The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) has voted to institute an investigation of certain electric firelplaces, components thereof, and manuals for same, processes for manufacturing or relating to same, and products containing same. The products at issue in this investigation are electric fireplaces and fireplace inserts designed to approximate the look of a real, wood-burning fireplace.
The investigation is based on a complaint filed by Twin-Star International, Inc., of Delray Beach, FL, and TS Investment Holding Corp. of Miami, FL, on December 13, 2011. The complaint alleges violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 in the importation into the United States and sale of certain electric fireplaces, components thereof, and manuals for same, processes for manufacturing or relating to same, and products containing same that misappropriate trade secrets and infringe copyrights asserted by the complainants. The complaints also allege violations of section 337 based on breach of contract and tortious interference with contract. The complainants request that the USITC issue an exclusion order and a cease and desist order and an order instructing respondents to immediately and verifiably turn over to complainants all documents and things in their possession, custody or control that contain or embody complainants' trade secrets or any information derived from complainants' trade secrets.
The USITC has identified the following as respondents in this investigation:
Shenzhen Reliap Industrial Co. of China;
Yue Qiu Sheng (aka Jason Yue) of China; and
Whalen Furniture Manufacturing Inc. of San Diego, CA.
By instituting this investigation (337-TA-826), the USITC has not yet made any decision on the merits of the case. However, the USITC has determined to consolidate this investigation with a related investigation (337-TA-791). The USITC's Chief Administrative Law Judge will assign the consolidated case to one of the USITC's six administrative law judges (ALJ), who will schedule and hold an evidentiary hearing. The ALJ will make an initial determination as to whether there is a violation of section 337; that initial determination is subject to review by the Commission.
The USITC will make a final determination in the consolidated investigation at the earliest practicable time. Within 45 days after institution of the investigation, the USITC will set a new target date for completing the investigation. USITC remedial orders in section 337 cases are effective when issued and become final 60 days after issuance unless disapproved for policy reasons by the U.S. Trade Representative within that 60-day period.