Justia International Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in International Trade
USA v. Sotis
In the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the case involved Peter Sotis, who was convicted for violating export controls. He had conspired to export diving equipment, specifically rebreathers, to Libya without a license, despite the Department of Commerce requiring a license to export certain products to Libya that implicate the United States’ national security interests.Sotis challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support each count of his conviction, the opinion testimony presented at trial, and the reasonableness of his 57-month sentence. He argued that there was insufficient evidence to prove willfulness, to prove that he and another individual had acted in conspiracy, and to prove that the rebreathers were closed-circuit, which would have resulted in a material and prejudicial variance from the indictment. He also claimed that one expert witness and one lay witness invaded the province of the jury by opining on an ultimate issue in the case.The Court of Appeals found that there was sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find that Sotis had sufficient knowledge of the illegality of his conduct to have willfully violated the export control laws. The Court also found that the government sufficiently proved that Sotis conspired with another individual to violate the export control laws. Moreover, the Court rejected Sotis's argument that there was a material variance between the indictment and the evidence presented at trial.Regarding the expert and lay witness testimonies, the Court held that the testimonies were not improper. The Court also found that the district court did not err in applying the sentencing guidelines and that Sotis's sentence was not substantively unreasonable. As a result, the Court affirmed Sotis's conviction and sentence. View "USA v. Sotis" on Justia Law
MAGID GLOVE & SAFETY MANUFACTURING CO. LLC v. US
The case involves the classification of certain knit gloves with partial plastic coating under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision of the United States Court of International Trade that the gloves are properly classified under heading 6116. The plaintiff, Magid Glove & Safety Manufacturing Co. LLC, imported the gloves from China and South Korea and argued that the gloves should have been classified under subheading 3926.20.10, a duty-free provision. However, the Court of International Trade and the Court of Appeals disagreed, stating that the gloves are not "of plastics" as required by heading 3926, but are "knitted" as described by heading 6116. The Court of Appeals also rejected the plaintiff's argument that Section XI Note 1(h) and the "completely embedded" test applied in a previous case excluded the gloves from classification under heading 6116. The court concluded that the term "completely embedded" does not appear in Section XI Note 1(h) or the two competing headings in this case and is not applicable to the classification of the gloves. View "MAGID GLOVE & SAFETY MANUFACTURING CO. LLC v. US" on Justia Law
SAHA THAI STEEL PIPE PUBLIC COMPANY LIMITED v. US
In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit was asked to review a decision by the United States Court of International Trade. The dispute arose from an anti-dumping investigation conducted by the Department of Commerce into the sale of certain welded carbon steel pipes from Thailand, specifically those sold by Saha Thai Steel Pipe Public Company Limited and Thai Premium Pipe Company Ltd.The Department of Commerce initially found that the costs of producing these pipes were distorted by a "particular market situation" (PMS) in Thailand that affected the cost of hot rolled steel coil, a crucial component in the production of these pipes. As a result, the Department made upward adjustments to the production costs of these companies when calculating the anti-dumping margins, which impacted the duty rates assigned to each company. This decision was challenged in the Court of International Trade, which found that the Department had overstepped its statutory authority.The Court of International Trade ruled, based on the precedent set in Hyundai Steel Co. v. United States, that the Department of Commerce was not allowed to make a PMS adjustment to the cost of production when determining anti-dumping margins. The court remanded the case to the Department to recalculate the dumping margins without the PMS adjustment.The case was subsequently appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The appellant, Wheatland Tube Company, argued that this case could be distinguished from Hyundai Steel because the Department had relied on a subsection of the statute to adjust the cost of production upward to account for a PMS by framing it as a constructed value calculation. The Court of Appeals disagreed, affirming the lower court's decision and holding that the statute does not authorize PMS adjustments to cost of production calculations, regardless of how the Department attempted to frame it. View "SAHA THAI STEEL PIPE PUBLIC COMPANY LIMITED v. US " on Justia Law
Steven Greenbaum v. Islamic Republic of Iran
The United States seized oil cargo it claims belongs to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Appellants attached the oil in order to satisfy money judgments they hold against Iran. The district court upheld the United States' claim of sovereign immunity and quashed the attachments. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment. The court held (1) federal sovereign immunity prevents the attachment and garnishment of oil proceeds in a bank account of the United States and (2) the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 (TRIA) does not waive that immunity. The court explained that the TRIA does not expressly mention the United States, its sovereign immunity, or its susceptibility to suit under the statute. Because the TRIA has nothing express to say about federal sovereign immunity, the notwithstanding clause cannot aid Appellants. Because sovereign immunity prevents Appellants from taking further steps to seize the proceeds from the United States’ sale of the contested oil, the court wrote it has no occasion to reach the alternative grounds for affirmance raised by the Government. View "Steven Greenbaum v. Islamic Republic of Iran" on Justia Law
Laydon v. Coöperatieve Rabobank U.A., et al.
