Chinese food equipment company wins Section 337 complaint

The U.S. International Trade Commission refused on October 14 to block five Chinese companies' imports of food service equipment that Illinois Tool Works and three affiliates claim is built on intellectual property stolen by former senior employees.

Illinois Tool Works Inc., Vesta Global Ltd., Vesta (Guangzhou) Catering Equipment Co. Ltd., and Admiral Craft Equipment Corp. had accused Chinese manufacturers of importing fryers, convection ovens, griddles, charbroilers, hot plates, stock pots, ranges and cheese melters that essentially duplicated their own products for less using stolen proprietary information.

The ITC on October 14 backed an administrative law judge's finding that the companies failed to prove a domestic industry exists for their products that could have been harmed by the imports, stopping short of ruling on whether the Chinese counterparts misappropriated trade secrets.

Illinois Tool and the three others first lodged their Section 337 complaint with the ITC in May 2019 against Guangzhou Rebenet Catering Equipment Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Zhou Hao, Aceplus International Ltd., Guangzhou Liangsheng Trading Co. Ltd., and Zeng Zhaoliang. The four accused former workers of absconding with proprietary design, supplier, parts, customer and pricing information.