US CHINA TRADE WAR–UNIVERSAL TRADE WAR, TPP IN LAME DUCK, SPOTTING POTENTIAL AD CASES, CUSTOMS, FALSE CLAIMS ACT, VITAMIN C ANTITRUST, IP AND 337

Lotus Garden Boat Buildings Yue Feng Pagoda Summer Palace BeijinTRADE IS A TWO WAY STREET

“PROTECTIONISM BECOMES DESTRUCTIONISM; IT COSTS JOBS”

PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN, JUNE 28, 1986

US CHINA TRADE WAR OCTOBER 7, 2016

INTERVIEW ON WHAT US COMPANIES CAN DO IN THE PRESENT TRADE CRISIS

Just did an interview on what US companies can do to cope with the current trade crisis.  Hope you will find it of interest.  http://www.turbineagency.com/industry-insights/2016/10/25/accelerateb2b-how-do-global-trade-deals-really-impact-us-businesses

Dear Friends,

This blog post contains several new article and articles that have been posted on the Harris Moure blog, www.chinalawblog.com from the HM Trade Practice Group, including Adams Lee, Emily Lawson and myself.  The new articles also reflect my discussions during my recent three-week trip to China meeting with various Chinese companies, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (“MOFCOM”), and Chinese trade lawyers.

The most important point is that the US China Trade War is expanding and has now become a universal trade war.  Although the US continues to bring numerous antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) cases against China, the Chinese government is now bringing and will bring numerous AD and CVD cases against the US.

In the recent Chinese antidumping case against Distiller Grains from the US, the Chinese government has levied a 33% rate against $1.6 billion in US exports to China.  There are rumors that the Chinese government may soon bring AD and CVD cases targeting $15 billion in US exports of soybeans to China.

Meanwhile numerous countries have adopted their own AD and CVD laws modeled on the US and EU and are bringing cases not only against China, but also against the US.

The only recent trade developments that would break the retaliation cycle are the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the TTIP deal with Europe and both trade agreements are in serious trouble.

In addition, set forth below are articles on how to spot an AD and CVD trade case coming and what do when your company is a target of a trade case, magnesium and steel cases, trade cases against Europe, and Trade Adjustment Assistance by David Holbert, who heads the Northwest Trade Adjustment Assistance Center.  In addition, there are a number of articles on Customs law, False Claims Act, including an FCA case against Furniture and Customs enforcement action against Honey.  Finally, there is an article on recent Second Circuit Decision in the Vitamin C Antitrust Case and the antidumping back story, a Criminal Trade Secrets case, a new 337 case and the Section 337 article translated into Chinese.

If anyone has any questions or wants additional information, please feel free to contact me at my new e-mail address bill@harrismoure.com.

Best regards,

Bill Perry

TRADE POLICY AND TPP

US CHINA ANTIDUMPING TRADE WAR IS NOW A UNIVERSAL ANTIDUMPING TRADE WAR

As Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton duel during the Presidential debate about who can be more protectionist, during my recent trip to China I learned that what was once a US China Trade War has now become a universal trade war.  Country after country have adopted the US and EC Antidumping law and are filing case after case against other countries and the US.

Thus countries, such as EC, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, India, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Australia Thailand, South Africa, and Vietnam, all are filing antidumping and countervailing duty cases against each other and the United States.  These countries have adopted the US law which finds dumping in 90% of the cases.  The US and the EC have created a Frankenstein in the antidumping law and the whole World has adopted it.

Although Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton and many US politicians want to adopt a mercantilist trade policy which favors pushing exports and protecting US industries from imports, the US politicians simply do not understand retaliation.  What the US can do to other countries, those countries can do back.  President Reagan understood the retaliation danger of protectionism and a mercantilist trade policy, but many present day US politicians do not.  So all of these countries are following the US lead and implementing a mercantilist trade policy.

