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The Director General of a Mexican government-owned corporation, Exportadora de Sal (ESSA), entered into a long-term, multimillion dollar contract with another Mexican corporation, Packsys, to sell the briny residue from its salt production process. Because the Director General did not have actual authority to execute the contract, ESSA invoked sovereign immunity when a suit was filed in the United States. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Packsys's suit based on lack of jurisdiction. The panel declined to create a new rule that would extend the commercial activity exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) to embrace activities of a foreign agent having only apparent authority to engage in them. The panel also did not accept that principles of ratification or waiver improved Packsys's position. Therefore, ESSA properly invoked sovereign immunity under the FSIA. View "Packsys v. Exportadora de Sal" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an antitrust case based on the act of state doctrine. Plaintiffs alleged an antitrust conspiracy between a Mexican salt production corporation 51 percent owned by the government of Mexico and a Japanese entity that held the remaining ownership interest. The panel held that this case was fundamentally a challenge to the United Mexican States' determination about the exploitation of its own natural resources, made by a corporation owned and controlled by the Mexican government. The panel noted that this decision was not a license for courts to dismiss cases on act of state grounds whenever a foreign state-owned enterprise was involved. Rather, the panel held merely that on the facts of this case, application of the act of state doctrine was appropriate to preclude its consideration of the action. View "Sea Breeze Salt, Inc. v. Mitsubishi Corp." on Justia Law

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The patent describes an ATM, capable of performing banking transactions, including “automatically depositing a bundle of cashes and cheques inserted at once” by separating deposited bundles into individual banknotes; verifying the authenticity or abnormality of each note; sorting and processing the notes based on how each was verified; and preparing the notes for storage safes. One component recited in each of the nine claims is a “cheque standby unit.” The specification does not mention a “cheque standby unit,” but references a “cheque temporary standby unit” in three portions of the detailed description. The International Trade Commission found that Diebold violated section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 by importing ATM components that infringe the claims, all of which recite the term “cheque standby unit.” The Federal Circuit reversed, finding that the term “cheque standby unit” is a means-plus-function term subject to 35 U.S.C. 112, para. 6, which lacks corresponding structure disclosed in the specification. The claimed function is “holding the at least one authentic cheque to return the at least one authentic cheque to the user responsive to receiving user instructions canceling depositing of the at least one authentic cheque.” A person of ordinary skill in the art would be unable to recognize the structure in the specification and associate it with the corresponding function in the claim. View "Diebold Nixdorf, Inc. v. International Trade Commission" on Justia Law

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Gerson imports finished decorative candle and tea light lamps made of plastic and/or wax, designed to resemble ordinary candles, but using battery-operated LEDs, and serving both decorative and illuminative functions. Customs liquidated the merchandise under HTSUS subheading 9405.40.80, which imposes a duty rate of 3.9%, and reads: Lamps and lighting fittings including searchlights and spotlights and parts thereof, not elsewhere specified or included; illuminated signs, illuminated nameplates and the like, having a permanently fixed light source, and parts thereof not elsewhere specified or included: 40 Other electric lamps and lighting fittings. Gerson argued that it should have been classified under subheading 8543.70.70, which imposes a rate of 2%, and reads: Electrical machines and apparatus, having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in this chapter; parts thereof: 70 Other machines and apparatus: 70 Electric luminescent lamps. The Federal Circuit affirmed judgment in favor of the government. Gerson’s reading would impermissibly expand the scope of heading 8543, unduly narrow the scope of heading 9405, and be inconsistent with the World Customs Organization’s Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes, which suggest that chapter 94 is reserved for finished household lamps like Gerson’s candles, while chapter 85 is reserved for unfinished lamps used in conjunction with other electrical devices. View "Gerson Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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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

