Showing posts from May, 2008

First Sale, the Farm Bill, and Bad Parenting

This is for Paul, who by posting a comment here , prompted me out of my blog stupor. I was planning a satirical rant about how I have this awful day job that gets in they way of my blogging. I was going to explain my goal to emulate now-professional bloggers like Heather Armstrong (AKA Dooce ) or parlay my blogging success into a book deal like Jessica Hagy (of Indexed ) and, more important, a shot on the Today Show . But, I can't. I'm beat. I've had a fair amount of substantive work going on. Those of you who follow the court decisions may know that I am headed up to the CAFC. Thus, I won't comment on that. I've also just gotten out a complicated perfection of a prior disclosure and have a number of investigations going on. I am not complaining. Really. I am happy and don't have a horrible day job. I like my job. As a result, it sometimes get in the way of blogging. In particular, for those of you who have been reading for a long time, it gets in the way of t

A Holiday Just for Us

Yesterday was the anniversary of the passage of the Tariff Act of 1828, commonly known as the Tariff of Abominations . I suggest that May 19 be declared a minor holiday for customs lawyers in America. The Tariff of Abominations resulted from one of those great legislative follies in which a bill is put before Congress on the theory that no one will support it and then political hay can be made by blaming the defeat of the bill on political opponents. In this case, the southern states put together a tariff bill that raised rates on raw materials needed by northern industrial states as well as finished goods imported by southerners. It was assumed that the New England members of Congress would object to the bill and it would die. Turns out that it passed, causing tariff rates to rise on consumer goods and creating a political storm in the south. This led to what is known as the Nullification Crisis , in which South Carolina moved to declare the tariff unconstitutional and unenforceable i

Deal or No Deal: GSP Edition

Before I get into this, I need to make an important point (that I have made before): I like and respect most of the the folks at Customs and those at the Department of Justice who represent the agency. Over the three years I have been blogging, I have reviewed cases that I think Customs and Border Protection should have won and I have given a virtual high-five to Customs for the good and important work it does. There have been times when I have been called out for being unfair and on at least one such occasion, I changed my position. I just write about what strikes me as interesting and, sometimes, I feel it is appropriate to criticise certain actions. OK? Are we all still friends? That said, I have a new problem . . . GSP. Customs and Border Protection recently published this document providing compliance information for importers making claims under the Generalized System of Preferences. It is great that CBP does this and is consistent with the notions of shared responsibility and i

Customs News of the Weird

It's Beetlemania in Pennsylvania! Customs and Border Protection sting nabs illegal beetle imports. Read about it here . Actually, there was no sting involved; I just could not resist the pun.

In Rem Action: U.S. v. Flash Drives

In law, there are two kinds of civil actions. The usual case is brought "in personam," meaning it is against a person. This is the usual So-and-So v. So-and-So kind of case in which the plaintiff claims the defendant did something wrong. Other actions are "in rem," meaning against the thing. In these cases, the very existence of the thing is the problem and it doesn't matter all that much who is at fault or who owns them (although the owner can show up and put on a defense for the stuff). In law school, the most famous in rem cases have to do with the seizure of pornographic films. They (the cases, not the films) have titles like "U.S. v. 250 Reels of Motion Picture Film." This is relevant here because of the recent filing of U.S. v. 3,000 Microsoft Flash Drives in the U.S. District Court in Alaska. This was reported in Information Week , although the story appears to have been taken down (the link is to the Google cache). The flash drives include an u

Fiji on First Sale

A quick update on Customs and Border Protection's effort to eliminate "first sale," sometimes called middleman," valuation: Earlier in the week, 17 U.S. Senators sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff expressing "serious concern" over the move. If this happens, the countries that feel it most will likely be developing economies with active textile sectors. Today, the Government of Fiji has acted . Fiji is concerned that changing the valuation methodology might make Fiji products more expensive in the U.S. I'm not sure whether other governments have similarly commented but one must assume that if Fiji is worried, others are as well.

We're All Grown Ups Here, Right?

I like to hang out at the intersection of trade and intellectual property. I find the issues raised there to be particularly interesting. One long-simmering issue is the question of protecting geographically descriptive designations for products. Champagne , the French argue, must come from Champagne (France); not Italy or California and not even Champaign, Illinois . Similarly, Scotch should come from Scotland and Tequila from the Tequila region of Mexico. Cheddar is a town in England and Gouda is in the Netherlands. This issue has been the subject of negotiations at the WTO level and is part of U.S. law . It remains confusing to consumers who may buy a product like Hawaiian Punch, with a geographic indication in the name but no real connection to the locale. Arizona Iced Tea is another example. This is because some product names, even though they are geographically misdescriptive, are so well known that they have "secondary meaning" as a source identifier. It now appear