Justia International Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in International Trade
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
Posco v. United States
The U.S. Court of International Trade affirmed the Department of Commerce’s final affirmative determination in the countervailing duty investigation on cold-rolled steel flat products from the Republic of Korea. Commerce determined that the Korean government provided the respondents no financial assistance “because the prices charged to these respondents under the applicable industrial tariff were consistent with KEPCO’s [Korea Electric Power Corporation] standard pricing mechanism.” KEPCO is the state-owned sole provider of electricity in Korea. Commerce found no evidence suggesting that that the respondents received preferential treatment over other industrial users of electricity that purchase comparable amounts of electricity. Commerce did not review quality, availability, marketability, transportation, or other conditions affecting KEPCO’s purchase or sale of electricity.The Federal Circuit vacated. The 1994 Uruguay Round Agreements Act, 19 U.S.C. 3511, changed the definition of what constitutes a benefit conferred. Commerce’s reliance on a preferential-rate standard is inconsistent with the statute, particularly the less-than-adequate-remuneration requirement, and is therefore contrary to law. Commerce’s cost-recovery analysis was limited to discussion of KEPCO’s costs. That limited analysis does not support its conclusion that electricity prices paid to KEPCO by respondents are consistent with prevailing market conditions because Commerce failed to evaluate the Korea Power Exchange’s impact on the Korean electricity market. View "Posco v. United States" on Justia Law
Comcast Corp. v. International Trade Commission
The International Trade Commission (ITC) investigated a complaint under Tariff Act Section 337, alleging that Comcast’s customers directly infringe patents by using Comcast’s X1 system. The patents claim an interactive television program guide system for remote access to television programs. An ALJ found a violation, concluding that the X1 set-top boxes are imported by ARRIS and Technicolor and that Comcast is sufficiently involved with the design, manufacture, and importation of the products, such that it is an importer under Section 337. The ITC affirmed, stating that Comcast induced infringement and that Comcast "instructs, directs, or advises its customers on how to carry out direct infringement.” The ITC affirmed that ARRIS and Technicolor do not directly infringe because they do not provide a “remote access device” as required by the claims and do not contributorily infringe because the set-top boxes have substantial non-infringing uses. The ITC issued a limited exclusion order and cease and desist orders directed to Comcast. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting Comcast’s arguments that its conduct is not actionable under Section 337 because Comcast’s inducing conduct “takes place entirely domestically, well after, and unrelated to," the importation and that Comcast does not itself import the articles. The ITC has authority (19 U.S.C. 1337(d)(1)) to issue an exclusion order that blocks the importation of articles manufactured and imported by ARRIS and Technicolor, despite its determination that they did not violate Section 337 and did not infringe the patents. View "Comcast Corp. v. International Trade Commission" on Justia Law
WesternGeco LLC v. ION Geophysical Corp.
WesternGeco owns patents for a system used to survey the ocean floor. ION sold a competing system, built from components manufactured in the U.S., then shipped abroad for assembly into a system indistinguishable from WesternGeco’s. WesternGeco sued for patent infringement, 35 U.S.C. 271(f)(1) and (f)(2). The jury awarded WesternGeco royalties and lost profits under section 284. The Supreme Court reversed the Federal Circuit, holding that WesternGeco’s award for lost profits was a permissible domestic application of section 284 of the Patent Act, not an impermissible extraterritorial application of section 271. To determine whether the case involves a domestic application of the statute, courts must identify the statute’s "focus” and ask whether the conduct relevant to that focus occurred in U.S. territory. If so, the case involves a permissible domestic application of the statute. When determining the statute’s focus, the provision at issue must be assessed in concert with other provisions. Section 284, the general damages provision, focuses on “the infringement.” The “overriding purpose” is “complete compensation” for infringements. Section 271 identifies several ways that a patent can be infringed; to determine section 284’s focus in a given case, the type of infringement must be identified. Section 271(f)(2) was the basis for WesternGeco’s claim and damages. That provision regulates the domestic act of “suppl[ying] in or from the United States,” and vindicates domestic interests, The focus of section 284 in a case involving infringement under section 271(f)(2) is the act of exporting components from the U.S., so the relevant conduct occurred in the U.S. Damages are not the statutory focus but are merely the means by which the statute remedies infringements. The overseas events giving rise to the lost-profit damages here were merely incidental to the infringement. View "WesternGeco LLC v. ION Geophysical Corp." on Justia Law
Animal Science Products, Inc. v. Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co.
Purchasers of vitamin C filed suit, alleging that Chinese exporters had agreed to fix the price and quantity of vitamin C exported to the U.S., in violation of the Sherman Act. The exporters unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the complaint and later sought summary judgment, arguing that Chinese law required them to fix the price and quantity of exports, shielding them from liability under U.S. antitrust law. China’s Ministry of Commerce, the authority authorized to regulate foreign trade, asserted that the alleged conspiracy was actually a pricing regime mandated by the Chinese Government. The purchasers countered that the Ministry had identified no law or regulation requiring the agreement; highlighted a publication announcing that the sellers had agreed to control the quantity and rate of exports without government intervention; and noted China’s statement to the World Trade Organization that it ended its export administration of vitamin C in 2002. The Second Circuit reversed a verdict for the purchasers, stating that federal courts are “bound to defer” to the foreign government’s construction of its own law, whenever that construction is “reasonable.” The Supreme Court vacated. A federal court determining foreign law under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 44.1 should accord respectful consideration to a foreign government’s submission, but is not bound to accord conclusive effect to such statements. Relevant considerations include the clarity, thoroughness, and support of the foreign government's statement; its context and purpose; the transparency of the foreign legal system; the role and authority of the entity or official offering the statement; and the statement’s consistency with the foreign government’s past positions. Determination of foreign law must be treated as a question of law; courts are not limited to materials submitted by the parties, but “may consider any relevant material or source.” View "Animal Science Products, Inc. v. Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co." on Justia Law
Armada (Singapore) PTE Ltd. v. Amcol International Corp.
Plaintiff, a Singaporean shipping company, entered into shipping contracts with an Indian mining company. The Indian company breached those contracts. Plaintiff believes that American businesses that were the largest stockholders in the Indian company engaged in racketeering activity to divest the Indian company of assets to thwart its attempts to recover damages for the breach. Plaintiff filed suit under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1964(c). While the case was pending, the Supreme Court decided RJR Nabisco v. European Community, holding that “[a] private RICO plaintiff … must allege and prove a domestic injury to its business or property.” The district court granted the American defendants judgment on the RICO claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Plaintiff’s claimed injury—harm to its ability to collect on its judgment and other claims—was economic; economic injuries are felt at a corporation’s principal place of business, and Plaintiff’s principal place of business is in Singapore. The court noted that the district court allowed a maritime fraudulent transfer claim to go forward. View "Armada (Singapore) PTE Ltd. v. Amcol International Corp." on Justia Law