Free trade agreements, such as the TPP and the TTIP, which would break this cycle are now all in deep trouble as each country wants to put its industries first and make their country and industries great again.  The rise in nationalism results in trade wars in which country after country will fire trade guns against each other.  As Jack Ma of Alibaba recently mentioned on CNN, real wars start when trade stops.  See http://money.cnn.com/2016/09/02/technology/jack-ma-alibaba-g20/

During my recent trip to China, in the attached notice, ddgs-list-of-dumping-margin-of-each-company_en ddgs-preliminary-finding-summary-translation_en, on September 23, 2016, the Chinese government announced a 33% preliminary antidumping duty targeting $1.6 billion in imports from the United States of DDGS, Distiller’s Dried Grains with or without Solubles, which is used as an ingredient for animal feed.

During this trip, officials at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (“MOFCOM”) told me that more trade cases will be coming next year against the US.  In fact, there are rumors that the Chinese government will soon bring an AD and CVD case targeting $15 billion in US soybean exports to China.  This is the number one US export to China.  Now that China is bringing more trade cases against the US, these cases will hurt US companies and the jobs that go with them.

On the US side, the election of either Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton in November will mean more US trade cases next year against not only China, but many other countries as well.

On September 22, 2016, MOFCOM in China initiated an escape clause/safeguard action against Sugar from Brazil, Cuba, Guatemala, Australia, South Korea and Thailand alleging tariffs up to 155.90%.

On September 15, 2016, India brought its own antidumping case against Polybutadiene Rubber from South Korea, Russia, South Africa, Iran and Singapore.

Taiwan has brought a Steel antidumping case against China.

More and more cases will be filed in 2017 around the World and many will target the United States, China, and numerous other countries.  Compromise is the best way to settle trade disputes, but it is very difficult, if not impossible, to settle US antidumping and other trade cases.  What is “fair” trade for the United States is “fair” trade for every other country.  Many countries want to make their industries Great again.

TPP IN THE LAME DUCK KEEPS ON TICKING

As mentioned in my last blog post, I believe that if Hilary Clinton is elected, President Obama will push for the Trans Pacific Partnership (“TPP”) to come up for a vote during the Lame Duck Session.  Many Congressional leaders appeared to  oppose tbringing up TPP in the Lame Duck.  But with Hilary Clinton’s resurgence in the Polls after the first debate, there is more talk about the TPP coming up in the Lame Duck, the period after the Presidential election and before the end of the year, as President Obama pushes hard for passage of the legislation.

On September 16, 2016, Ohio Governor Republican John Kasich in an interview with CNN stated that he supports passage of the TPP and will support President Obama in this legislative push in the Lame Duck.  See http://edition.cnn.com/2016/09/15/politics/john-kasich-trans-pacific-partnership/index.html

Governor Kasich made clear that he feels “it’s his “responsibility and duty as a leader” — no matter the political cost — to help President Barack Obama push the Trans-Pacific Partnership through Congress.

Kasich stated that

“I have never been an ideological supporter of free trade. The ideologues used to come to me and be frustrated with me.  But when you look at these agreements in a real sense – and this one is much different than even NAFTA.”

Kasich added that when Russian and Chinese leaders oppose the TPP, that is one reason to vote for the TPP, “We have to do this.”

Kasich further stated,

“This is the first time the candidates in both major political parties say they are opposed to free trade. It’s astounding to me.  I welcome the fact that people will criticize me for putting my country ahead of my party.”

The interview came after Kasich met with President Obama in the Oval Office with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former George W. Bush administration Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and others for a meeting on the 12-nation Pacific Rim deal.

Kasich further stated:

“This is an opportunity for the Congress to carry out its responsibility. Frankly, if I have to come down here and spend some time lobbying my Republican colleagues, I’m more than glad to do that.

There’s definitely some people I can call and talk to.  This is a big deal. I mean, if we were to just walk away with this — with both candidates saying they don’t want this — we turn our backs on Asia.

He also played down the political potency of Trump’s anti-trade position in manufacturing-heavy Ohio, saying it’s not why Trump might win the state.

On September 26, 2016, Robert Samuelson, a well-known economist, published an article entitled “Will TPP Rise from the Dead”, stating:

With Obama’s term ending and his already-modest influence eroding by the day, TPP seems dead. But it may still be in intensive care.

In a speech to the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington think tank, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee whose jurisdiction includes trade agreements, said that the TPP could still be ratified in the lame-duck session after the election and before a new Congress takes office.

