US CHINA TRADE WAR–DEVELOPMENTS IN TRADE, CUSTOMS, PATENTS, ANTITRUST AND SECURITIES

Houhai Lake at Night With Drum and Bell Tower Beijing, China TraDear Friends,

There have been some major developments in the trade, solar cells, Customs, 337/patents, antitrust and securities areas.

TRADE

SOLAR CELLS—BEAT GOES ON

On September 26th there were reports that the United States and China have been negotiating for the past several weeks toward a settlement of existing trade remedy cases affecting Chinese solar cells that would set a minimum floor price and limit Chinese imports.   Apparently, the arrangement would be similar to the one China reached with the European Union, which also included a floor price and provisions aimed at limiting Chinese imports.  Another US objective is to remove Chinese duties affecting U.S. exports of solar-grade polysilicon to China.

Apparently, negotiations have taken place, but it is still unclear how intense the talks are at this time or whether they are anywhere close to a breakthrough.   Sources report that the U.S. Trade Representative (“USTR”), which is leading the negotiations for the U.S. side, has been talking to the domestic manufacturing industury.  As mentioned before since antidumping and countervailing duty orders have already been issued, there cannot be a suspension agreement.

One speculation is that the US and Chinese government could enter into a memorandum of understanding like the U.S-Canada lumber agreement.   Regarding who has more leverage in the negotiations, as described below, with the third country loophole in place, since the Chinese companies can source the cells from Taiwan, Chinese companies may not be that affected by the Trade Remedy orders.  But certain Chinese producers make most of their money by producing solar cells in China, not the modules and panels.

Furhter increasing the pressure, there was quite a flurry in the newspapers as the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (“MOFCOM”) announced on September 20th its preliminary countervailing duty of 6.5% against Polysilicon from the United States against Hemlock and AE Polysilicon.  Other US producers, such as REC Silicon, received a 0% CVD rate. The CVD duty is in addition to the antidumping rates on polysilicon from 53 to over 60% on certain exporters.  See attached announcement.  MOFCOM ANNOUNCEMENT POLYSILICON

One trade publication quoted me stating that “I really think the United States, for the first time, has encountered a trade war,” Perry said. “All of a sudden, when it throws a rock at China, China throws two or three back.”

In addition, certain newspaper assumed that the countervailing duty replaced the antidumping duty against US polysilicon and the newspapers declared victory for the US side.  See http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/blog/post/print/2013/09/china-escalates-trade-war-with-us-over-polysilicon-upping-tariffs-to-63-5

But the reality is quite different.  Just like the United States, the Chinese countervailing duty is added to the antidumping duty against US polysilicon so US producers/exporters are still under enormous pressure because of the Chinese trade case.  The U.S. imports of polysilicon into China were roughly $2 billion, while the imports of Chinese solar cells to the U.S. were roughly $4 billion.  The looming uncertainty has already cost the U.S. manufacturing jobs.  As mentioned in my last post, an August 18th article in the Seattle Times stated that Hemlock Semiconductor, the third-largest polysilicon producer, announced plans in January to lay off 400 employees at its Michigan and Tennessee plants, citing an oversupply of solar panels because of the potential for Chinese tariffs.  The article also stated that REC Silicon said the trade issues caused it enough uncertainty as far back as January of 2013 to delay a $1 billion capacity expansion at its Moses Lake plant in Washington.

The MOFCOM Polysilicon Decision increased pressure on the United States to negotiate a settlement agreement.  On September 23rd, a US solar industry association, the Solar Energy Industrial Association, released a proposed settlement of the solar cells and polysilicon trade cases.  SEIA SETTLEMENT PROPOSAL  In the attached announcement issued on September 23rd, the SEIA states:

“With no end in sight to the ongoing solar trade dispute between the United States and China, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is offering an industry compromise between the U.S. and Chinese solar industries, which could serve as the centerpiece for a fair, negotiated settlement of outstanding issues, benefit end users, and encourage the proliferation of solar energy in the United States and globally. . . .

For months, SEIA has been working behind the scenes in Washington and Beijing to resolve the current conflict and head off an escalation of trade sanctions. SEIA has warned U.S. negotiators that any settlement similar to the recently announced EU-China agreement would represent a blow to the U.S. solar industry because of an expected increase in solar prices. SEIA also believes that any resolution of the U.S.-China solar dispute must recognize the interests of all stakeholders, including American consumers, and not just one segment of the industry.

Highlights of SEIA’s proposed solution include:

• Chinese companies would agree to create a fund that would benefit U.S. solar manufacturers directly and help to grow the U.S. market. Money for the fund would come from a percentage of the price premium Chinese companies are currently paying to third-country cell producers to get around U.S. trade sanctions, reducing costs and supply chain distortion for Chinese companies.

• The Chinese government would also agree to end its antidumping and countervailing duty investigations on U.S. polysilicon exports to China, and remove the threat of artificial cost increases in a key raw material in the solar value chain, benefiting not just Chinese solar companies but all users of solar energy.

• In return, the U.S. antidumping and countervailing duties orders would be phased out.”

In other words, the SEIA is proposing that the US Solar Industry and the Chinese solar industry simply come together and sing Kumbhaya, a let’s get together song, and everything will be fine again.  The reality is much different.

Although the United States and Chinese governments apparently are negotiating, the first problem with any settlement agreement is that the Chinese government has to agree.  With the Third Country loophole in place, that is if foreign solar cells are put in Chinese panels and modules, the panels and modules are not in the antidumping and countervailing duty case, Chinese modules and panels are not shut out of the US.  In fact, estimates are that the price difference between Chinese and Taiwan solar cells is an estimated 5 to 10 cents so the prices for modules and panels in the United States have only gone up by about $10.  Such a small prices increase has no impact on the US market.  So unless Commerce closes the loophole on its own or because of Court appeals, the Chinese government has no incentive to enter into such a settlement agreement.

Moreover, the US Solar Cell industry has no interest in such a settlement agreement.  In response to SEIA proposal, US counsel representing the US solar cell producers, including Solar World, indicated that they did not have any any intention of giving up unless and until China’s unfair trade practices have stopped.

Counsel for the US industry indicated that his clients are highly skeptical of any arrangement or settlement with China given its history of predatory trade pract1ces.  Since no agreement was negotiated in the initial investigation, getting the US industry’s agreement will be critical to any Solar Cells agreement because the Petitioners, including Solar World, must agree to withdraw their complaint.

This fight will definitely go on.

HARDWOOD PLYWOOD CASE

Another major trade fight is the antidumping and countervailing duty case against Hardwood Plywood from China.  On September 17, 2013, the Commerce Department issued its final antidumping and countervailing duty determinations in the Hardwood Plywood from China case.  As indicated in the attached notice, COMMERCE DEPARTMENT FACT SHEET HARDWOOD PLYWOOD the Antidumping rates range from 55.76% to 62.55% for the mandatory respondents and 59.46% for the rest of the Chinese companies that cooperated in the investigation and 121% for the Chinese companies that did not cooperate.

In the Countervailing Duty case, the three companies that were chosen as mandatory respondents received 0%.  But as mentioned before, even though the Chinese companies that were individually examined received 0%, the Commerce Department’s methodology does not let the Department go negative on the rest of China.  Despite the 0% dumping rates for the mandatory Chinese respondent companies, all other Chinese companies, more than 100 companies, received a 13.58% Countervailing Duty rate.  Fairness Commerce style.

In addition, how did the Commerce Department calculate an antidumping rates of approximately 55 to 62% for Chinese companies?  By using Bulgaria as the surrogate country.  Do you really think that Bulgaria is a more market driven economy than China?  Of course not, but that is not the point.

On September 19, 2013 at the ITC injury hearing Senator Wyden from Oregon testified for the US Industry stating:

“The growing tide of Chinese imports is sinking the boat of the American hardwood plywood industry . . .Left unchecked, these illegal trade practices undermine economic growth, struggling Oregon communities, and encourage more of these unacceptable trade practices by China and others who seek to play by their own rules. . .  American communities that are reliant on manufacturing had been brought “to the brink of economic collapse because of unfair trade.”

But who is the real loser in the Hardwood Plywood case, not the Chinese nor the US hardwood plywood industry.  The real losers in the Hardwood Plywood case are the downstream US producers of cabinets, furniture, boats, paneling and in home construction, crating and packaging, store fixtures, flooring underlayment and many other products, some of which are located in Oregon.

As Mr. Simon, the co-chairman of American Alliance and for Hardwood Plywood, and Mr. Titus, the executive vice president of the US Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association, state in the attached article from the Wall Street Journal, “Protectionists Pick Your Pocket Again, You’ll Pay More for Cabinets, and Anything Made with Chinese Plywood and US jobs will be lost too” WSJ ARTICLE:

“Many thousands of U.S. factories depend on a steady, affordable supply of this plywood for the products they will sell at home and abroad.  Whether those downstream manufacturers sink or swim may be determined in Washington this week in two separate events—a ruling and a hearing.

