Addressing an International Trade Commission (ITC) refusal to enter an exclusion order against defaulting respondents, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed, holding that the ITC is required to grant relief in the case of default unless there are public interest concerns. Laerdal Medical Corp. v. ITC, Case No. 17-2445 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 7, 2018) (O’Malley, J).

In early 2016, Laerdal filed a complaint at the ITC seeking an investigation based on allegations of infringement of its patents, trademark, trade dress and copyrights by nine foreign entities and a domestic distributor, after it had previously obtained default judgments against two of the entities in separate district court actions. Prior to its institution decision, the ITC staff requested supplemental information as to some of the allegations. Laerdal provided the requested information, and the ITC instituted an investigation as to a subset of the allegations. None of the respondents submitted an answer to the complaint or otherwise appeared, and the administrative law judge entered an initial determination finding the respondents in default. However, the full Commission entered a final determination that only granted relief as to some of the instituted grounds, and denied relief for other grounds for which it found the allegations insufficient. Laerdal appealed.

The Federal Circuit held that the ITC lacked the discretion to deny relief for instituted grounds under § 337. According to the Court, the ITC’s consideration of the sufficiency of the pleadings must form part of the institution decision. As a result, the institution amounted to a holding that the pleadings were sufficient, making relief as to those instituted grounds mandatory unless precluded by public interest concerns. The Court therefore reversed the denial of relief and remanded the case with instructions to issue the requested relief after considering any public interest factors.