A case was brought before the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) where Align Technology sought to block the “importation” of the patent infringing technology. A company named “Align Technology” holds a series of patents relating to the Invisalign system, which is used to straighten teeth and A company named “ClearCorrect”, however, began infringing on those patents by having its offices in Pakistan do the “staging” of the appliances, which are sent back to the United States for 3D printing.

Even though, the importing was purely digital, The ITC stated that it could block that importation, giving itself the ability to block content from being imported to the U.S. via the Web

This case falls under the category of patent case, other literary and artistic industries keenly interested to know how it could impact copyright as the ITC also is responsible for blocking the importing of copyright infringing goods. Question arises here, if the ITC has the power to block patent-infringing works over the Web, it could theoretically do the same with copyright-infringing ones as well.

Who is ITC: The ITC otherwise USITC was established by the U.S. Congress on September 8, 1916, as the U.S. Tariff Commission In 1974, the name was changed to the U.S. International Trade Commission by section 171 of the Trade Act of 1974. The agency has broad investigative powers on matters of trade. The USITC is a national resource where trade data is gathered and analyzed. This data is provided to the President and Congress as part of the information on which U.S. international trade policy is based.

Although the USITC is not a court, its administrative law judges conduct trial-type official administrative hearings. If a Section 337 Tariff Act complaint has at least three votes from its six Commissioners, an official investigative hearing will be assigned to an administrative law judge. Several dozen new USITC investigations are filed every year. Judicial review is normally exercised by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit After the parties have had the opportunity to conduct fact and expert discovery to develop their respective legal positions, the ALJ (administrative law judge) holds a formal, evidentiary hearing, or trial. There is no jury: rather, it is a bench trial. About three months after considering the arguments of the parties, the ALJ renders an initial determination (ID). The full ITC reviews and may adopt, modify or reverse the ALJ’s initial determination. The ITC’s final determination is usually issued about four months after the ALJ’s ID.

Significance of the case:  how ITC has powers to block digital imports into the United States this could lead the ITC having broad authority to block and limit copyright infringing material being transmitted to the United States. The applicability is unknown, but it would be a potentially far-reaching power for an organization that has had little attention paid to it in other copyright matters.

ITC states that, it is downplaying the significance, saying that it’s just “a case about teeth.” But while it may be a case about teeth, most agree it’s a case that potentially has teeth of its own.

The reason for denial: The ITC is relatively obscure, patent law isn’t play thing and, as the ITC said, this is a case about teeth.

Actually, the case got more attention among the 3D printing community and has only recently been noticed at all by the copyright community, despite the clearly possible implications.

All in all, it’s a bizarre case that only impacts copyright in a roundabout way, but it could be a very big way.

Keywords: ITC, Copyright infringement, digital importing, Dentures.