Practice and Procedure
The ITC’s Recent Sua Sponte Use of 100-Day Expedited Adjudication Procedure
Over the last few years, the International Trade Commission (“ITC” or “Commission”) has developed procedural mechanisms geared toward identifying potentially dispositive issues for early disposition in its investigations. These procedures are meant to give respondents an opportunity to litigate a dispositive issue before committing the resources necessary to litigate an entire Section 337 investigation.
In 2018, the ITC adopted 19 C.F.R. § 210.10(b)(3), which provides that “[t]he Commission may order the administrative law judge to issue an initial determination within 100 days of institution . . . ruling on a potentially dispositive issue as set forth in the notice of investigation.” Although the ITC denies the majority of requests by respondents to use this procedural mechanism, the ITC has ordered its ALJs to use this program in a handful of investigations to decide, among other things, whether the asserted patents claim patent-eligible subject matter, whether a complainant has standing to sue, whether a complainant can prove economic domestic industry, and whether claim or issue preclusion applies.
In a recent complaint filed in Certain Selective Thyroid Hormone Receptor-Beta Agonists, Processes for Manufacturing or Relating to Same, and Products Containing Same, Inv. No. 337-TA-1352, Complainant Viking Therapeutics, Inc. (“Viking”) alleged that respondents had misappropriated trade secrets to create their own drug candidates to compete with Viking’s VK2809 (phase 2) clinical drug candidate. As required by Section 337(a)(1)(A) governing trade secret cases, Viking alleged that the respondents’ unfair acts caused injury and threatened to cause injury going forward to Viking’s domestic industry. Viking’s theory of injury was based on the assumption that Viking’s VK2809 drug candidate and respondents’ ASC41 and ASC43F drug candidates would both receive FDA approval, would both launch into the same market, and would compete with one another. Viking’s complaint stated that its domestic industry product drug candidate, VK2809, will be brought to market in 2028.
Unlike past instances where the ITC employed 100-day proceedings, the Commission took the remarkable step of placing this investigation into a 100-day proceeding sua sponte on the issue of injury, even though no respondent raised the issue of injury as a basis to deny institution or order expedited adjudication. See Notice of Institution (Jan. 20, 2023). Respondents had not even argued that Viking’s injury allegations were deficient in their pre-institution filing. Commissioner Schmidtlein wrote separately to express her disagreement with the majority’s decision to order and expedited proceeding, noting that “these issues [are not] suitable for resolution within 100 days.”
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