Samuelson went on to state that Brady gave two major reasons to approve the TPP.

First, geopolitical:  The TPP would enhance US influence in the Pacific region and offset China’s growing economic and political power. TPP would give the United States a major role in regulating global commerce in the 21s century. The trade agreement codifies rules on “intellectual property” (patents, copyrights), data flows and state-owned firms

Ratification would be a strong signal to Asia that the United States intends to remain a Pacific power.

“The second reason is economic: Asia remains a fast-growing region. TPP would eliminate most tariffs among the 12 member countries, aiding American exporters in these markets. The advantage may be particularly important in services (tourism, consulting, finance and engineering), where U.S. firms are especially strong. In 2015, the United States had a $762 billion deficit in goods trade (machinery, steel, medical equipment) and a $262 billion surplus in services trade, leaving an overall deficit of $500 billion.  According to the Peterson Institute, the 12 countries in the TPP accounted for about 36% of the world economy and 24% of global trade in 2014.”

Samuelson goes on to quote Brady on why he does not dismiss TPP’s prospects as bleak, “People change once they get into office.”

Samuelson then states:

Translation: The campaign’s anti-trade and anti-globalization rhetoric might recede before the realities of governing. Although Brady didn’t say so, one implication is that a victorious Hillary Clinton might put up only token opposition to TPP, both because the case for approval is strong and because she might feel obligated to Obama for his political support.

But Brady went on to state that getting a deal would be difficult. With many Democrats adamantly opposed to TPP, President Obama would need to rely on Republicans to approve the agreement. But if President Obama cannot round up enough Democratic votes to ensure victory, Republicans will not go out on a political limb and bring the agreement up during the Lame Duck.

“We are running out of time,” Brady told the Peterson audience. As Samuelson stated, “The TPP may yet wind up in the political morgue.”

TRADE

CHINA IMPORTS: KNOW YOUR RISKS

By Adams Lee, Harris Moure International Trade Group

Every year U.S. producers file 10-15 petitions asking the U.S. government to investigate whether certain products imported into the US are sold at unfair prices (antidumping or AD) or are unfairly subsidized (countervailing duty or CVD). Many of the AD/CVD cases target products imported from China. Odds are good that at least two new AD/CVD petitions will be filed by Halloween and as many as five by year end.

Our clients often ask our international trade lawyers how they can determine the likelihood of a AD/CVD petition that could adversely affect their ability to compete in the US market. Each AD/CVD petition is unique to the product and industry it covers, but most AD/CVD investigations fall within a handful of categories. Understanding what has led to the filing of previous AD/CVD petitions can help you as a producer, exporter, or importer, recognize if and when to expect a new AD/CVD petition that could directly affect you. The following are some of the indicators you should be checking to determine whether your imported into the USA product will be next.

The Regulars. Certain domestic industries have been frequent filers of AD/CVD actions. Companies in these industries are veterans of AD/CVD actions; they don’t ask if a new petition will be filed, only when it will be filed.

  • Steel of all types (carbon steel, stainless steel, flat products, pipe, rebar, wire rod, wire, etc.) from all over the world. The latest wave of steel AD/CVD investigations are being completed with high AD/CVD margins in most cases.
  • Softwood Lumber from Canada. The latest round of the US-Canada Lumber wars is set to begin as new AD/CVD petitions are likely to be filed in October 2016. Filing a new AD/CVD petition may be necessary to push US-Canada negotiations to a meaningful level.

The Big Box Effect. When Walmart, Lowes, or Target switch their sourcing of a product from a domestic manufacturer to a foreign (read Chinese) one, it is quite common for the jilted domestic supplier to file an AD/CVD petition in an effort to save their business. Boltless steel shelving units, wood flooring, ironing tables, and candles are all examples of this, and all involving products from China.

US Products Squeezed by Imports. It is not uncommon for an AD/CVD petition to be filed by a US producer that makes a higher quality product but is starting to lose out to foreign producers with lower quality but cheaper products. Frozen shrimp from multiple countries, garlic from China, and wooden bedroom furniture from China are some examples of this.