The damage to U.S. manufacturers that rely on hardwood plywood has already begun. The combined tariffs have jolted supply chains, spiking the cost of imported hardwood plywood and creating painful shortages due to a lack of domestic supply. The first to suffer will be American jobs in manufacturing and woodworking. .. . Today, many U.S. manufacturers that depend on imported Chinese hardwood plywood fear that the tariffs will force the production of cabinets, furniture and other products now made in the U.S. to sites overseas. The domestic kitchen and bath-cabinet industries alone have $8.2 billion in annual sales. But how will the U.S. industry, hit by tariffs, compete with kitchen cabinets and other products made abroad—that can be shipped to the U.S. free of import duties? Competition will come from Canada and Mexico as well as China. . . .

This point was reinforced by Mr. Carl Spencer of Spencer Cabinetry, who testified at the ITC on behalf of the Kitchen Cabinetry industry in the attached article from Woodworking Network, ” Plywood Antidumping Ruling: Upside-Down System of Justice”  See  http://www.woodworkingnetwork.com/wood-blogs/industrial-woodworker/production-industry-guest-blogs/Upside-Down-System-of-Justice-226075531.html?page=2#sthash.wgd6pcex.dpbs

In the Article, Mr. Spencer states:

“My in-depth exposure has convinced me that a lot more American cabinetmakers need to get involved right away. This isn’t just someone else’s issue — our own very existence may be at stake, and it’s ten seconds to midnight. . . .”

“It’s a serious mistake for your readers to think this will not greatly affect them. Whether we buy any imported plywood or not, restricting the longstanding pipeline of hardwood plywood imported for use as secondary wood will trigger spot shortages and drive up prices of all domestic material for everyone.  That is the whole reason the Cartel of Six filed their complaint in the first place. . . .

“even though our hardwood plywood prices will go up a lot, they will not go up for our direct cabinetmaking competitors in China, Canada, Mexico, or elsewhere. As an example, we are already competing every day with Canadian companies, whose primary market is the United States.”

“From our point of view, our own government’s actions amount to a de facto stimulus, not for Americans, but instead for the Chinese, Canadian, and Mexican cabinet industries — all of whom can still buy plywood from China at the true world price. In the end, it is the American cabinet companies that will be punished, especially the small ones, and American jobs that will be lost.” . . .

“As it stands now, over 9,300 of us cabinet companies must now pay them for it for as long as we survive . .  .”

“The handwriting is on the wall. It might be well for the woodworking press to move their headquarters to Canada and have staff who speak Mandarin in order to better keep up with the new American cabinet industry.”

 

When the US government imposes antidumping and countervailing duties on US imports using an unfair process that is tilted in favor of US producers, the Government creates little monopolies.  When the products at issue are raw materials, the real losers are US producers of downstream products, which are either driven out of business because they cannot compete in the downstream market with imports that have access to the cheaper raw materials or forced to close their US production facilities and move to China.

NEW ANTIDUMPING AND COUNTERVAILING DUTY INVESTIGATIONS

MSG

On September 16, 2013, the Commerce Department initiated antidumping and countervailing duty review investigations on Monosodium Glutamate (“MSG”) from China. ITC Notice and Chinese companies in the review are listed below:

ITC NOTICE

Docket No: 2979

Document Type: 701 & 731 Petition

Filed By: Iain R. McPhie

Firm/Org: Squire Sanders (US) LLP

Behalf Of: Ajinomoto North America Inc.

Date Received: September 16, 2013

Commodity: Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Country: China and Indonesia

Description: Letter to Lisa R. Barton, Secretary, USITC; requesting the Commission to conduct an investigation under sections 701 and 731 of the Tariff Act of 1930 regarding the imposition of antidumping and countervailing duties on imports of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) from People’s Republic of China and Republic of Indonesia.

Status: 701-TA-503-504 and 731-TA-1229-1230 (Preliminary)

The Chinese respondent producers and exporters in the MSG case are: Fufeng Group, Meihua Holdings Group, Henan Lotus Flower Gourmet Powder Co., Ltd, COFCO Biochemical (Anhui) Co. Ltd.), Shandong Linghua Monosodium Glutamate Incorporated Co. , Jining Jusheng Gourmet Powder Food Co., Ltd., Shandong Xinle Monosodium Glutamate Foods Co. Ltd.,  COFCO Limited, Ningxia Eppen Bio-Tech Co., Ltd., Huanyu Gelin Food Development Co Ltd., Haerbing Juhua Biotech Co. Ltd, Fujian Province Jianyang Wuyi MSG Co., Ltd., and Shandong Qilu MSG Group Co.,

GOES

On September 18, 2013, an antidumping and countervailing duty petition was filed against Grain Oriented Electrical Steel from China.   Notice and Chinese companies are listed below:

ITC NOTICE

Docket No: 2980

Document Type: 701 & 731 Petition

Filed By: John M. Herrmann

Firm/Org: Kelley Drye & Warren LLP

Behalf Of: AK Steel Corporation, Allegheny Ludlum LLC, and the United

Steelworkers

Date Received: September 18, 2013

Commodity: Grain-Oriented Electrical Steel

Countries: People’s Republic of China, The Czech Republic, The Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, The Republic of Korea, Poland, and the Russian Federation.

Description: Letter to Lisa R. Barton, Secretary, USITC; requesting the Commission to conduct an investigation under sections 701 and 731 of the Tariff Act of 1930 regarding the imposition of antidumping and countervailing duties on imports of Grain-Oriented Electrical Steel from the People’s Republic of China, The Czech Republic, The Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, The Republic of Korea, Poland, and The Russian Federation.

Status:  701-TA-505 & 731-TA-1231-1238

The Chinese respondents in the GOES case are: Anshan Iron & Steel Group Corporation, Hebei Shougang Qian’an Iron & Steel Co., Ltd. (subsidiary of Beijing Shougang Co. Ltd.), Baoshan Iron & Steel Co., Ltd. (subsidiary of Baosteel Group headed by parent company Shanghai Baosteel Group Corporation) (“Baosteel”), and Wuhan Iron & Steel Co. Ltd. (”Wuhan” or “WISCO”).

As indicated below, the ironic point is that the Chinese Government has levied antidumping and countervailing duties on US exports of GOES to China.  Although the US has taken the GOES case to the WTO and won a victory, the orders stay in place in China.  The 3 plus years that the orders have been in place, however, have allowed the Chinese GOES industry to catch up and now export GOES to the US, which is causing problems for the US GOES industry.

In the Steel Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Wars between the US and China, what goes around, comes around.

IMPORT ALLIANCE FOR AMERICA/IMPORTERS’ LOBBYING COALITION

As mentioned in prior newsletters, we are working with APCO, a well-known lobbying/government relations firm in Washington DC, on establishing a US importers/end users lobbying coalition to lobby against the expansion of the antidumping and countervailing duty laws against China.

On September 18, 2013, ten US Importers agreed to form the Import Alliance for America.  The objective of the Coalition will be to educate the US Congress and Administration on the damaging effects of the US China trade war, especially US antidumping and countervailing duty laws, on US importers and US downstream industries.

We will be targeting two major issues—Working for market economy treatment for China in 2016 and working against retroactive liability for US importers. The key point of our arguments is that these changes in the US antidumping and countervailing duty laws are to help US companies, especially US importers and downstream industries.  We will also be advocating for a public interest test in antidumping and countervailing duty cases and standing for US end user companies.

If anyone is interested in the Alliance, please feel free to contact me.

CHINESE ANTIDUMPING AND COUNTERVAILING DUTY LAW

POLYSILICON

Attached is the Chinese Government’s Ministry of Commerce (“MOFCOM”) September 20th announcement of preliminary countervailing duties to be levied on polysilicon imports from the US.  MOFCOM ANNOUNCEMENT POLYSILICON

SILICON STEEL—GOES

The US battle with the Chinese government on its antidumping and countervailing duty orders against GOES from the US is still being fought out.  In response to the August 12th announcement by MOFCOM that it had met its WTO obligations in the GOES case, on September 11, 2013, the USTR stated that it is “currently evaluating China’s re-determination of antidumping and countervailing duties on GOES from the United States” and that if the Chinese government’s actions are not sufficient to comply with the WTO’s recommendations and rulings, the US could initiate further proceedings at the WTO.

As the recent US antidumping and countervailing petitions against GOES from  China indicate, however, the US GOES industry has already lost its technical/tactical advantage.

Although the US Steel industry complains about Chinese antidumping and countervailing duty cases against US GOES exports, in light of US refusal to use actual prices and cost in China calculate dumping rates and the Commerce Department’s methodology that finds dumping and subsidization in 100% of the cases against China, such criticism has a very hollow ring.

