Section 337 of the Tariff Act: Fighting Distortionary Import Trade and Strengthening American Intellectual Property Rights

Free trade policies promote a strong economy and protect the rights of individuals to pursue their own interests. The full benefits of international trade will not be realized, however, if sales and purchase decisions are distorted by anticompetitive behavior or other illegitimate commercial conduct that undermines market forces. The provision of U.S. trade law that is targeted most specifically at anticompetitive and other harmful business conduct affecting American imports is Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930. Section 337 condemns as illegal imports that violate U.S. intellectual property rights related to a U.S. industry or involve “unfair methods of competition and unfair acts” that harm a U.S. industry. Congressional consideration of reforms that address policy constraints on its application, potential limitations on its reach, and the breadth of the conduct it covers could help Section 337 to become an even more valuable tool with which to protect U.S. intellectual property rights and combat truly unfair competition in a manner that is consistent with general free trade principles.

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