Pressure from Downstream Customers. Many AD/CVD petitions involve products that are material inputs used to make a downstream finished product. Petitions can be triggered by larger downstream producers switching to, or just threatening to switch to imports to pressure smaller upstream suppliers to lower prices.  Many chemical products from China, tire products from China and other countries, kitchen racks from China are examples of this.

AD/CVD Actions on Upstream ProductsSometimes AD/CVD actions filed by other domestic industries trickle down and harm downstream domestic industries. For example, US wire rod producers filed AD/CVD petitions that resulted in AD/CVD duties against imported wire rod. But these wire rod duties ended up hurting US wire producers, who in turn filed their own AD/CVD duties against imported wire.

Dying Dinosaurs/Last Survivors. Some AD/CVD petitions are filed by the remaining members of a nearly extinct domestic industry dealing with decreasing demand and increased import pressure. Sometimes the AD/CVD actions allow the surviving US producers to stay in the US market protected from import competition.  Examples of this are wooden bedroom furniture, magnesium and innersprings from China.

Other Countries’ AD/CVD actions. The US is not the only country that acts to protect its domestic industries from unfair foreign trade. AD/CVD actions filed in Canada, India, the EU, Brazil, and even China are warning signs of industries facing tight competitive pressure. Imports blocked from one market are often diverted to other available markets. A prime example of this are products from China which first had AD/CVD filed in the EU before the US took action.

All of the above scenarios are good indicators of an imminent filing of a new United States’ AD/CVD petition, so if you are seeing these market conditions in your industry, an AD/CVD petition is probably in your near future.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO WHEN THE CUSTOMS ANTIDUMPING AND COUNTERVAILING DUTY BOGEYMAN IS COMING AFTER YOUR IMPORTED CHINA PRODUCTS

By Adams Lee, Harris Moure International Trade Group

In China Imports Know Your Risks (above), I wrote about how companies can recognize impending antidumping (AD) or countervailing duty (CVD) petitions. In this post I address what you as an importer, exporter or foreign producer should do if you see an AD/CVD storm looming.

The first thing you should do is determine whether the AD/CVD petition will directly hit your primary operations. The second thing you should do is figure out how best to defend yourself interests if the AD/CVD petition is headed directly your way. The third thing you should do if you do get hit by AD/CVD duties is to figure out damage control going forward.

  1. New AD/CVD Petition – Are my products affected? AD/CVD petitions include a proposed scope definition that identifies the products covered. AD/CVD scope definitions can be complicated and unclear. They may be broader or narrower than the Customs tariff classifications normally used to identify such imports. Even if you think your products are outside the scope of the petition, U.S. Customs may disagree. U.S. Customs commonly demands that you first pay an AD/CVD deposit, assuming that your products are within the scope of the AD/CVD petition, and then Customs will return your deposit only if you get a Department of Commerce (DOC) ruling that your products are actually outside the scope. For example, with aluminum extrusions from China, the DOC has received around a hundred scope ruling requests to clarify whether certain products are included or excluded from the scope of that order.

Once you know the scope definition, you can evaluate the degree to which the AD/CVD action could impact your business.  Sometimes you and your customer can find alternatives to replace the subject AD/CVD products with either non-subject products or by your sourcing from non-subject countries. If you have options to switch away from the products covered by the AD/CVD action, it may not be necessary to participate in the AD/CVD investigation.

  1. AD/CVD investigations – How to defend? If your product is squarely within the scope of the AD/CVD petition and the U.S. market is worth fighting for, you should determine the best way to prepare for the AD/CVD investigation. If you have enough time before a petition is filed, you theoretically can try to adjust your sales to remedy whatever is causing the dumped or subsidized sales, most commonly by raising your prices for certain products or customers or by modifying your production operations by lowering or reallocating costs. Unfortunately, most companies are not proactive about planning to avoid AD/CVD actions and instead react only after a petition is filed. We find this especially true of our clients that import from China, as opposed to Europe.

Once an AD/CVD investigation is initiated, foreign producers and exporters and US importers should try to defend their interests before the two agencies responsible for making AD/CVD determinations: The International Trade Commission (ITC) determines whether a domestic industry is injured or threatened with injury by reason of the subject imports and the Department of Commerce (DOC) determines how much the subject imports are dumped or subsidized.

