If anyone needed more evidence that the U.S. International Trade Commission is paying a lot of attention to standard-essential patents and FRAND-related issues, they received some yesterday. The Office of Unfair Import Investigations (OUII), a neutral third party who commonly participates in ITC investigations as a representative of the public interest, notified the ITC that it would be participating in the two ongoing Section 337 actions involving competing SEP infringement claims from Samsung and Ericsson (Inv. No. 337-TA-862 and Inv. No. 337-TA-866).
Due to the large number of ITC investigations and OUII’s limited resources, the “Staff” (a common nickname for OUII) does not participate in every case. What’s noteworthy here is not that the Staff has chosen to participate in these investigations — it’s that in each case, the Staff has limited its participation to issues relating to the standard-essential patents involved. The Staff also specifically notes that it will participate in “public interest related issues [i.e., whether an exclusion order is appropriate for SEPs], and issues relating to Respondents’ FRAND and/or standard-essential patent-related defenses.”
This is just the latest example of the ITC’s focus on standard-essential patents. And don’t forget, the Staff will likely receive some guidance from the Commission stemming from Inv. No. 337-TA-794 (Samsung-Apple) later this spring.