ITC. Its Congressional reps get together and send the ITC a letter. While I agree that these injunctions can do serious harm and the economy, and innovation is much better without the ITC issuing them, it’s troubling to me that these elected officials are resorting to pressuring the ITC, rather than doing what they should: recognizing this is just one small symptom of a truly broken patent system. Instead of trying to pressure that one symptom, why not focus on actually fixing the problems of the patent system? If they want a starting point, we’ve got some ideas.