CUSTOMS

HONEY CASE

On September 30, 2013, a US agent for a dozen Chinese honey importers was sentenced to three years in prison for her role in smuggling operations that allegedly avoided nearly $40 million in US antidumping duties. At a federal court hearing in Chicago, Hung Yi lin -who pled guilty last year to three counts of entry of goods into the U.S. by means of false statements- was also ordered to pay $512,852 in restitution, but avoided the six-year prison sentence sought by prosecutors.

Lin, 43, also known as Katy Lin, allegedly played a pivotal role in helping her clients falsify documents on shipping containers loaded with Chinese-origin honey from 2009 to 2012, making it appear that they were filled with sugars or syrups. Through her California-based company KBB Express, Lin brought in $11.5 million of honey into the US avoiding almost $40 million in antidumping duties.

Ms. Lin’s attorney argued that his client was simply a hardworking immigrant, who was merely a freight forwarder and did not profit from the scheme.  Ms. Lin in tears told the US Judge Milton I. Shadur that she was not attempting to flee prosecution, when she was arrested on her way out of the country.  “I’m really sorry if anything I did hurt this country. I came here for my dream . . . .”

In response, however, the Assistant US Attorney argued that the Mr. Lin’s role was absolutely critical in the sophisticated scheme.  The Assistant U.S. Attorney also stressed the damage to the U.S. honey industry when the price of honey collapsed due to the smuggling operation and other similar schemes.

PATENTS

337 CASES

CAFC DETERMINATION –MICROSOFT NO DOMESTIC INDUSTRY UNDER 337

On October 3, 2013, the third day of the Government shutdown, we can say that at least the Courts are open. Today the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“CAFC”) issued its attached decision in Microsoft v. US International Trade Commission (“ITC”) and Motorola in which Microsoft appealed an ITC determination of no violation in a 337 case.  MICROSOFT DOMESTIC INDUSTRY  The CAFC affirmed the ITC on almost every part of the decision, remanding on one small aspect of one patent back to the ITC.  The most important issue is the its decision on domestic industry, which will effect future 337 cases against China.

In that decision, which is attached, the CAFC dismissed one part of Microsoft’s patent case becasue Microsofit did not establish that the patented invention, the specific patent in question, was actually practiced in the United States and, therefore, there was no domestic US industry with regards to this patented product.  The CAFC stated:

“Microsoft’s failing was simple. Although Dr. Olivier purported to identify “client applications” in an example application that Microsoft provides to third party phone manufacturers, Microsoft failed to show that any such “client applications” are actually implemented on any third-party mobile device.  .  .  According to the ALJ, because Microsoft did not point to evidence that its expert examined client applications in fact running on third-party mobile phones or confirmed how they operated, Microsoft failed to show that there is a domestic industry product that actually practices the ’376 patent.  . . .In this appeal, we do not reach Microsoft’s challenge to the non-infringement determination because we find substantial evidence to support the Commission’s finding of no domestic industry, which suffices to support its finding of no violation based on this patent. There is no question about the substantiality of Microsoft’s investment in its operating system or about the importance of that operating system to mobile phones on which it runs.”

“But that is not enough under the statute. Section 337, though not requiring that an article protected by the patent be produced in the United States, unmistakably requires that the domestic company’s substantial investments relate to actual “articles protected by the patent.”  19 U.S.C. §§ 1337(a)(2), (3). A company seeking section 337 protection must therefore provide evidence that its substantial domestic investment—e.g., in research and development—relates to an actual article that practices the patent, regardless of whether or not that article is manufactured domestically or abroad. . . .”

“We conclude that there is substantial evidence to support the Commission’s determination that Microsoft failed to meet that requirement. . . . The Commission did not lack substantial evidence to support its finding that Microsoft simply failed to identify any actual phones with the required components performing as required.  . . .”

“On that basis, the Commission could find that Microsoft failed to show that any Microsoft-supported products practiced the ’376 patent. We therefore affirm the Commission’s finding of no proven domestic industry, and hence no section 337 violation, involving this patent.”

SUPREME COURT ARGUMENTS ON DOMESTIC INDUSTRY

On September 9, 2013, in Nokia v. US International Trade Commission, Nokia attempted to persuade the Supreme Court to take jurisdiction and overturn the CAFC’s January 2013 decision in Interdigitial Communications LLC et al v.  International Trade Commission and Nokia Inc. that licensing of specific patents by InterDigital in the United States was enough to be a domestic industry under section 337.  Nokia argued that nonpracticing entities should not be considered a domestic industry under section 337.

In response, according to InterDigital, when it ruled that it had satisfied the domestic industry requirement, the CAFC simply followed “the intent of Congress to enlarge the domestic industry requirement to cover licensing activities – when those activities are substantial and connected to exploitation of the patents at issue. . . .”  InterDig Brief

In the attached Supreme Court brief, the ITC sided with InterDigital.  ITC BRIEF  19 USC 1337(a)(3) (C) specifically provides that a domestic industry “shall be considered to exist if there is in the United States with respect to the articles protected by the patent, “substantial investment in the patent’s exploitation, including engineering, research and development or licensing”.  The ITC pointed to record evidence that InterDigitial had “invested a total of approximately $7.6 million in salaries and benefits for employees engaged in its licensing activities, and it received almost $1 billion in revenues from portfolio licenses (including the patents in suit) related to its cellular technology. . . .”

In addition, the ITC pointed to the CAFC’s explanation that in 19 1337(a)(3)(C) Congress intended to protect “innovators who did not actually produce goods in this country, but who were injured by the importation of goods that incorporated the technology that they had invented or sought to license”.

NEW 337 CASE

HANDHELD MAGNIFIERS

On September 26, 2013, a new 337 case was filed against Aumed Group Corp. in China on handheld magnifiers. See notice below:

Docket No: 2984

Document Type: 337 Complaint

Filed By: Matthew B. Lowrie

Firm/Org: Foley & Lardner

Behalf Of: Freedom Scientific, Inc

Date Received: September 26, 2013

Commodity: Handheld Magnifiers

Description: Letter to Lisa R. Barton, Acting Secretary, USITC; requesting that the Commission conduct an investigation under section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended regarding Certain Handheld Magnifiers and Products Containing Same. The proposed respondents are Aumed Group Corp., China; and Aumed Inc., San Carlos, CA.

MARINE SONAR DEVICES AGAINST HONG KONG

On September 20, 2013, a new 337 case was filed on Marine Sonar Imaging Devices against a Hong Kong company.  See notice below.

Docket No: 2981

Document Type: 337 Complaint

Filed By: M. Scott Stevens

Firm/Org: Alston and Bird LLP

Behalf Of: Navico Inc. and Navico Holding AS

Date Received: September 20, 2013

Commodity: Marine Sonar Imaging Devices

Description:  Letter to Lisa R. Barton, Acting Secretary, USITC; requesting that the Commission conduct an investigation under section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended regarding Certain Marine Sonar Imaging Devices, Products  Containing the Same, and Components Thereof. The proposed respondents are: Raymarine Inc., Nashua, New Hampshire; Raymarine UK Ltd., United Kingdom;  and In-Tech Electronics Ltd, Hong Kong.

NEW PATENT BILL PROPOSES TO MAKE IT MORE DIFFICULT FOR NPES/PATENT TROLLS

The House of Representatives released the attached draft patent bill on September 23, 2013 aimed at making it more difficult for patent trolls, non-practicing entities (“NPEs”), to bring patent cases.  HOUSE PATENT BILL  The bill will raise the pleading requirements, making it more difficult for NPEs to file frivolous suits.  The pleading requirements would also increase the cost and complexity of patent cases.

The bill would also require the losing party in patent cases to pay the costs of the prevailing party unless the judge finds that the suit was “substantially justified,” creating an exception in patent cases to the “American rule” that parties are generally responsible for paying their own attorney’s fees.

NEW PATENT CASES AGAINST HUAWEI, ZTE, HANGZHOU COMPANY AND OTHER CHINESE COMPANIES

On September 9, 2013, ACQIS filed a patent complaint against Huawei.  ACQIS HUAWEI

On September 17, 2013, C. B. Worldwide Inc. filed a patent complaint against Chinese companies, Hangzhou Yizhan Pet Products, Allara China Ltd., Shanghai ITCPC Import and Export Co. and Petlike.  The complaint alleges misappropriation of technology, patent infringement and breach of contract.  CHINA TOYS HANGZHOU

On September 25, 2013, Nidec Motor Corporation filed a patent complaint in the Federal District Court in Missouri against Broad Ocean Motor, Broad Ocean Technologies and Zhongshan Broad Ocean Motor Co., Ltd.

