The USITC’s investigation in Certain Carbon and Alloy Steel Products, Inv. No. 337-TA-1002 was instituted to investigate alleged violations of Section 337 by the Chinese steel industry based on claims of trade secret misappropriation, false designation of origin, and antitrust violations. In November of last year, the presiding administrative law judge (as we previously reported) granted respondents’ motion to dismiss the antitrust claims for failing to establish antitrust standing (i.e., plead a cognizable antitrust injury); and, shortly thereafter, the ALJ sua sponte dismissed the false designation of origin claims because the complaint did “not identify a specific instance of importation or sale.” With the recent, voluntary withdrawal of the trade secret claims, no claims remained in the case.
Early Monday, however, the Commission announced that is has determined to reverse the ALJ’s decision concerning the false designation of origin claims and remand the investigation of those claims to the ALJ for further proceedings. The Commission’s opinion explaining its reasons is forthcoming. In a separate document, the Commission announced that it will hold an oral argument concerning the ALJ’s dismissal of the antitrust claims on March 14, 2017, as it previously suggested it was considering doing in a December 19, 2016 notice announcing its decision to review the ALJ’s antitrust ruling (as we previously reported). This announcement is noteworthy, as oral arguments before the Commission in Section 337 cases are extremely rare. That said, the Commission did hold an oral argument in another recent case, so this latest announcement may signal a trend.