Plaintiff brought this putative class action against more than twenty banks and brokers, alleging a conspiracy to manipulate two benchmark rates known as Yen-LIBOR and Euroyen TIBOR. Plaintiff brought claims under the Commodity Exchange Act (“CEA”), and the Sherman Antitrust Act, and sought leave to assert claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). The district court dismissed the CEA and antitrust claims and denied leave to add the RICO claims. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the district court erred by holding that the CEA claims were impermissibly extraterritorial, that he lacked antitrust standing to assert a Sherman Act claim, and that he failed to allege proximate causation for his proposed RICO claims. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the conduct—i.e., that the bank defendants presented fraudulent submissions to an organization based in London that set a benchmark rate related to a foreign currency—occurred almost entirely overseas. Indeed, Plaintiff fails to allege any significant acts that took place in the United States. Plaintiff’s CEA claims are based predominantly on foreign conduct and are thus impermissibly extraterritorial. Further, the court wrote that the district court also correctly concluded that Plaintiff lacked antitrust standing because he would not be an efficient enforcer of the antitrust laws. Lastly, the court agreed that Plaintiff failed to allege proximate causation for his RICO claims. View "Laydon v. Coöperatieve Rabobank U.A., et al." on Justia Law
Aldossari v. Ripp
In the 1990s, Aldossari’s company, Trans Gulf, entered into an agreement in Saudi Arabia with three other businesses to establish and operate an oil refinery in Saint Lucia, a Caribbean island nation. Crude oil was to be sourced from the Saudi government or its national oil company, Saudi Aramco. The project went forward, but, Aldossari alleged, the owners of the three contract counterparties – one of whom became the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia –refused to pay Trans Gulf its share of the proceeds. Two decades later, the soon-to-be Crown Prince promised to pay Aldossari but never did. Aldossari, transferred his rights to his minor son, a U.S. citizen.The federal district court dismissed Aldossari’s subsequent tort and contract claims. The Third Circuit affirmed, holding that dismissal of the claims against a deceased defendant was proper because Aldossari failed to allege any basis for exercising subject-matter jurisdiction over those claims. As for the surviving defendants, the lack of any meaningful ties between those defendants and the United States in Aldossari’s claims defeats his effort to sue them in the U.S. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act precludes subject-matter jurisdiction over the claims against Saudi Arabia and Saudi Aramco. The case was remanded with directions to dismiss without prejudice since none of the dispositive rulings reach the merits. View "Aldossari v. Ripp" on Justia Law
NBA Properties, Inc. v. HANWJH
NBA Properties owns the trademarks of the NBA and NBA teams. In 2020, a Properties investigator accessed HANWJH’s online Amazon store and purchased an item, designating an address in Illinois as the delivery destination. The product was delivered to the Illinois address. Properties sued, alleging trademark infringement and counterfeiting, 15 U.S.C. 1114 and false designation of origin, section 1125(a). Properties obtained a TRO and a temporary asset restraint on HANWJH’s bank account, then moved for default; despite having been served, HANWJH had not answered or otherwise defended the suit. HANWJH moved to dismiss, arguing that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over it because it did not expressly aim any conduct at Illinois. HANWJH maintained that it had never sold any other product to any consumer in Illinois nor had it any “offices, employees,” “real or personal property,” “bank accounts,” or any other commercial dealings with Illinois.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion to dismiss and the entry of judgment in favor of Properties. HANWJH shipped a product to Illinois after it structured its sales activity in such a manner as to invite orders from Illinois and developed the capacity to fill them. HANWJH’s listing of its product on Amazon.com and its sale of the product to counsel are related sufficiently to the harm of likelihood of confusion. Illinois has an interest in protecting its consumers from purchasing fraudulent merchandise. HANWJH alleges no unusual burden in defending the suit in Illinois. View "NBA Properties, Inc. v. HANWJH" on Justia Law
Ratha v. Phatthana Seafood Co. Ltd.