On September 26, 2013, James Grove and LF Products filed a patent case against COSTCO and Global Furniture (Zhejiang) Co. Ltd.  ZHEJIANG COSTCO

On September 26, 2013, SPH America filed patent complaints against Huawei and ZTE.  SPH ZTE   SPH HUAWEI

On September 30, 2013 and October 1, 2013, Super Interconnect Technologies filed patent complaints against Huawei and ZTE.  SUPER INTERCONNECT ZTE   SUPER INTERCONNECT HUAWEI

ANTITRUST

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT’S SYSTEMATIC INVESTIGATION OF ASIAN CARTELS

To illustrate that antitrust cases against Chinese companies for price fixing are not just China bashing, the following are additional examples of the major movement by the Justice Department and private plaintiffs in the United States to go after cartels, price fixing by foreign companies, aimed at the US market.  Well known antitrust experts have told me that Justice is targeting foreign cartels, especially Asian cartels, and is systematically going through industry after industry looking for evidence of price fixing.

In light of the ongoing cases against Vitamin C, Magnesium and Bauxite from China, it is just a matter of time before the Justice Department and Private Plaintiffs start to target Chinese companies for price fixing on various products.  One of the first targets of such price fixing investigations may be auto parts.

NINE JAPANESE AUTO PARTS COMPANIES PLEAD GUILTY TO PRICE FIXING CARTEL

On September 26th, the Justice Department issued the attached announcement that Nine automobile parts manufacturers and two executives agreed to plead guilty to fixing prices on automobile parts sold to U.S. car manufacturers and installed in U.S. cars.  FULL DOJ NOTICE AUTO PARTS SEPT 26  NINE JAPANESE AUTO PARTS COMPANIES PLEAD GUILTY

 The nine Japanese Companies agreed to pay a total of more than $740 million in Criminal fines.  The September 26th announcement states as follows:

“Nine Japan-based companies and two executives have agreed to plead guilty and to pay a total of more than $740 million in criminal fines for their roles in separate conspiracies to fix the prices of more than 30 different products sold to U.S. car manufacturers and installed in cars sold in the United States and elsewhere . . .  The department said that price-fixed automobile parts were sold to Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, as well as to the U.S. subsidiaries of Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota and Fuji Heavy Industries–more commonly known by its brand name, Subaru.”

“These international price-fixing conspiracies affected more than $5 billion in automobile parts sold to U.S. car manufacturers, and more than 25 million cars purchased by American consumers were affected by the illegal conduct,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “The Department of Justice will continue to crack down on cartel behavior that causes American consumers and businesses to pay higher prices for the products and services they rely upon in their everyday lives.”

“Some of the price-fixing conspiracies lasted for a decade or longer, and many car models were fitted with multiple parts that were fixed by the auto parts suppliers,” said Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program. “The Antitrust Division has worked hand in hand with its international competition colleagues who have provided invaluable assistance to the Justice Department in breaking up these worldwide price-fixing cartels.”

“Today’s charges should send a message to companies who believe they don’t need to follow the rules,” said Ronald Hosko, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Division. “If you violate the laws of this country, the FBI will investigate and put a stop to the threat you pose to our commercial system. The integrity of our markets is a part of the foundation of a free society.”

“Including those announced today, 20 companies and 21 executives have been charged in the Antitrust Division’s ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry. All 20 companies have either pleaded guilty or have agreed to plead guilty and have agreed to pay more than $1.6 billion in criminal fines. Seventeen of the 21 executives have been sentenced to serve time in U.S. prisons or have entered into plea agreements calling for significant prison sentences.”

“Each of the companies and executives charged today has agreed to cooperate with the department’s ongoing antitrust investigation. The plea agreements are subject to court approval. The companies’ and executives’ agreed-upon fines and sentences are:

• Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd. to pay a $195 million criminal fine;

• Jtekt Corporation to pay a $103.27 million criminal fine;

• Mitsuba Corporation to pay a $135 million criminal fine;

• Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (MELCO) to pay a $190 million criminal fine;

• Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. to pay a $14.5 million criminal fine;

• NSK Ltd. to pay a $68.2 million criminal fine;

• T.RAD Co. Ltd. to pay a $13.75 criminal fine;

• Valeo Japan Co. Ltd. to pay a $13.6 million criminal fine;

• Yamashita Rubber Co. Ltd. to pay a $11 million criminal fine;

• Tetsuya Kunida, a Japanese citizen, to serve 12 months and one day in a U.S. prison, and to pay a $20,000 criminal fine; and

• Gary Walker, a U.S. citizen and former executive of a U.S. subsidiary of a Japan-based automotive products supplier to serve 14 months in a U.S. prison, and to pay a $20,000 criminal fine.”

 

At a news conference about the guilty plea, Scott D. Hammond, Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division’s Criminal Enforcement Program, stated as follows in the attached statement:

“We have seen a pattern during the course of this investigation. The detection of one auto part conspiracy has led to the discovery of other conspiracies involving a new set of products, a new group of conspirators and a new list of victims. And as the Attorney General said, our work isn’t done. . . .”

“The companies and executives charged today will pay a heavy price for their conduct. As of today, more than $1.6 billion in criminal fines have been obtained thus far and 17 auto parts executives are currently serving prison time or are awaiting sentencing. The deterrent impact of their sentences should resonate in boardrooms around the world.”

“As today’s charges demonstrate, global cartels operating largely outside of our borders often constitute the biggest competitive threat to our economy, our businesses and our consumers. The Antitrust Division and the FBI have worked closely with our international competition colleagues to break up these worldwide price-fixing cartels.”

SCOTT HAMOND SPEECH

LIQUID CRYSTAL DISPLAY (LCDS) FROM TAIWAN

In San Francisco, a criminal antitrust trial is proceeding against Borlong Bai of AU Optronics in Taiwan for his involvement in a cartel to price liquid crystal displays.  AUO, its US subsidiary  and two executives were convicted of price fixing last year and two other executives were found not guilty.  Bai’s attorneys are arguing that although he was a manager of AUO’s division that sold LCDs to laptop computer companies, Bai simply used the information he received to outmaneuver his rivals and not to fix prices.

The Justice Department is arguing that Bai was essential to the global conspiracy to fix prices of LCDs.

ANTITRUST AG BILL BAER SPEECH ON CRIMINAL ANTITRUST CASES LCDS FROM TAIWAN

On September 25, 2013, Bill Baer, the Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division at the Justice Department spoke to the Georgetown Law’s 7th Annual Global Antitrust Enforcement Symposium on the importance of the lesson from the LCDs case against Taiwan companies.  BAER DOJ STATEMENT  Mr. Baer stated in the attached speech:

“Criminal enforcement is a large part of what we do at the Division. Effective sanctions matter there too. Guided by the federal Sentencing Guidelines, our prosecutors seek criminal sentences that are consistent with statutory considerations and reflect the seriousness of the offense, promote respect for the law, provide just punishment, afford deterrence, protect the public, and offer defendants an opportunity for effective rehabilitation.”

“Last year, for the first time, the division recommended that a criminal antitrust defendant be required, as a condition of its probation, to retain an independent corporate monitor to develop and implement an effective antitrust compliance program. The defendant, AU Optronics Corporation (AUO), its U.S. subsidiary, and two of its top executives, had been convicted at trial for their role in a conspiracy to fix the price of liquid crystal display (LCD) panels – a conspiracy that had a significant impact on U.S. commerce.”

“Rarely has a company needed an effective antitrust compliance program as much as AUO. AUO was founded the very month the LCD conspiracy began. From its inception, AUO’s standard operating procedure was collusion. “Antitrust compliance program” was not in its lexicon. Even after conviction, AUO continued to employ convicted price-fixers and indicted fugitives. As a result, the division argued that there was no reason to believe that AUO’s conviction and the imposition of a criminal fine – even a large fine – would deter AUO from engaging in future collusive conduct.”

“The court agreed.  In addition to a $500 million fine, the court sentenced AUO and its subsidiary to three years of probation during which the companies are required to develop, adopt, and implement an effective compliance and ethics program, and to retain an independent monitor to oversee that program. Consistent with the division’s willingness to request external monitors in the civil context, the division will consider seeking conditions of criminal probation that include independent monitors when faced with circumstances in which the division is not persuaded that penalties alone will deter future illegal behavior.”

Attached are two class action complaints filed in October against Japanese auto parts.  As a result of the Justice Department plea agreements, Japanese auto parts companies and probably eventually Taiwan auto parts companies are exposed to $100s of millions, if not billions of dollars in liability under private right of action triple damage antitrust cases.  AUTO PARTS SWITCHES PANASONIC  DIAMOND AUTO PARTS AT CASE

US FTC CHAIRWOMAN STATES THAT CHINA NEEDS TO ENSURE PROCEDURAL FAIRNESS IN ITS ANTITRUST PROCEEDINGS

On September 25, 2013, at a conference in Washington DC, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez questioned the Chinese Government’s fairness in antitrust proceedings.  Ms. Ramirez stated:

“While every country must determine its own competition policy, we believe consumers and competition policy are best served when competition enforcement is based solely on economic analysis of effects on competition.  But if other factors nonetheless enter into competition decisions, their nature and effect should be transparent.”

