Just one month after the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) issued an important decision in Certain Solid State Storage Drives, Stacked Electronics Components, and Products Containing Same, Inv. No. 337-TA-1097 holding that labor, capital, and employment investments in non-manufacturing activities, such as engineering and research and development, can satisfy Section 337’s domestic industry requirement (see our prior post), it has gone out of its way to issue another opinion reinforcing its earlier reasoning.

The Commission’s opinion comes in Certain Robotic Vacuum Cleaning Devices and Components Thereof Such as Spare Parts, Inv. No. 337-TA-1057.  The presiding ALJ in that case (Judge Pender) had granted summary determination that the Complainant had met the “economic prong” of Section 337’s domestic industry requirement by, among other expenditures, significant investment in engineering labor in the U.S., notwithstanding that the manufacturing of the subject products took place in China.  Even though the ALJ’s analysis, which preceded the Commission’s July 2018 opinion in Storage Drives by many months, conformed to the statutory interpretation by the Commission in that case, the Commission vacated the ALJ’s analysis because it improperly relied on a Commission decision that was not good authority on that point.  Yet, the Commission still affirmed the ALJ’s conclusion that the statutory criteria had been satisfied.

Takeaway:  By vacating the ALJ’s analysis on a technicality, the Commission gave itself another opportunity to reinforce the views it expressed in Storage Devices that the statute’s required plant, labor, or capital investments can be satisfied by engineering and development activities that fit within those general categories.  The Commission’s second opinion in two months on this issue underscores its importance to Section 337 litigation and demonstrates the Commission’s belief in the definitiveness of the statutory interpretation it offered in Storage Devices.