In ITC investigations, the best defenses are presented when the foreign producers, US importers, and US purchasers can organize and explain why the subject imports should not be blamed for any decline in the domestic industry’s performance. Because the ITC examines a broad range of data regarding the US market for the subject product, a comprehensive explanation of relevant market conditions is necessary to a winning argument.

In DOC investigations, the foreign producer and exporters are the primary respondents to the DOC’s questionnaires. These companies must provide extensive corporate structure, sales and cost data, often through multiple rounds of questionnaires. The DOC uses the submitted data to calculate AD/CVD margins.  Unaffiliated US importers usually do not need to submit data in DOC investigations and reviews, but they often will closely monitor the DOC’s proceedings because they will ultimately be responsible for paying the AD/CVD duties. See Sourcing Product From China: You Should Know About Importer of Record Liability.

The key to any AD/CVD defense is participating fully in both the DOC’s and the ITC’s investigations. If you don’t participate, you have no chance of winning. If a party does not respond on time or with complete responses, the DOC and the ITC can apply the adverse facts available that inevitably lead to higher AD/CVD margins. US importers should at least actively monitor DOC’s proceedings because their final AD/CVD liability often depends on how well the Chinese producers and exporters are able to respond to DOC’s questionnaires. It is not uncommon for the Chinese producer or exporter to mount a weak or no defense, leaving the U.S. importer essentially “holding the bag.” There are many things you can and should do to try to prevent this from happening to you.

  1. How to Plan for Life with AD/CVD. The overwhelming majority of AD/CVD petitions lead to orders for imposing AD/CVD duties.  But depending on the scope definition of the AD/CVD order, it may be possible for you to maintain your business operations by identifying alternative out-of-scope products or by switching your product sourcing to a non-subject country. But in switching sourcing, US importers should be careful to avoid actions that could be considered schemes designed primarily to evade AD/CVD duties, as the DOC can extend orders through circumvention investigations. Customs too can conduct its own investigation of duty evasion allegations.

Also, because the United States uses a retrospective AD/CVD system, foreign suppliers and US importers have the opportunity each year to try to lower their dumping margin. Since AD/CVD duties are “remedial”, foreign producers and U.S. importers have ample opportunity to adjust their production and sales operations so that they can sell “fairly” to the U.S. market, as defined by the U.S. trade laws and with proper planning and disciplined execution, companies can sometimes make even minor adjustments to reduce or eliminate their AD/CVD duty liability.

Bottom Line: You are not without defenses when the AD/CVD bogeyman appears to be heading for you. There are things you can do both to stop it from attacking your business and things you can do to restore your business once attacked.

Editor’s Note: This post focuses on products exported from China to the United States, but its advice applies with equal force to products exported from any other country to the United States and with nearly equal force to products exported from any other country to any other country that also has AD/CVD sanctions.

CAFC MAGNESIUM METAL DECISION

On October 6, 2016, in the attached decision, cafc-magnesium, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the Commerce Department’s decision that replacement of stainless steel retorts used to produce magnesium metal was an overhead expense and not a direct cost in the Magnesium Metal from China antidumping case.

STEEL TRADE CASES

CARBON AND ALLOY STEEL CUT-TO-LENGTH PLATE FROM CHINA AND KOREA

On September 7, 2016, in the attached fact sheet, clt-plate-cvd-prelim-fs-090716, Commerce issued an affirmative preliminary CVD determination in the initial investigation of certain carbon and alloy steel cut-to-length plate from China and a negative preliminary determination in the CVD investigation of imports from Korea.

China CVD rate best on all facts available is 210.50% and Korea’s CVD rate is 0.

CARBON AND ALLOY STEEL CUT-TO-LENGTH PLATE FROM BRAZIL, SOUTH AFRICA AND TURKEY

On September 16, 2016, in the attached fact sheet, factsheet-multiple-ctl-plate-ad-prelim-091616, Commerce announced its affirmative preliminary determinations in the AD investigations of imports of certain carbon and alloy steel cut-to-length plate from Brazil, South Africa, and Turkey.