The problem with Ms. Ramirez’s statement is that the Chinese government’s first experience with US government fairness is through the US antidumping laws.  For decades, the Chinese companies and government have been subjected to Commerce Department antidumping and countervailing duty proceedings, which are clearly not fair and transparent.  With its surrogate country and surrogate value analysis, Commerce Department determinations in antidumping cases on their face are arbitrary and capricious.  Using Bulgaria as a surrogate country in the Hardwood Plywood case is just such an example.

The procedural unfairness inherent in US antidumping and countervailing duty laws affects the entire legal relationship between the US and China.  Chinese government officials and many Chinese companies sincerely believe that the United States is simply out to bash Chinese companies and procedural fairness be damned.

What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.  If the Commerce Department uses inherently unfair procedures in its antidumping and countervailing duty investigations, which have no basis in economic reality, from the Chinese government’s point of view why should it base its competition policy on “economic analysis of effects of competition.”

CLASS ACTION ANTITRUST CASE AGAINST KOREAN NOODLE COMPANIES

On September 5, 2013, the attached class action antitrust case complaint was filed in Federal District Court in California by Stephen Fenerjian against Korean noodle companies for price fixing on exports of noodles to the United States.  The target companies are: Nong Shim Company Ltd., Nong Shim America Inc., Ottogi Company Ltd., Ottogi America, Inc., Samyang Foods Company Ltd., Samyang (USA) Inc., Korea Yakult Co., Ltd., and Paldo Company Ltd.  KOREAN NOODLES ANTITRUST CASE

SECURITIES

SEC GRANTS DELAY IN PROCEEDING AGAINST US ACCOUNTING FIRMS FOR REFUSING TO RELEASE AUDIT DOCUMENTS OF CHINESE COMPANIES

On October 2, 2013, in the attached order, SEC ORDER ACCOUNTING FIRMS the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) granted a request from an administrative law judge to give an additional 100 days to determine whether top accounting firms, such as Ernst & Young, Deloitte and Price, Waterhouse, have to produce audit document of Chinese company clients that are suspected of defrauding their US investors through reverse mergers.  In December 2012 the SEC started this case because it believes the accounting firms, including the Big 4, have refused to to cooperate with document requests in an investigation into China-based companies whose securities are publicly traded in the U.S. in violation of US security laws.  The accounting firms argue that they fear violating Chinese secrecy laws.  As evidenced by the complaints on this site, the SEC has cracked down in the last few years on fraudulent reverse mergers, in which Chinese companies have used existing public shell company to merge with a private operating company, leaving the shell company as the surviving legal entity.  The crackdown, however, has been delayed by the Chinese privacy laws, which bar China-based auditors, including the subsidiaries of US accounting firms, from turning over Chinese client information.

The accounting firms have been fighting requests for audit paperwork related to Chinese companies accused of fraud on US investors.  In July, following bilateral investment talks, the U.S. announced that China had agreed to turn over certain audit documents to the SEC and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.  That deal came shortly after the PCAOB announced a memorandum of understanding with the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the country’s Ministry of Finance to ease restrictions on release of audit information in fraud investigations.

COMPLAINTS

A number of new securities complaints cases have been filed against Chinese companies.

On September 26, 2013, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) filed the attached  securities fraud complaint against Lee Chi Ling (“Lee”) and Perfect Genius Limited (“Perfect Genius”), alleging securities fraud in a classic “pump and dump”scheme from at least June 2004 through at least February 2006 to manipulate the price of the common stock of China Energy Savings Technology, Inc.   PERFECT GENIUS

On September 26, 2013, the SEC filed a securities fraud complaint against defendants Chan Tze Ngon, a/k/a Chen Zi Ang and Ron Chan, (“Chan”), and Jiang Xiangyuan (“Jiang”).  The case involves two securities fraud schemes engineered by former high level officials of ChinaCast Education Corporation (“ChinaCast”) to steal about $100 million out of the company by diverting monety to their private accounts.  CHINA CAST

On September 27, 2013, the SEC filed a securities fraud complaint against Universal Travel Group (UTG), a China-based travel company, UTG’s former ChiefExecutive Officer Jiangping Jiang (“Jiang”); and UTG’s former Chief Financial Officer, Jing Xie (“Xie”) for diverting $41 million in public and private stock offerings in the United States to numerous unknown parties in Hong Kong and the PRC. In an interesting note, the attached complaint also includes consent judgements by UTG, Jian and Xie in which they agree to the SEC charges and agree to pay fines and penalties.  Even in China, you can run, but not hide.  UNIVARSAL TRAVEL

On September 30, 2013, Another class action securities case was filed against Light in the Box Holding, a Beijing company, and two Chinese individuals for securities fraud.  LIGHT IN THE BOX

 If you have any questions about these cases or about the US trade, customs, patent, antitrust or securities law in general, please feel free to contact me.

Best regards,

Bill Perry

US China Trade War–Developments Trade, Solar Cells, 337 Patent, Customs and Securities

Wushu in Park, Practicing Tai Chi, Temple of Sun pavilionDear Friends,

There have been some major developments in the trade, solar cells, 337/patents, and securities areas.

TRADE

SOLAR CELLS NEGOTIATIONS—PRICE UNDERTAKING/SETTLEMENT IN EC CHINA CASE

The Chinese government and the EU Trade Commission announced on July 27th an agreement to settle the EC antidumping and countervailing duty case on solar cells from China.  But that agreement was immediately attacked by both sides.  Attached are the official announcements of the Agreement.  EC COMM ANNOUNCESEC OFFICIAL ANNOUNCE SOLAR DEAL PRO SUN REACTION SOLAR CELLS FACTS

The settlement— known as a “price undertaking” —replaces EU antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) duties with a minimum floor price for solar panels, cells and silicon wafers imported from China, which is valid as long as those imports do not exceed 70 percent of the EU market for those products. Above that, the normal AD duty of 47.6 percent would apply.

The European Commission, which brokered the deal, has not yet disclosed the floor price, but informed sources said it will start at 0.56 euros per watt. Given that prices for solar products have been steadily declining, observers also said the floor price would likely be gradually reduced to respond to market shifts before the deal’s expiration at the end of 2015.

Commentators have stated that the floor price would amount to an increase of about 0.10 euros per watt over the prices that Chinese producers were selling at in early 2013. But according to one analyst, that price is still significantly below what EU competitors, who sell at between 0.60 and 0.80 euros per watt, are typically able to offer.  At the price of 55-56 euro cents, many European manufacturers are not yet competitive.

The main outcome of the deal, the analyst said, is that Chinese exporters will be able to pocket additional profit rather than paying it in duties, making large producers even stronger. The analyst also said that the price undertaking’s cap of 70 percent of the EU market will not act as a barrier to Chinese exports to Europe. Not all of China’s suppliers are participating in the price undertaking — only about 70 percent of all Chinese solar companies.

All of this points to the new deal having limited spillover effect on the U.S. market. Chinese solar panels already face antidumping and countervailing duties in the U.S., although the scope of those trade remedies is more limited because of the third country loophole.  If the Chinese panels and modules contain third country solar cells, they are not cover by the US antidumping and countervailing duty order.  But see information about Commerce Department investigation below.

The EC case already had Chinese solar companies looking elsewhere — including the U.S. — but also increasingly to other Asian markets like Japan. By individual country, the largest consumers of solar panels this year are expected to be China (6.9 GW), Japan (5.3 GW), the U.S. (4.9 GW), Germany (4.3 GW), and Italy.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government and China have held informal discussions about a potential settlement of the U.S. solar case, so the EU-China deal could influence a potential agreement between the U.S. and China. However, because the nature and scope of their cases are different, there is no indication that the U.S. would be party to the EU-China deal.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, Subcommittee on Trade, criticized the EU settlement in a statement. “It’s hard to see how this decision helps anyone except companies in China and Taiwan,” Wyden said. “In the end, the E.U. will not have just sold out its workers and companies that produce solar panels, but U.S. workers and employers as well.”

An aide to Wyden said the senator believed that the EU had failed to exert maximum leverage over China by not including the U.S. at the negotiating table. In addition, by agreeing to a “low bar” deal, the EU has weakened the chances that the U.S. will be able to secure a meaningful agreement in its own negotiations with China.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said in a statement that the U.S. is still aiming for some kind of world-wide deal to end the Solar Cells trade problems but did not elaborate on how that could be achieved. “We believe there needs to be a global solution, consistent with our trade laws, that creates stability and certainty in the various components of the solar sector,” Froman said. “We look forward to working toward that objective.”

 Meanwhile, on July 20, 2013 the Chinese government imposed preliminary antidumping duties ranging from of 53.3 to 57% on US imports of Polysilicon.  See the attached notice form MOFCOM. MOFCOM POLYSILICON ENGLISH ANNOUNCEMENT

In addition, the Press is reporting major problems in the Chinese polysilicon industry with three-quarters of Chinese polysilicon producers facing closure.  As Reuters reports:

“As smaller polysilicon producers, with average annual capacity of a few thousand metric tons, are pushed out, the likely winners will be larger producers such as GCL Poly, TBEA Co Ltd, China Silicon Corp and Daqo New Energy Corp. The shake-out is already underway as polysilicon prices have plunged to below $20 per kg from a 2008 peak of almost $400, forcing some producers in the northwestern province of Ningxia and eastern China’s Zhejiang province to file for bankruptcy.”

