Trade secret protections are a powerful tool for companies seeking to police international theft of their intellectual property. READ MORE
On Monday, January 9, the Supreme Court denied a petition for certiorari from Sino Legend Chemical Co., Ltd., concluding litigation that began with a Section 337 complaint filed more than four‑and‑a‑half years ago by SI Group, Inc. In January 2014, the International Trade Commission found that Sino Legend, a Chinese company, misappropriated SI Group’s rubber resin trade secrets and issued an exclusion order, barring the importation of Sino Legend products made using these trade secrets for 10 years.
The TSW has extensively covered this case with posts on the ITC Administrative Law Judge’s Initial Determination, the Commission’s decision, the Federal Circuit’s Rule 36 affirmance, and Sino Legend’s cert petition.
The case attracted the attention of the Chinese government, which filed an amicus brief in support of Sino Legend’s cert petition—the first amicus brief ever filed by the Chinese government in the U.S. Supreme Court, according to Sino Legend. The Chinese Trade Remedy and Investigation Bureau (“TRB”), a branch of the Ministry of Commerce, forcefully argued that the Supreme Court should grant Sino Legend’s petition and reverse the ITC’s decision:
The TRB is disappointed by recent actions of the ITC. In wrongly interpreting Section 337 of the Tariff Act to allow the ITC to bar imports into the United States based on alleged actions conducted, and adjudicated, wholly within the borders of China, the ITC has impugned the sovereignty of China and refused to accord the comity expected of a trade partner.
TRB Brief at 2.
The TRB criticized the ITC’s “expansion” of the Federal Circuit’s TianRui decision “to bar products from entering the United States for conduct that not only occurred completely within China’s borders by Chinese citizens working at Chinese companies, but also conduct that was adjudicated in China to have been lawful.” (Id. at 1.) Citing Judge Moore’s dissent, Sino Legend’s petition also criticized TianRui as incompatible with the presumption against extraterritorial application of federal statutes.
The Supreme Court’s denial of Sino Legend’s petition for certiorari is significant because it appears to cement the extraterritorial reach of Section 337 inasmuch as the offending conduct relates to products that are imported into the United States. Thus, the ITC remains a powerful forum for companies with significant operations in the United States to seek redress for misappropriation of trade secrets. Read more broadly, TianRui and its progeny may provide the ITC with the authority to investigate other types of “unfair acts” that occur outside the United States, provided—again—that those acts pertain to products that are imported into the United States.
The ITC Investigation was captioned Certain Rubber Resins and Processes for Manufacturing Same, Inv. No. 337-TA-849.
The Supreme Court docket was captioned Sino Legend (Zhangjiagang) Chem. Co. Ltd. et al. v. Int’l Trade Comm’n et al., No. 16-428.
Here at TSW, we continue to watch closely developments in the Sino Legend v. ITC case. In September, Sino Legend petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari to review whether Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 allows the ITC to adjudicate cases involving allegations of trade secret misappropriation occurring entirely in a foreign country. This week, we summarize the relevant law, background, and the legal basis of Sino Legend’s petition. READ MORE
The Federal Circuit recently issued another Rule 36 affirmance of an International Trade Commission order barring the importation of products made using misappropriated trade secrets. (See our previous post about another Rule 36 affirmance of an ITC trade secrets order here.) This time, the Commission barred for ten years the importation into the U.S. of crawler cranes that relied on the trade secrets at issue. READ MORE
The Federal Circuit has once again affirmed the ITC’s broad jurisdiction to investigate and, if necessary, remedy extraterritorial misappropriation of trade secrets. Based on this and other recent decisions, it looks like the ITC will continue to be a significant forum for trade secret battles. READ MORE
It’s been a hot year in the trade secrets field, with some huge verdicts and settlements, a renewed spotlight on cyberattacks, and an unusual flurry of trade secrets legislation. Trade Secrets Watch’s 2013 Year-in-Review highlights the notable trade secrets activity from the past year. READ MORE
A few months ago, we discussed the federal government’s difficulties prosecuting foreign companies and individuals for theft of U.S. trade secrets. We highlighted three cases in which foreign defendants effectively stalled their criminal prosecutions by challenging the government’s attempts to serve them abroad. These cases raise the concern that complicated U.S. procedural rules are getting in the way of the government’s efforts to protect the nation from cybertheft, and allowing foreign defendants to violate U.S. law with impunity.
Since our original post, we’ve checked the dockets and have an update on what’s been going on with these criminal prosecutions. And the answer is — READ MORE
Revised post available here.
They say politics stops at the water’s edge. Increasingly, so does the power of the United States to thwart trade secret theft.
As the nation struggles to bolster its defenses against cyberattacks, recent cases have highlighted legal loopholes in prosecuting foreign-based companies and individuals for the theft of trade secrets. Defendants have grown adept at exploiting American procedural rules governing such things as service of process to stall prosecutions indefinitely.
Late last month, a federal grand jury in Wisconsin returned an indictment charging Sinovel Wind Group Co. and two of its executives with stealing trade secrets from American Superconductor Corp. (AMSC). Sinovel is China’s third-biggest maker of wind turbines, and until March 2011, AMSC supplied Sinovel with turbine-control software.
According to the indictment, Sinovel owed AMSC more than $100 million for delivered software, products, and services, and had contracted to buy another $700 million worth. But instead of paying its debts and making good on its orders, Sinovel and two of its executives plotted with a former AMSC employee to steal AMSC’s turbine-control source code and use it in Sinovel’s turbines. READ MORE
On the same day last week, two rival rubber resin companies issued press releases — each claiming legal victory in the same trade secret dispute.
SI Group, a developer of rubber resins and tackifiers, touted its “significant victory” over Sino Legend before the U.S. International Trade Commission. On the same day, Sino Legend also claimed victory in a parallel Chinese action when the Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court rejected SI’s claims concerning the same dispute.
SI ’s ITC complaint alleged that Sino Legend misappropriated SI’s secret manufacturing processes by poaching one of SI’s Shanghai-based employees, Xu Jie. Xu was allegedly the only person at the plant who had access to the entirety of SI’s secret manufacturing processes. Shortly after Xu’s departure from SI, Sino Legend began producing competing products. SI accused Sino Legend of using SI’s secret processes and of filing patent applications that contained misappropriated Sino Legend information.
Trade secret theft knows no borders in an age of cybertheft and global corporate espionage. But U.S. district courts are often too slow and procedurally ill-equipped to help in cases of international misappropriation, with several recent cases never getting off the ground because of problems serving foreign defendants. Increasingly, victims of foreign misappropriation are turning to the U.S. International Trade Commission — a body armed to hit back at trade secret thieves anywhere in the world.
For companies seeking to remedy the theft of trade secrets by overseas perpetrators, the options have been limited, especially if the thief or the products the thief produces are outside of the United States. Procedural hurdles like obtaining jurisdiction over a foreign company, or the perpetrator’s resident country being inhospitable to claims by an American victim, can thwart an American corporation’s ability to prosecute the foreign theft of its own trade secrets.
An ITC action doesn’t present these obstacles. READ MORE