On August 19, 2015, ALJ Theodore R. Essex issued the public version of Order No. 12 (dated July 29, 2015) in Certain Stainless Steel Products, Certain Processes for Manufacturing or Relating to Same and Certain Products Containing Same (Inv. No. 337-TA-933).
By way of background, this investigation is based on a September 5, 2014 complaint filed by Valbruna Slater Stainless, Inc., Valbruna Stainless Inc., and Acciaierie Valbruna S.p.A. (collectively, "Valbruna") alleging violation of Section 337 in the importation into the U.S. and sale of certain stainless steel products manufactured using Valbruna's allegedly stolen trade secrets. See our September 8, 2014 and October 9, 2014 posts for more details on the complaint and Notice of Investigation, respectively.
According to the Order, Respondents Viraj Profiles Limited; Viraj -U.S.A., Inc.; Flanschenwerk Bebitz GmBH; Bebitz Flanges Works, Pvt. Ltd.; Bebitz U.S.A.; Ta Chen International, Inc.; and Ta Chen Stainless Steel Pipe Co., Ltd.'s (collectively, "Respondents") filed a motion to strike Valbruna's thirteen (13) newly-asserted Operating Practices. At issue were 13 Confidential Operating Practices ("COPs") that Valbruna identified after the January 13, 2015 deadline set by the ALJ. Specifically, the Order noted that Valbruna was ordered in Order No. 6 to "identify all Confidential Operating Practices which Valbruna is asserting against Respondents." The Order further noted that Order No. 6 defined "Confidential Operating Practices" as "documents (whether in printed or electronic form) memorializing a Private Party's production process for producing stainless steel, including, but not limited to the precise quantity and mix of inputs and processing times and temperatures."
In support of their motion, Respondents argued that Valbruna's failure to comply with the deadline was not a mere technical infraction because the ITC has held that timely compliance is essential to a fair and expeditious investigation. Respondents further asserted that Valbruna failed to provide any evidence of good cause for the untimely addition of 13 COPs. The Commission Investigative Staff supported Respondents' motion to strike based on the same arguments presented by Respondents.
In opposition, Valburna argued that they added the 13 new COPs based on information produced by Respondents after the January 13th deadline.
ALJ Essex held that Valbruna failed to present persuasive evidence of good cause for the untimely addition of 13 COPs. Specifically, ALJ Essex noted that "at no point in its response do Complainants explain what, specifically, in Respondents' later production led to the identification of the additional COPs." Additionally, ALJ Essex rejected Valbruna's argument that the late submission should be allowed because Respondents are not prejudiced. Specifically, ALJ Essex held that "lack of prejudice to Respondents is not a reason to allow Valbruna's late supplementation." Accordingly, ALJ Essex granted Respondents' motion to strike.