“Their plight is made worse by cheaper, and better quality, imports from producers such as MEMC Pasadena Inc and Michigan-based Hemlock Semiconductor Group – a venture of Dow Corning, Shin-Etsu Handotai and Mitsubishi Materials Corp – and Norway’s Renewable Energy.”

See http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/31/us-china-solar-polysilicon-idUSBRE96U1CD20130731.  From the face of it, this looks like a domestic industry in China facing material injury, which makes it a potentially more dangerous case for antidumping and countervailing duties against Korean and US imports.

The EC has indicated that the Solar Cells agreement is linked to other EU-China talks on Chinese plans to impose AD duties against EU polysilicon exports and wine. The preliminary date for imposition of antidumping duties on polysilicon from the EC is February 2014, with final duties due out two months later. For wine, a decision on provisional duties is due out at the end of April 2014, and final measures are due in June 2014.

On the US side, one of the key technical issues is the legal basis under which the Obama administration can seek a settlement given that the AD and CVD orders are now in effect. The time for negotiating a suspension agreement in a case is legally set between a preliminary and a final determination, which has now passed.

In the preliminary explorations of a potential settlement, the U.S. has discussed the option of a changed circumstances review as a legal basis. Such a review would assess whether the existing U.S. trade remedy cases are still needed or could be replaced with a settlement. But that option would require the consent of the U.S. industry.

As indicated in past posts on this blog, the US Solar Cells Trade case has not worked and has not protected the US domestic industry. Prices for solar cells in the US have only gone up by $3. Also in response to the US case, the Chinese Government has brought an antidumping and countervailing duty cases against $2 billion of imports of US produced polysilicon, which goes into the Chinese solar cells.

A negotiated deal would also close the third country loophole in the US Solar Cells case, although there is no third country loophole with regards to the EC. The third country loophole allows China to export solar cells produced in third countries, such as Taiwan, in panels and modules produced in China to the United States. A negotiated settlement would also result in the removal of Chinese antidumping and countervailing duties on US produced polysilicon.

COMMERCE CRACKS DOWN ON THIRD COUNTRY SOLAR CELLS

On August 6, 2013, the Commerce Department initiated an inquiry into whether major Chinese solar panel manufacturers selling to the United States have evaded trade remedy orders by falsely claiming that their panels are assembled from cells made in third countries.

If Chinese produced solar panels and modules contain solar cells from third countries, such as Taiwan or Malaysia, the solar panels and modules are considered not within the scope of the Solar Cells antidumping and countervailing duty orders and out of the case.  As a result of this decision, many Chinese solar companies developed tolling operations under which Chinese companies produce the polysilicon wafers and ship them to another country for transformation into solar cells.  Commerce is now investigating to what degree those solar cells were actually produced in a third country.

In the attached August 6th letter from Commerce to Renesola Ltd., one of the Chinese solar companies, DOC Second Letter to Renesola Commerce states:

“As stated in the required importer and exporter certifications introduced in the underlying investigations, any failure to substantiate a claim that panels/modules imported into the United States do not contain solar cells produced in the PRC will result in suspension of all unliquidated entries for which these requirements were not met and the requirement that the importer post an AD cash deposit or, where applicable, a bond, on those entries equal to the PRC-wide rate in effect at the time of the entry and a CVD cash deposit, or where applicable, a bond rate equal to the all-others rate in effect at the time of the entry. Furthermore, as noted in the required importer and exporter certifications, records pertaining to such certifications may be subject to verification by Department of Commerce officials.”

Petitioners allege that in many instances Chinese companies are shipping almost completed cells, rather than simple wafers, for minimal processing outside of China.  In certain extreme cases, the allegation is that a Taiwanese company may just stamp its name on a solar cell before shipping it back to a Chinese firm for final assembly. Chinese companies may be tempted to undertake such practices because the majority of the value in creating a solar panel comes from the manufacturing of the cell.

If Commerce finds that this kind of circumvention is taking place, it could mean that new duties would be leveled against the imports of modules and panels with the third country cells in them.  Apparently Petitioners have provided evidence of these practices to Customs.  In the spring Commerce sent out inquiries to six Chinese companies — Trina Solar, Yingli, Wuxi Suntech, Renesola, Talesun and LDK — asking them for detailed information about their sales and supply chains. Some of those companies have already responded, while others have until early August to do so.  Rensola and Talesun are facing antidumping rates of 250% on their imports.

In theory, Chinese exporters and U.S. importers of solar panels and cells should have all of the information on hand already. Commerce instituted a certification requirement at the time it issued the final trade remedy orders which required them — if they believed the goods were not subject to the orders — to state that “that these solar panels/modules do not contain solar cells produced in the People’s Republic of China.”

Importers and exporters also had to acknowledge in their certification that relevant records may be requested by CBP at any time, and that failure to be able to substantiate the claims that they were not shipping subject merchandise could result in the processing of customs paperwork — or liquidation — being suspended for further scrutiny.

COMMERCE CHANGES THE ANTIDUMPING RULES AGAIN TO MAKE IT TOUGHER—MARKET ECONOMY INPUTS AND SEPARATE RATES

One would think that since the US-China WTO Agreement provides that China is to be made a market economy country by November 2016, just about three years away, Commerce would set up a transition period.  Just the opposite is happening as Commerce is doubling down on its nonmarket economy methodology.

On August 1st, Commerce published in the Federal Register its final regulation regarding using imports from market economy countries to value factors of production in nonmarket economy antidumping cases, especially against China and Vietnam.  See the attached notice.  DOC REGS NME INPUT PRICES

In prior cases, if the Chinese company imported inputs from a market economy country, Commerce would use the actual market price, rather than surrogate values to value the specific input if the percentage of imports of the specific input were “meaningful”, more than 33%.  Under the new regulation, the percentage of imports of the specific input must account for substantially all of the input used or 85% or more of the input.  This rule will be effective as of September 3rd, meaning that all investigations or reviews that are initiated after September 3rd will be subject to the new rule.

COMMERCE DEPARTMENT SEPARATE RATES REGULATIONS

On July 5th the Commerce Department issued the attached final rule regulatory announcement in the Federal Register stating that in determining whether Chinese or other companies in Nonmarket Economy Countries were entitled to a separate rate in antidumping cases, it would examine more closely whether the company meets certain de facto criteria for obtaining a separate rates. See the attached Federal Register notice.  COMMERCE DE FACTO REGULATION

Commerce specifically stated that it will examine on a case by case basis certain issues related to a respondent’s separate rate status in nonmarket economy dumping cases. This action is part of its Trade Enforcement initiative.

In determining whether a Chinese or other nonmarket economy company is entitled to a separate rate, Commerce looks at the following criteria, whether the Chinese/NME company:

• has export prices set by or subject to approval of a governmental agency;

• has authority to negotiate and sign contracts and other agreements on the company’s behalf;

• has autonomy from the government in decision making on management;

• retains proceeds of its export sales and makes independent decisions regarding disposition of profits or financing of losses.

Since respondents generally possess information on their day-to-day operations, Commerce will consider, on a case-by-case basis, issuing supplemental questionnaires to identify and review additional documentation and information relating to de facto government control by any level of government in cases where the respondent’s initial questionnaire responses are insufficient to support its separate rate claim. Supplemental questions might address:

• selection and removal of directors and managers at the producing/exporting company;

• identification of parties with authority to approve contracts and bank transactions on behalf of the company;

• ownership, including individual and corporate;

• whether any corporate owners are state-owned, state-controlled, or otherwise affiliated with the state, at the national or sub-national levels; and,

• whether any managers hold government positions at the national or sub-national levels.

Consistent with comments urging Commerce to conduct more separate rate verifications, Commerce said it would continue to consider verification of separate rate information where warranted, on a case-by-case basis.

This new regulation may make it harder for Chinese companies to obtain separate rates in antidumping investigations at the Commerce Department.

ALUMINUM EXTRUSIONS—QV QUESTIONNAIRES ISSUED IN AD AND CVD REVIEWS

On August 6, 2013, the Commerce Department issued quantity and value questionnaires in the Aluminum Extrusions Antidumping and Countervailing Duty cases to Chinese exporters to be used to determine the mandatory respondents in the new Antidumping and Countervailing Duty review investigations.  There could easily be 50 respondents in the review investigation and yet the Commerce Department will look at only 2 to 3 companies as mandatory respondents.  Only those companies have the right to prove that they are not dumping or receiving subsidies.  The other 48 plus Chinese companies will get affirmative rates.

