Showing posts from August, 2019

Danger Will Robinson: Classifying Robot Controllers

These days, marketers describe everything as "smart." There are smart televisions , a smart toaster , and even a smart toothbrush . The question is, how smart do these devices (or their parts) have to be to turn them into automatic data processing machines, or as normal people call them, "computers?" That is the question presented, at least in this summary, in Fanuc Robotics America, Inc. v. United States . We have talked about the complexity that is ADP classifications a number of times. Go back and read this and this . The gist of this case is that Fanuc makes industrial robots (really robot arms) that do industrial robot tasks like spot welding, painting, and materials handling. The robot is not a general purpose device that can, if properly programmed, perform other tasks like playing ping pong , mixing cocktails , or doing your yard work . For that, you need a Class M-3 Model B-9 Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot . Personally, I like the u

Quitting When Ahead

Tariff classification litigation sometimes takes a relatively long time to run through the system. To be clear right at the top, I am not complaining about that. The pace is usually set with the consent of the parties. Classification cases do not involve the loss of liberty or property, no families are at risk, no one is being deported. Many of the usual policies that encourage speedy action simply do not exist. No one wants cases to needlessly languish. If the plaintiff wins, the public does end up paying interest with the refunds. On the other hand, the United States had been holding that money improperly. Also, if either party has a reason to press for a quick resolution, or it is clear that the case is amendable to a quick resolution, there are tools to make that happen. Occasionally, the time it takes to litigate a case changes the facts on the ground. Moen, Inc. v. United States is an interesting example of that phenomenon. The case involves the classification of showerheads.

The Science of Weighing and the Weighing of Science

New Image Global, Inc. v. United States is the sort of case we do not often see from the Court of International Trade. For starters, it involves excise taxes on tobacco rather than customs duties. Second, the challenge relates to Customs and Border Protection’s laboratory methodology. In the end, there is nothing groundbreaking here. It is, however, a good reminder that there are remedies available in the Court of International Trade that go beyond refunds for incorrect classifications. It also illustrates that pleadings matter. Finally, the case gives me an opportunity to go on a rant about the importance of good science in the courtroom and elsewhere. The tax at issue is applicable to tobacco products and is assessed based on weight. The plaintiff imported tobacco “wraps,” which are tobacco products used to wrap other tobacco as cigarettes or cigars. The wraps as imported were packaged to retain moisture to let them be pliable enough to use as wrappers and also contained cert