As we have previously posted, the ITC currently has two open Commissioner positions after the exits of Commissioners Kieff and Pinkert earlier this year. On September 28, 2017, President Trump announced his nomination of Dennis M. Devaney and Randolph J. Stayin to fill these vacancies. These nominations come with the ITC operating with only four out of six Commissioners and a historically high Section 337 caseload.
In an earlier post, we summarized ALJ McNamara’s recent Summary Determination in Certain UV Curable Coatings For Optical Fibers, Coated Optical Fibers, And Products Containing Same, Inv. No. 337-TA-1031, Order No. 33 (July 6, 2017). The ALJ invalidated claims 16-18, 21, and 30 of U.S. Patent No. 7,706,659, because the recited term “molecular weight” was indefinite. On August 7, 2017, the Commission reversed and vacated the determination. An opinion is forthcoming. We will provide an update when the Commission issues its public opinion.
As noted in a previous post, ALJ Lord issued a domestic industry ruling, which the Commission later vacated without position, finding that R&D-based investments in plant and equipment or labor and capital cannot count towards satisfying subsections (A) or (B) of the domestic industry requirement, 19 U.S.C. § 1337 (a)(3). Two recent decisions from the ITC appear to conflict with ALJ Lord’s position, leaving the issue ripe for the Commission to directly address.
Before 2011, the ITC routinely found violations of Section 337 based on the infringement of method claims through a respondent’s own use of an article post-importation. This changed when the ITC issued its Opinion in Certain Electronic Devices with Image Processing Systems, Components Thereof and Associated, Inv. No. 337-TA-724 (“Electronic Devices”). In that case the ITC held that post-importation direct infringement of a method claim, without a showing of indirect infringement, could not substantiate a violation of Section 337. But the ITC has recently indicated that it is rethinking its Electronics Devices precedent.
Judge McNamara determined to reopen the record after the hearing and take judicial notice of two PTAB decisions denying institution of IPR challenges of the asserted patents in Certain Composite Aerogel Insulation Materials and Methods for Manufacturing the Same, Inv. No. 337-TA-1003. The ALJ’s decision raises interesting issues with respect to the effect of PTAB decisions on Section 337 investigations.