These review investigations have also become very complicated because of the Commerce Department’s decision in many instances to expand the scope of the orders and include finished products, such as curtain walls, the sides of buildings, auto and refrigerator parts, in the scope of the antidumping and countervailing duty orders.

IMPORTERS’ LOBBYING COALITION/AMERICAN IMPORT COALITION

As mentioned in prior newsletters, we are working with APCO, a well-known lobbying/government relations firm in Washington DC, on establishing a US importers/end users lobbying coalition to lobby against the expansion of the antidumping and countervailing duty laws against China.  Our first organizational meeting was held on July 24th in Washington DC.  Sixteen US importer/end user companies have agreed to join the Coalition and were at the meeting in person or on a conference call.

The objective of the Coalition will be to educate the US Congress and Administration on the damaging effects of the US China trade war, especially US antidumping and countervailing duty laws, on US importers and US downstream industries.

We will be targeting two major issues—Working for market economy treatment for China in 2016 and working against retroactive liability for US importers. The key point of our arguments is that these changes in the US antidumping and countervailing duty laws are to help US companies, especially US importers and downstream industries.

If anyone is interested in the Coalition, please feel free to contact me.

CHINESE ANTIDUMPING AND COUNTERVAILING DUTY LAW

US WTO VICTORY AGAINST CHINA IN CHICKEN WARS

On August 2, 2013, the WTO agreed with the US in most aspects of its challenge against antidumping and countervailing duties imposed by the Chinese government on US exports, Chinese imports, of US chicken broiler products.  In the attached announcement, the USTR announced that it won on most of the important issues.  USTR STATEMENT CHICKEN  See also the attached WTO conclusions in the Chicken case.  WTO CHICKEN CONCLUSIONS

USTR pointed to several reasons why the victory is important.  First, the WTO sided with the United States in arguing that the Chinese government should not have used the “average cost of production” methodology to calculate AD duties on poultry products.

“For years, we’ve been concerned about other countries rejecting costs based on U.S. producers books and records [and] instead using the weight of a product to allocate production costs,” USTR Mike Froman said at an Aug. 2 press conference, in reference to this methodology. “This methodology artificially inflates and creates antidumping margins.”

The United States argued that China’s methodology dramatically overestimated the cost of production for relatively cheap parts of a chicken, such as the chicken feet. The panel agreed that the approach China took to estimate the cost for producing chicken feet factored additional costs not actually associated with production of feet –such as skinning and removal of bones and veins from breast meat — into the cost of producing feet. Therefore, China’s straight, weight-based allocation does not meet the obligation to arrive at a “proper allocation of costs” for the products under investigation, the panel concluded.

Second, USTR stressed that this was the second convincing win against China’s use of antidumping and countervailing duty investigations against the US.  USTR stated that it hoped that this would force Beijing to fundamentally re-evaluate how it proceeds in AD and CVD investigations.

Third, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker suggested that this case underscores the U.S. resolve to not allow China to get away with throwing up unjustified trade remedies in response to U.S. trade policy actions. ”

Fourth, a USTR attorney noted that the panel sided with the U.S. in many aspects of the challenge related to the transparency of China’s procedures for calculating trade remedies.

China now has 60 days to determine whether it wants to appeal the ruling. The U.S. also has a chance to appeal any aspects of the panel ruling with which it disagrees, and a USTR attorney declined to say if the U.S. would exercise this right.

As the attached WTO Conclusions from its decision states, in part:

“China acted inconsistently with the first sentence of Article 2.2.1.1 of the Anti-dumping Agreement when MOFCOM declined to use Tyson and Keystone’s books and records in calculating the cost of production for determining normal value. With respect to Pilgrim’s Pride, the United States has not established that China acted inconsistently with the first sentence of Article 2.2.1.1.”

“v. China acted inconsistently with the second sentence of Article 2.2.1.1 because: (i) there was insufficient evidence of its consideration of the alternative allocation methodologies presented by the respondents; (ii) MOFCOM improperly allocated all processing costs to all products; and (iii) MOFCOM allocated Tyson’s costs to produce non-exported products to the normal value of the products for which MOFCOM was calculating a dumping margin.”

The WTO concluded:

“Pursuant to Article 19.1 of the DSU, we recommend that China bring its measures into  conformity with its obligations under the Anti-Dumping Agreement and the SCM Agreement.”

Although the US government has been able to prevail at the WTO, it should be noted that the Chinese government imposed the very high antidumping and countervailing duties on imports US chicken for three years with a potential loss to US producers of $3 billion.  The WTO recommendation is that China bring its Chicken case into conformity with its obligations under the WTO Anti-Dumping Agreement.  That does not mean that Chinese antidumping and countervailing duties on US chicken will be lifted tomorrow. There is still a long way to go in this case and US chicken will continue to be pushed out of the Chinese market.

The Chicken case is an outgrowth of the US government’s decision to use the special 421 investigation to block lower cost Chinese tires from being imported into the United States.  In addition, since Commerce considers China to be nonmarket economy country, Commerce refuses to use actual prices and costs in China to determine whether a Chinese company is dumping so one can understand why the Chinese government might play around with prices and costs in the US with regard to Chinese antidumping and countervailing duty cases against US companies. Both governments are firing the trade guns in this war.

SILICON STEEL—GOES

The limitation on the US pressure on the Chinese government’s implementation of its antidumping and countervailing duty laws is indicated by the August 6th announcement by the Chinese government that it has fully complied with the WTO rulings against the Chinese government’s determinations in the antidumping and countervailing duty case aimed at imports of US grain-oriented flat rolled electrical steel (GOES).  The US industry disagrees.

In response to the WTO decision, China lowered the CVD rate facing AK Steel from 11.7 percent to 3.4 percent, sources said. One source said Beijing also lowered the CVD rate facing ATI Allegheny Ludlum, the other main company affected by the case, down from its previous rate of 12 percent.

Concerning AD rates, China did not alter the AD duties of 7.9 percent and 19.9 percent on steel exports from AK Steel and Allegheny Ludlum, respectively, although it did lower the “all others” AD rate from 64.8 percent to 13.8 percent.

China maintains that the Appellate Body ruling did not require it to alter the AD rates facing the two primary steel companie.

This dispute between the US and China on US exports of GOES has been going on for years.  Meanwhile, however, the United States has imposed numerous antidumping and countervailing duties on imports of Chinese steel.

In addition, because US importers are exposed to retroactive liability on Chinese imports under the US antidumping and countervailing duty laws, no US importer dares to keep importing Chinese steel once cases are filed.  So the real effect of steel antidumping and countervailing duty cases against China is to shut out Chinese steel imports into the United States.

No other country exposes its importers to retroactive liability under the antidumping and countervailing duty laws.  Only the United States.

When viewed in this context, it is easier to understand why the Chinese government is playing the trade game in the GOES case.

CUSTOMS

JOINT CHINA US STING COUNTERFEIT GOODS

On July 31st, Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) announced the first joint intellectual property enforcement action.  See the attached announcement.  The month-long operation resulted in the seizure of over 243,000 counterfeit consumer electronics products including popular trademarks such as Apple, Beats by Dr. Dre, Blackberry, Samsung, Sony, and UL.

“The success of this joint operation fully proves that earnest and effective cooperation cross the border is needed to curb the movement of counterfeit products”, said Zou Zhiwu, Vice Minister of the General Administration of China Customs (GACC). “IPR infringement is a global issue involving not only the process of production and export, but also that of import and circulation. It not only harms the order of global trade, but also threatens the health and safety of consumers. Enforcement agencies around the world should work more closely to crack down on these illegal activities. China Customs has been making unremitting efforts to promote international cooperation in this field. The results of this joint operation are very inspiring and have consolidated our confidence and resolve to jointly fight against IPR violations under the framework of Memorandum of Cooperation on Strengthened Cooperation in Border Protection Enforcement of IPR between GACC and CBP.”

PATENTS

ITC MAKES DOMESTIC INDUSTRY REQUIREMENT MORE TOUGH IN 337 CASES

The US International Trade Commission (“ITC”) has created a new procedure to deal with the situation of Patent Trolls or Non Practicing Entities (NPEs).  That is companies that do not practice the patent in the United States.

Section 337, 19 USC 1337, provides that for there to be a violation the unfair acts, such as infringement of a US patent, the threat or the effect of the importation of articles into the United States must “be to destroy or substantially injure an industry in the United States.”  Thus 1337 has an injury to a US industry requirement in the statute.  The economic part of section 1337, however, has not been as important because 1337(a)(3) provides that an industry in the United States is considered to exist “if there is in the United States, with respect to the articles protected by the patent, copyright, trademark or mask work concerned—(A) significant investment in plant and equipment; (B) significant employment of labor or capital; or (C) substantial exploitation in its exploitation, including engineering, research and development or licensing. . . .”

Many companies that do not practice the patent in the United States have brought 337 cases under Subpart C arguing that licensing or research and development in the United States was enough to be a domestic industry.  Because 337 cases can be privately settled, cases could be filed and then settlements reached before there was an ITC decision on the domestic industry.

