Commission Awaits PTAB Result – Sometimes

Under Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, the International Trade Commission (ITC) is required to conclude its investigations and make determinations “at the earliest practicable time.” 19 U.S.C. § 1337(b)(1). This mandate for speed in ITC proceedings drives the Commission forward despite parallel Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) proceedings. The fact that the ITC, unlike district courts, cannot award monetary relief only contributes further to the Commission’s aversion to stays pending PTAB review.

Increasingly, however, PTAB proceedings concluding prior to enforcement, are catching the eye of the Commission. In such scenarios, an adverse PTAB ruling against a subject patent can result in a suspension of enforcement.


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General Plastic Factors & Follow-on Petitions

Last September, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) held that the advanced state of a district court proceeding militated in favor of denying a petition for IPR in accordance with the General Plastic factors (NHK Spring Co. Ltd. v. Intri-Plex Technologies Inc). Given this holding, Patent Owners may now consider speedier forums, such as the International Trade Commission (ITC) as providing incremental protection from a PTAB challenge.

Last week, the Board clarified that consideration of late stage parallel proceedings is done only in the context of assessing discretionary institution of “follow-on” petitions under 35 U.S.C. § 314(a).  In doing so, the Board also highlighted that an advancing ITC action (even in a follow-on petition scenario) may be of a lesser concern than a district court proceeding given its unique nature.
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