Brazil’s antidumping rate is 74.52%.  South Africa’s antidumping rates range from 87.72% to 94.14%.  Turkey’s antidumping rates range from 42.02% to 50%.

STAINLESS STEEL SHEET AND STRIP FROM CHINA

On September 12, 2016, in the attached fact sheet, factsheet-prc-stainless-steel-sheet-strip-ad-prelim-091216, Commerce announced its affirmative preliminary determination in the AD investigation of imports of stainless steel sheet and strip from China.  The antidumping rates range from 63.86% to 76.64%.

TRADE CASES AGAINST EUROPE

EUROPEAN TARGETS IN ANTIDUMPING AND COUNTERVAILING DUTY CASES AND WHAT CAN BE DONE TO GET BACK IN THE US MARKET AGAIN

Recently, there have been several articles about the sharp rise in AD and CVD/trade remedy cases in the last year.  By the second half of 2016, the US Government has reported that twice as many AD and CVD cases have been initiated in 2015-2016 as in 2009.

China is not the only target.  AD cases have been recently filed against a number of European countries, including Carbon and Alloy Steel Plate from Austria, Belgium, Germany, and Italy; Steel Flanges from Italy and Spain; and Rubber from Poland.

In addition, there are outstanding AD and CVD orders against Germany on brass sheet and strip, seamless pipe, sodium nitrite and non-oriented electrical steel.  In addition to Germany, other EU Countries have been hit on various steel products, including a number of stainless steel products, from Spain, Belgium and Italy; brass sheet and strip from France and Italy, isocyanurates from Spain, pasta from Italy, paper from Portugal and Uranium from France. The oldest US AD order in place today is pressure sensitive plastic tape from Italy, which was issued in 1977.

Under US law Commerce determines whether dumping is taking place.  Dumping is defined as selling imported goods at less than fair value or less than normal value, which in general terms means lower than prices in the home/foreign market or below the fully allocated cost of production.  Antidumping duties are levied to remedy the unfair act by raising the US price so that the products are fairly traded.

Commerce also imposes Countervailing Duties to offset any foreign subsidies provided by foreign governments so as to raise the price of the subsidized imports.

AD and CVD duties can only be imposed if there is injury to the US industry, which is determined by the ITC.  But in determining injury, the law directs the ITC to cumulate, that is add together all the imports of the same product from the various foreign countries.

The real question many companies may have is how can AD and CVD rates be reduced so that the European company can start exporting to the US again.  US AD and CVD laws are considered remedial, not punitive statutes.  Thus, every year in the month in which the AD or CVD order was issued, Commerce gives the parties, including the domestic producers, foreign producers and US importers, the right to request a review investigation based on sales of imports that entered the US in the preceding year.

Thus, the AD order on electrical steel from Germany was issued in December 2014.   In December 2016, the German producer can request a review investigation of the electrical steel that entered, was actually imported into, the US during the period December 1, 2015 to November 31, 2016.

EU companies may ask that it is too difficult to export a 17 metric ton container of covered product to the US, requesting a nonaffiliated importer to put up an AD of 50 to over 100%, which can require a payment of $1 million USD or more.  In contrast to European law, however, the US AD and CVD law is retrospective.  Thus the importer posts a cash deposit when it imports products under an AD or CVD order, and the importer will get back the difference plus interest at the end of the review investigation.

More importantly, through a series of cases, Commerce has let foreign producers export smaller quantities of the product to use as a test sale in a review investigation if all other aspects of the sale are normal.  Thus in a chemical case, we had the exporter put a metric ton of the chemical in question in a container with other products and that metric ton served as the test sale to establish the new AD rate.

EU Companies may also ask how we can make sure that we are not dumping.  The answer is dump proofing and computer programs.  In contrast to China, EU companies are considered market economy companies and, therefore, Commerce must use actual prices and costs in the European country to determine whether it is dumping or not.  Computer programs can be used to reduce the dumping margin significantly by modeling US prices and EU home market prices to eliminate or significantly reduce antidumping rates.