US high tech companies, such as Apple, Intel and IBM, have been very concerned about NPEs bringing section 337 cases and then obtaining settlements before the domestic industry issue was decided.  Section 337 proceedings can be very costly because the entire litigation is over in just over a year, which puts substantial pressure on the respondent companies.

Recently in the Laminated Packaging 337 case, in March 2013 the Commission initiated a 337 Patent case but ordered the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) to hold an expedited proceeding on domestic industry.  On July 5, 2013, under protest about the procedures in the case, the ALJ issued an expedited initial determination in the Laminated Packaging case, in effect, dismissing the section 337 case because there was no domestic industry.

In the attached decision, LAMINATED PACKAGING DOMESTIC INDUSTRY ID  the ALJ stated on pages 39-40 of his decision:

“In addition, as Staff and Respondents have noted, even if the ALJ were to accept that Lamina’s licensees made certain expenditures in the purchase of the laminated packaging, there is no evidence that those laminated packages were made here in the United States. . . . Absent evidence that the laminated packages purchased by Lamina’s licensees were made here in the United States, any such expenses cannot be considered in the economic prong analysis.”

“Thus, for the foregoing reasons, the ALJ finds that Lamina has failed to show that its licensees have made significant investments in labor and capital in the United States.”

In response to the argument of Petitioner that its domestic industry is licensing, the Administrative Law Judge determined at pages 42-44:

“However, the ALJ finds that Lamina has failed to establish a sufficient nexus to licensing. As an initial note, the ALJ does not find the nexus to licensing as weak as Respondents and Staff assert. Respondents and Staff make much of the fact that Lamina’s licenses with its licensees resulted from litigation. However, the Commission has explicitly stated that such activities can constitute licensing activities. . . .”Depending on the circumstances, such activities may include, among other things, drafting and sending cease and desist letters, filing and conducting a patent infringement litigation, conducting settlement negotiations, and negotiating, drafting and executing a license .” . . . The evidence is clear that Lamina has filed and conducted patent infringement litigation, conducted settlement negotiations, and negotiated drafted and executed a license agreement. As such, those activities, while not necessarily focused on “putting the patent to productive use,” are the type of “licensing activities that ‘take advantage of the patent, i.e., solely derive revenue. . . .”

“The Commission further noted, however, that “[t]he mere fact[] that a license is executed does not mean that a complainant can necessarily capture all prior expenditures to establish a substantial investment in the exploitation of the patent.” . . . It appears that this is exactly what Lamina has sought to do, i.e., capture “all prior expenditures” to establish a domestic industry. Lamina did so without “clearly link[ing] each activity to licensing efforts” and instead made general assertions that its activities related to licensing . . . Thus, there is insufficient evidence before the ALJ clearly showing that all of the investments made by Lamina were costs that were clearly linked to licensing efforts and the ALJ cannot make a finding that Lamina’s investments have a nexus to licensing.”

“Even assuming that Lamina had established a nexus to licensing, the ALJ further finds that Lamina has failed to show that its own investments in exploiting the Asserted Patents are substantial. Specifically, while Lamina has shown that, as a small company, it has made substantial monetary investments relating to the Asserted Patents, it is not clear whether such investments are substantial relative to the industry. Indeed, even assuming that the “industry” is not “manufacturing” laminated packages but is the licensing industry for laminated packaging, Lamina has set forth no evidence as to the type of efforts taken in that industry. . . . Here, there is no evidence on the licensing industry for laminated packaging, but only evidence of Lamina’s own expenditures. Consequently, the ALJ cannot make a determination as to whether Lamina’s investments are substantial.”

On August 6, 2013, the Commission affirmed the ALJ’s initial determination and dismissed the 337 Laminated Packaging case because there was no domestic industry.  In the attached notice, COMMISSION DECISION PACKAGING  the Commission determined that procedurally it could have an expedited domestic industry proceeding, reversing that part of the ALJ’s decision, but then going on to affirm the ALJ’s decision as to no domestic industry.

The decision in the Laminated Packaging case will make it much more difficult for Non Practicing Entity to bring 337 cases in the future.

APPLE CASE—PRESIDENTIAL VETO

On August 3, 2013, the United States Trade Representative (“USTR”) on behalf of the President vetoed an exclusion order in a 337 Patent case that was issued against Apple and would have resulted in the exclusion of earlier versions of the Iphone.  The last time the President overturned an ITC exclusion order was in 1987.

The President/USTR overturned the exclusion order because the Samsung Patents used to attack Apple were “Standard Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary FRAND Commitments.  In the attached announcement, USTR Order USTR stated:

“Under section 337, the President . . . may disapprove an order on policy grounds, approve an order, or take no action and allow the order to come into force upon the expiration of the 60-day review period. This authority has been assigned to the United States Trade Representative. . . .”

“In addition, on January 8, 2013, the Department of Justice and United States Patent and Trademark Office issued an important Policy Statement entitled “Policy Statement on Remedies for Standard-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary FRAND Commitments” (“Policy Statement”). The Policy Statement makes clear that standards, and particularly voluntary consensus standards set by standards developing organizations (“SDO”), have incorporated important technical advances that are fundamental to the interoperability of many of the products on which consumers have come to rely, including the types of devices that are the subject of the Commission’s determination. The Policy Statement expresses substantial concerns, which I strongly share, about the potential harms that can result from owners of standards-essential patents (“SEPs”) who have made a voluntary commitment to offer to license SEPs on terms that are fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (“FRAND”), gaining undue leverage and engaging in “patent hold-up”, i.e., asserting the patent to exclude an implementer of the standard from a market to obtain a higher price for use of the patent than would have been possible before the standard was set, when alternative technologies could have been chosen. At the same time, technology implementers also can cause potential harm by, for example, engaging in “reverse hold-up” (“hold-out”), e.g., by constructive refusal to negotiate a FRAND license with the SEP owner or refusal to pay what has been determined to be a FRAND royalty.”

“As the Policy Statement makes clear, whether public interest considerations counsel against a particular exclusion order depends on the specific circumstances at issue. The statement also explains that, to mitigate against patent hold-up, exclusionary relief from the Commission based on FRAND-encumbered SEPs should be available based only on the relevant factors described in the Policy Statement. The courts are also engaged on the issue of appropriate remedies for infringement of SEPs and we look forward to the development of appellate jurisprudence on this issue. The SEP Policy Statement is one part of the Administration’s continuing efforts to consider the scope of appropriate remedies for owners of SEPs, and encourage the development of strong, innovative standards.”

“The Administration is committed to promoting innovation and economic progress, including through providing adequate and effective protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. Relief available to the owners of intellectual property rights through section 337 is an important facet of achieving that objective. At the same time, standards, and particularly voluntary consensus-based standards set by SDOs, have come to play an increasingly important role in the U.S. economy. Important policy considerations arise in the enforcement of those patents incorporated into technical standards without which such standards cannot be implemented as designed, when the patent holder has made a voluntary commitment to offer to license these SEPs on FRAND terms. Licensing SEPs on FRAND terms is an important element of the Administration’s policy of promoting innovation and economic progress and reflects the positive linkages between patent rights and standards setting. . . .”

“After extensive consultations with the agencies of the Trade Policy Staff Committee and the Trade Policy Review Group, as well as other interested agencies and persons, I have decided to disapprove the USITC’s determination to issue an exclusion order and cease and desist order in this investigation. This decision is based on my review of the various policy considerations discussed above as they relate to the effect on competitive conditions in the U.S. economy and the effect on U.S. consumers.”

“I would like to underscore that in any future cases involving SEPs that are subject to voluntary FRAND commitments, the Commission should be certain to (1) to examine thoroughly and carefully on its own initiative the public interest issues presented both at the outset of its proceeding and when determining whether a particular remedy is in the public interest and (2) seek proactively to have the parties develop a comprehensive factual record related to these issues in the proceedings before the Administrative Law Judge and during the formal remedy phase of the investigation before the Commission, including information on the standards essential nature of the patent at issue if contested by the patent holder and the presence or absence of patent hold-up or reverse hold-up. In addition, the Commission should make explicit findings on these issues to the maximum extent possible. I will look for these elements in any future decisions involving FRAND-encumbered SEPs that are presented for policy review. The Commission is well-positioned to consider these issues in its public interest determinations.”

SECURITIES

SEC V. CHINA INTELLIGENT LIGHTING AND ELECTRONICS

Attached is a complaint filed on July 13th by the SEC against China Intelligent Lighting and Electronics alleging that  China Intelligent Lighting & Electronics, Inc. and its offices engaged in fraudulent schemes to raise and divert money received from stock offerings.  CHINA LIGHTING SEC COMPLAINT

If you have any questions about these cases or about the US trade, customs, patent, antitrust or securities law in general, please feel free to contact me.

Best regards,

Bill Perry

 

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