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False Teeth: Why an ITC Case Won’t Chew Up the Internet


Despite much gnashing of teeth about a recent case that turns on a single word in the seemingly arcane 1930 Tariff Act, it’s just not true that The End of The Internet is upon us.

In reality, both the majority and dissenting opinions in the 2014 decision by the International Trade Commission are more like deep anesthetic before an intensive gum cleaning. They both turn on the nitty gritty details of last century’s machinations over the the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act — which you surely thought was safe to purge from your memory after your final high school US history exam.

The key issue in the case, now on appeal at the Federal Circuit, is the ITC’s decision to use its traditional authority over imports in a case involving electronically transmitted “digital articles.” And what began as a simple patent dispute between two manufacturers that make orthodontic appliances has turned into a cause celebre for a vocal cadre of critics who insist the ITC’s ruling will shut down the Internet.

Rest easy; it won’t. The ruling has only a few teeth, and they bite only cheaters.

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