How successful can companies be in reviews?  In one EU Steel case, we dropped the dumping rate from over 17% in the initial investigation to 0% in the review investigation.  In a chemical from China case, we dropped a dumping rate of over 200% to 0%, allowing the Chinese company to become the exclusive exporter of the product for decades per order of the US government.

Playing the AD and CVD game in review investigations can significantly reduce AD and CVD rates and get the EU company back in the US market again

TRADE ADJUSTMENT ASSISTANCE FOR FIRMS/COMPANIES

David Holbert, who heads the Northwest Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (“NWTAAC”), is writing a series of posts on the NWTAAC website on how Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms/Companies helps injured companies injured by imports.  This is the first post.

Imports are Like a Thousand Flash Floods Injuring US Companies That Are Not Competitive

The issue of trade competition and lost jobs is well discussed in the media.  I work with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who are negatively affected by trade competition, what is often called “trade impact” in policy lingo. It’s a big issue. According to the U.S Trade Representative, the United States’ 30 million SMEs account for nearly two-thirds of net new private sector jobs in recent decades.

For large companies or from a macro-economic perspective, import competition may seem like a rising tide – one that can be anticipated, prepared for or proactively mitigated. For small and medium-sized businesses, not equipped with diverse product lines, resources or change acumen, import competition feels more like a flash flood.

What is it like for those companies?  When trade impact hits, sales drop off, often suddenly.

  • Contract manufacturers build to specification for customers, often larger companies. For this group, trade impact could mean the loss of a major customer moving operations to a foreign country (and finding parts suppliers there), or simply an importer arriving on the scene with lower cost products.
  • For a consumer products company, trade impact will probably first arrive with falling sales to the big retail chains since they are the most sensitive to supplier prices.
  • For a commodity producer things are a little more predictable. There may be a change in currency valuation or the rise of a new industry in a foreign country. Regardless, these highly price sensitive markets will suddenly have a lower price option.
  • Commercial products producers will usually have more time. When imports arrive they will sell to generally more informed customers who usually value factors other than price. But the fall will come, just more slowly.

Sales could fall off for many reasons. How do you know its trade related? You ask or you ask around. It shouldn’t take long to find out.

Imports arrive product by product. Companies move offshore factory by factory.  A domestic company makes that product, is part of the supply chain needed to make the product or is part of that commodity industry. When the imports arrive (or the factory moves), that one company or set of suppliers or community of producers is directly in the way. All of this happens in what can seem to be a relatively normal looking manufacturing neighborhood. Across the street there might be a company making another product that is experiencing no trade competition. Next door a third company might have gone through trade impact years ago and has adjusted. For small and medium sized companies, trade impact can be surprisingly direct and specific.

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about.

  • A commercial products company makes a specialized tool. A couple of other U.S. and European companies make similar products with some parity between price and features. One year they are at the big industry trade show and see a product, similar to theirs (and the others), but priced about 40% lower. Three months later sales started slipping.
  • A contract manufacturer that machines metal parts had gravitated away from stainless steel to titanium and built for several competitors in the same industry. Foreign producers had mastered stainless steel over the last decade. But as of a recent year, those producers finally mastered titanium as well. One by one, the manufacturer’s customers started buying imports. Once one did, it had a cost advantage, so the others had to go along also.
  • A nut grower was maintaining a slim profit. Then, a certain country decided to incentivize its nut growers to achieve more efficiency and export capability. It took a while, but when the imported nuts started arriving, they were at a price point below break-even for the domestic producer.
  • A safety products producer sold through a variety of retailers. One year, seemingly out of the blue, the big box stores stopped ordering. It didn’t take long to figure out why. A similar imported product was on the shelves at about half the price.

In future posts I’ll cover the steps to recovery. They are many effective tools in the economic recovery toolbox.  In many cases, companies that employed these resources are now unrecognizable through increased scale and product changes. Interestingly, a surprising number become significant exporters.

My role at the Northwest Trade Adjustment Assistance Center is to help small and medium-sized companies that are negatively impacted by trade competition through grants of up to $75,000.  Our non-profit organization administers a federal program serving companies in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. You can learn more about us at NWTAAC.org.