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If the International Trade Commission (ITC) determines that an article is being imported into the U.S. in such increased quantities as to be a substantial cause of serious injury or the threat thereof, to the competitive domestic industry, the President “shall take all appropriate and feasible action ... which the President determines will facilitate efforts by the domestic industry to make a positive adjustment to import competition and provide greater economic and social benefits than costs, 19 U.S.C. 2251(a). A U.S. manufacturer requested that the President protect U.S. solar manufacturers against foreign imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells. The ITC made an affirmative serious injury determination; the Commissioners were divided with respect to relief. The ITC reported on imports from Canada under the NAFTA Implementation Act, finding that Canada contributed roughly 2% of the relevant imports during the applicable period. Imports from Canada declined in 2015-2016. ITC found that Canadian imports did not “contribute importantly” to the serious injury. In 2018, the President announced a four-year safeguard, including a 30- percent tariff on solar products, whether assembled as cells or modules; finding that imports from Canada accounted for a substantial share and contributed importantly to the serious injury or threat, he did not exempt Canadian imports. Canadian manufacturers and a U.S. importer filed suit. The Federal Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction, holding that the President’s actions here were lawful, so there was no probability of success on the merits as required for a preliminary injunction. View "Silfab Solar, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Department of Commerce published antidumping and countervailing duty orders on certain crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells imported from China (CSPV Orders). Sunpreme, a U.S. company, imports solar modules produced in China that are composed, in part, of solar cells designed, developed, and tested at Sunpreme’s California facility. Sunpreme’s solar modules had been imported as entry type “01,” ordinary consumption entries not subject to any antidumping or countervailing duties. In April 2015, Customs requested that Sunpreme file its entries under type “03,” entries subject to duties. Sunpreme provided Customs with lab results from an independent third party and invited Customs to its California facility to observe its production process, arguing that its products were not within the scope of the CSPV orders. Customs performed its own laboratory testing. Sunpreme sought relief in the Trade Court. Commerce initiated a formal scope inquiry. The Trade Court issued a preliminary injunction, holding that Customs acted outside its authority in its unilateral interpretation of the scope language of the CSPV Orders to include Sunpreme’s solar modules. Commerce issued its final scope determination concluding that Sunpreme’s products fall within the scope of those Orders. The Federal Circuit reversed, holding that the Trade Court lacked jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1581. Sunpreme was required to exhaust administrative remedies by a scope ruling inquiry and scope ruling determination. View "Sunpreme Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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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

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The Commerce Department's duty orders concerning aluminum extrusions from China cover “aluminum extrusions” described as "parts for final finished products that are assembled after importation.” The scope “includes the aluminum extrusion components that are attached (e.g., by welding or fasteners) to form subassemblies, i.e., partially assembled merchandise” but “excludes finished merchandise containing aluminum extrusions as parts that are fully and permanently assembled and completed at the time of entry.” The orders also exclude goods containing aluminum extrusions that are entered unassembled in a “finished goods kit, a packaged combination of parts that contains all of the necessary parts to fully assemble a final finished good without further finishing, such as cutting or punching, for assembly “as is” into a finished product, except that “[a]nimported product will not be considered a finished goods kit "merely by including fasteners such as screws, bolts.” Whirlpool requested a scope ruling concerning its kitchen appliance door handles with end caps. Commerce found that the handles were within the Orders’ scope. The Federal Circuit held that substantial evidence supports Commerce’s Scope Ruling. The exception for fasteners unambiguously applies only to the finished goods kit exclusion and not to the finished merchandise exclusion; because the finished goods kit exclusion is inapplicable to Whirlpool’s assembled handles, so is the fasteners exception to the finished goods kit exclusion. The court remanded for a determination of whether Whirlpool’s assembled handles meet the requirements for the finished merchandise exclusion. View "Whirlpool Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The U.S. Department of Commerce determined that certain extruded aluminum door handles for kitchen appliances that are packaged with two plastic end caps and two screws were within the scope of antidumping and countervailing duty orders applicable to aluminum extrusions from China. The duty order describes imports from China of aluminum extrusions that are shapes and forms, produced by an extrusion process, made from specified aluminum alloys, and possessing “a wide variety of shapes and forms” in “a variety of finishes.” Subject aluminum extrusions may be described at the time of importation as parts for final finished products that are assembled after importation, including, but not limited to, window frames, door frames, solar panels, curtain walls, or furniture. The scope includes the aluminum extrusion components that are attached (e.g., by welding or fasteners) to form subassemblies. On remand, Commerce determined, under protest, that the subject products are not included in the scope of the orders. The Federal Circuit reversed. The Trade Court impermissibly substituted its judgment for that of Commerce to conclude that the plastic end caps rendered the handles “assemblies” excluded from the general scope language. The order's scope as a whole supports Commerce’s treatment of the end caps as fasteners. The scope language does not limit fasteners to non-plastic components, but rather provides examples of common fasteners. View "Meridian Products, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law