Cambodian villagers who alleged that they were trafficked into Thailand and subjected to forced labor at seafood processing factories sued under the civil remedy provision of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, 18 U.S.C. 1595. The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants.Section 1596 authorizes extraterritorial application of the Act for specific criminal trafficking offenses. Even assuming that section 1595 permits a private cause of action for extraterritorial violations of section 1596's substantive provisions if other requirements are satisfied, certain defendants were not “present in the United States” at any time relevant to the lawsuit as section 1596 requires. Even if section 1596 requires foreign companies to possess nothing more than minimum contacts with the United States, the plaintiffs did not meet that standard. The record did not support either specific or general jurisdiction as a basis for finding minimum contacts. The court rejected an argument that certain defendants were present in the U.S. through an agency relationship or joint venture with a Delaware LLC with its principal place of business in California. The plaintiffs failed to establish a triable issue that a Thai company registered to conduct business in California knowingly benefitted from the alleged human trafficking and forced labor abuses, financially and by accessing a steady stream of imported seafood. View "Ratha v. Phatthana Seafood Co. Ltd." on Justia Law
Ayla, LLC v. Alya Skin Pty. Ltd.
Ayla, a San Francisco-based brand, is the registered owner of trademarks for use of the “AYLA” word mark in connection with on-site beauty services, online retail beauty products, cosmetics services, and cosmetics. Alya Skin, an Australian company, sells and ships skincare products worldwide. Ayla sued in the Northern District of California, asserting trademark infringement and false designation of origin under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1114, 1125(a).Alya Skin asserted that it has no retail stores, offices, officers, directors, employees, bank accounts, or real property in the U.S., does not sell products in U.S. retail stores, solicit business from Americans, nor direct advertising toward California; less than 10% of its sales have been to the U.S. and less than 2% of its sales have been to California. Alya Skin uses an Idaho company to fulfill shipments outside of Australia and New Zealand. Alya Skin filed a U.S. trademark registration application in 2018, and represented to potential customers that its products are FDA-approved; it ships from, and allows returns to, Idaho Alya Skin’s website listed U.S. dollars as the default currency and advertises four-day delivery to the U.S.The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit. Jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(2) comports with due process. Alya Skin had minimum contacts with the U.S., and subjecting it to an action in that forum would not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. The company purposefully directed its activities toward the U.S. The Lanham Act and unfair competition claims arose out of or resulted from Alya Skin’s intentional forum-related activities. View "Ayla, LLC v. Alya Skin Pty. Ltd." on Justia Law
Animal Science Products, Inc. v. Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.
Plaintiffs, American purchasers of bulk Vitamin C, filed a class action alleging that four Chinese exporters of Vitamin C conspired to inflate prices and restrict supply in violation of the Sherman Act and the Clayton Act. The district court denied defendants' motion to dismiss on the basis of the act of state doctrine, foreign sovereign compulsion, and international comity. After the district court denied defendants' motion for summary judgment, the case proceeded to trial where all defendants settled except for Hebei and its parent company NCPG. Following the jury verdict, the district court entered treble damages against Hebei and NCPG and denied their renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law. The Second Circuit reversed. The Supreme Court then reversed the Second Circuit's judgment and remanded.On remand from the Supreme Court, the Second Circuit once again concluded that this case should be dismissed on international comity grounds. Giving careful consideration but not conclusive deference to the views of the Ministry of Commerce of the People's Republic of China, the court read the relevant Chinese regulations—as illuminated by contemporaneous administrative documents and industry reports—to have required defendants to collude on Vitamin C export prices and quantities as part and parcel of China's export regime for Vitamin C. The court balanced this true conflict between U.S. and Chinese law together with other established principles of international comity, declining to construe U.S. antitrust law to reach defendants' conduct. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with instructions to dismiss the case. View "Animal Science Products, Inc. v. Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd." on Justia Law