Filed last month by Tate & Lyle's US subsidiary, the case claimed patent infringement against three Chinese manufacturing groups as well as 18 importers and distributors.
The proceedings allege infringement of patented manufacturing technology for the sweetener sucralose, manufactured in China and imported to the US.
For Tate & Lyle, patent protection is vital. The UK-based company has so far enjoyed a virtual monopoly of the sucralose market with its patented Splenda product. Any infringement of this would therefore represent a real threat to its core business.
In response to the complaint, the ITC this week said it will investigate certain sucralose products, sweeterners containing sucralose and related intermediate compounds that infringe patents owned by the company.
Tate & Lyle has requested that the ITC issue a permanent general exclusion order and a permanent cease and desist order.
In a statement, the commission commented that "by instituting this investigation, the ITC has not yet made any decision on the merits of the case."
The case will be referred to an ITC administrative law judge, Charles Bullock, who will schedule and hold an evidentiary hearing. Judge Bullock will make an initial determination as to whether there is a violation of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930. The initial determination is then subject to review by the Commission.
Respondents in the investigation have been identified as the following:
AIDP, of City of Industry, CA; Beijing Forbest Chemical, of China; Beijing Forbest Trade, of China; Forbest International USA, of Edison, NJ; Changzhou Niutang Chemical Plant, of China; US Niutang Chemical, of Brea, CA; CJ America, of Los Angeles, CA; Fortune Bridge, of Elmont, NY; Garuda International, of Exeter, CA; Gremount International, of China; Guangdong Food Industry Institute of China; Hebei Province Chemical Industry Academe of China; Hebei Research Institute of Chemical Industry of China; Hebei Sukerui Science and Technology, of China; Heartland Packaging Corporation of Carmel, IN; L&P Food Ingredient, of China; Lianyungang Natiprol, of China; MTC Industries, of Edgewood, NY; Nantong Molecular Technology, of China; Nu-Scaan Nutraceuticals, of the United Kingdom; ProFood International, of Naperville, IL; Ruland Chemistry, of China; Shanghai Aurisco International of China; Vivion, of San Carlos, CA; and Zhongjin Pharmaceutical (Hong Kong), of Hong Kong.
Last month some of the companies involved in the investigation hit back at the allegations, pledging to vigorously defend themselves.
One of the manufacturing groups Changzhou Niutang Chemical Plant, along with its affiliated entity US Niutang Chemical, issued a statement in response to the allegations.
"Both Changzhou Niutang and US Niutang take these allegations very seriously, but we do not infringe on any of the patents," said Mr Licheng Wang Jr, general manager of Changzhou Niutang Chemical Plant.
"We have always respected the intellectual property rights of others and will continue to do so. Tate & Lyle's claims against Changzhou Niutang and US Niutang are without merit. We intend to defend ourselves vigorously against these allegations and are confident that we will be fully vindicated," he added.
Guangdong Food Industry Institute and L&P Food Ingredient commented that "Tate & Lyle's complaint to the United States International Trade Commission is completely without merit and is an improper attempt to unfairly damage our business and reputation."
"GDFII/L&P stands ready to try to resolve this matter amicably with Tate & Lyle, but will, if necessary, confidently and vigorously defend its position before the ITC."
The ITC said it will make a final determination "at the earliest practicable time".
Within 45 days after institution of the investigation, the ITC will set a target date for completing the investigation.
ITC remedial orders in section 337 cases are effective when issued and become final 60 days after issuance unless disapproved for policy reasons by the US Trade Representative within that 60-day period.