Showing posts from October, 2011

Container Store

On Thursday, I did a very dangerous thing. I talked about trade law in a room of about 100 trade lawyers and judges from both the Court of International Trade and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. This was at a CIT and Customs and International Trade Bar Associations sponsored event in DC, which was a great success. The topic was the identification of situations in which judicial review raised more questions for the relevant agencies and parties than it resolved. As it turns out, that phenomenon is more easily found in antidumping and countervailing duty law than in customs law. We discussed issues like zeroing, the ITC's causation analysis where non-subject imports are in the market, and the application of adverse facts available. In all cases, the trade lawyers on the panel expressed concern about the courts swinging from one position to another or injecting new elements into what might have been a settled analysis. My role was to moderate, so I had little to add.

The Byrd Amendment Still in Court?

Despite having been repealed in 2005, the Continuing Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act (known as the Byrd Amendment) is still in Court, although maybe not anymore. In Furniture Brands Int'l v. United States , a three-judge panel of the Court of International Trade was asked to decide a number of motions most of which were directed at dismissing the case for failing to state a claim on which relief can be granted. The point of the CDSOA is to allow members of the domestic industry to receive an allocation of funds collected from importers. These funds were intended to offset the expense of pursuing the case incurred by the petitioners and domestic interested parties who supported the petition. Thus means that domestic interests who opposed the petition are not entitled to CDSOA funds. The Court of International Trade had held in previous cases that this petition support requirement violated both the first amendment guaranty of free speech and the fifth amendment guaranty of equal pro

The Mess that is MPF

To cut to the case, the President signed the Korea-FTA legislation last. As a result, the MPF changes in that bill will control. That means that Merchandise Processing Fee will increase to .3464% retroactively to October 1, so expect a bill from Customs and Border Protection. For now, the system will not accept payments at the higher rate. Customs is expected to provide about a week's notice before the program is done to implement the increase. Note that the change in rate does not affect the $25 minimum or the $485 maximum. Thus, large commercial shippers, who are likely to have the cap apply to most shipments, will see no real change in their total landed cost. On the other hand, small shippers will likely absorb the increase in MPF collected. That seems like something else to anger the Occupy Wall Street crowd.

It's a Win

Sometimes the most important case in the world is your own. In that context, I give you Firstrax v. United States . The issue in this case was the tariff classification of collapsible pet crates used to provide a portable home for dogs and an aesthetic alternative to wire crates. Some of the smaller crates involved included a handle on the top. This created a superficial similarity in appearance to pet carriers, which these products are not. The primary distinction between the two is that pet carriers tend to have a rigid bottom for the comfort of the animal and these crates rely on the floor or ground to provide a rigid surface. Customs and Border Protection wanted to classify these products in HTSUS Heading 4202 on the theory that they are similar to travel bags used to transport, store, protect, and organize personal affects. The Court of International Trade disagreed with this on almost every front. According to the court, a living, breathing pet cannot be "stored" an a

Interesting 337 Case

I have a couple interesting cases to cover. The first is Tianrui Group v. International Trade Commission , which is a Section 337 exclusion case. We don't usually cover 337 cases here, so some background is appropriate. The law permits a U.S. holder of intellectual property rights to bring an action in the International Trade Commission seeking to exclude from the United States imported products that infringe the intellectual property. Usually, but not always, the IP rights involved are from patents, but 337 applies to copyrights, trademarks, and other rights. To be technically correct, 337 also applies to other methods of unfair competition including some antitrust violations. If the ITC finds a violation, it can issue an exclusion order, which tells Customs and Border Protection of prohibit the entry of infringing merchandise. Appeals from the ITC are heard by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, bypassing district court review There is a lot in this case. If you are

Korea: Yes, I know

Panama and Colombia, too. Here is an article from the Atlantic about the deals, focusing on Korea. I feel as if I should have something insightful to say and that I should take a position on the economic impact these deals will have on the U.S. as a whole, on jobs in particular, and possibly on compliance professionals. The truth is, I am somewhat numb to trade deals. Far and away, the trade agreement that gets the most commercial traction is the NAFTA. We are 17 years into NAFTA and every day (really, every day) I answer questions about how to do the documentation. That is because the rules are very complex. I am happy for the opportunity to help and I truly understand the complexities of the data gathering necessary for compliance. But I also know that adding additional trade deals adds exponentially to the compliance difficulties. For this, I blame the WTO's inability to get a comprehensive trade deal done during the Uruguay Round. As it is, the NAFTA was used as a model

IP Theft in the News

Here is a news item stating that Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations special agents raided a number of Florida sites to execute search warrants relating to possible counterfeit goods. In the end, they collected 50,000 counterfeit items with a total retail value of $28 million. That's not surprising. If the government created a flee market and push cart squad, it could find counterfeits with little effort. As a general principal, that is a good thing. Counterfeiting is theft and vendors of counterfeit goods free ride on the value of brands to which they have no claim. However, every time I hear about about one of these events, I wonder whether any of the goods were actually genuine but gray market products. As a general rule, gray market goods that are not materially different from the authorized products sold in the U.S. are entitled to entry. This is a rule that recognizes that the vendor has been fully compensated in the first, legitimate

There Goes My Pet Theory

The Federal Circuit has affirmed the Court of International Trade's decision in LeMans v. United States  and has broken my heart in the process. LeMans involves the tariff classification of apparel designed for motocross participants, which Customs and Border Protection classified in HTSUS Chapters 61 and 62. LeMans protested and challenged the classification in the Court of International Trade, which upheld Customs. LeMans' argument was that the merchandise should be classifiable as sports equipment in Chapter 95. I posted about the lower court decision here  and even opined in the comments that I expected a reversal. I was wrong, and it has me annoyed. In a case called Bauer-Nike, the Federal Circuit previously held that hockey pants, which include pads, are necessary, useful, and appropriate to the sport of playing hockey. As a result, consistent with the Explanatory Notes, hockey pants are sports equipment, not apparel. This was primarily by comparison to "pads&quo