CUSTOMS LAW

IMPORTING GOODS FROM CHINA: THE RISKS ARE RISING

By Adams Lee, Harris Moure International Trade Group

Last month I wrote about how importers from China need to be on their guard since U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has implemented new regulations to investigate allegations of antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) evasion. See Importing From China: One More (New) Thing You Need To Know.

It didn’t take long, as U.S. Customs has already begun its first wave of investigations: Wheatland Tube, a US steel pipe producer, on September 14, 2016 announced it had filed with CBP an allegation of duty evasion on imports of Chinese circular welded steel pipe.

CBP has published a timeline for conducting its investigations and a process diagram (EAPA Investigation Timeline) and this newly filed allegation will be a test case to see how CBP will conduct its new duty evasion investigations. Hopefully, CBP will soon address many of the questions raised by the new regulations. How will parties be allowed to participate? What information from the investigation will be made public? How will CBP define “reasonable suspicion” of duty evasion?

This steel pipe investigation is likely to be the first of many CBP duty evasion investigations that are to come, many (probably most) of which will target Chinese products subject to AD/CVD duties. For how to figure out the risk quotient for the products you import from China, check out China Imports: Know Your Risks.

The new antidumping and countervailing duty regulations will unquestionably require an increased number of importers and foreign manufacturers to formally respond to CBP’s questions in response to allegations. Given the strong political pressure by domestic U.S. industries calling for tougher enforcement of US trade laws (not to mention the rising opposition to free trade among the American populace), Chinese producers and exporters and US importers should be prepared for increased CBP activity. CBP is likely looking to punish someone hard to set an example of their improved enforcement.

Getting Your China Products Through U.S. Customs: The 101

By Emily Lawson, Harris Moure International Trade Group

If you are importing products from China you need to do your homework to make sure your incoming shipments into the United States comply with U.S. Customs laws and regulations. Compliance with U.S. Customs laws and regulations is critical in avoiding your shipments being detained or seized, and/or penalties assessed. Common issues importers of products from China typically face include the following:  

  Not determining proper classification and duty rate for products. If you plan to import and sell on a Delivered Duty Paid basis, you should consider customs duties in your costs and that means you should know all of your applicable duty rates before you import. Also certain products are subject to high antidumping or countervailing duties in addition to regular customs duties, which may be as high as 300%.

   Failing to mark the product with the country of origin of manufacture.  Generally goods of foreign origin for import into the U.S. or immediate containers of the goods must be marked legibly and in a conspicuous location with the country of origin in English. Failure to do so accurately  can result in civil and even possibly criminal penalties.

  Not properly marking wood packing material. All wood packing material for products imported into the U.S. must be properly  treated and marked prior to shipping. Failure to meet the treatment and marking requirements may cause shipments to be delayed and penalties issued. 

  Failing to provide complete commercial invoices. Customs regulations provide that specific data must be included on the commercial invoice for U.S. Customs purposes, including a detailed description of the merchandise, and correct value information. Omission of this information may result in improper declaration to U.S. Customs at the time of import and expose you to penalties.

  Failing to meet other U.S. Government agency requirements.  Goods imported for sale in the U.S. must satisfy the same legal requirements as those goods manufactured in the United States. U.S. Customs enforces the laws of other agencies in the U.S., including, the Food and Drug Administration, the Consumer Product Safety  Commission (CPSC), and the Environmental Protection Agency, in addition to others. Therefore, if toys, for example, are exported to the U.S., detailed CPSC requirements, including for testing, must be met prior to export.

   Distribution of many trademarked and copyrighted items. Items which are trademarked and copyrighted are restricted by contractual agreements that give exclusive rights to specific companies to distribute the product in the U.S. Imports of improperly  trademarked or copyrighted items can be seized at the U.S. border and can subject you as the importer to penalties.

 Taking the time to identify  the required U.S. Customs laws and regulations for the products to be shipped to the U.S. from China will help you maintain seamless delivery  of your merchandise to U.S. customers and avoid civil and criminal penalty  exposure.

FALSE CLAIMS HAMMER GETS BIGGER — THIRD CIRCUIT HOLDS FCA’S APPLICATION TO FALSE STATEMENTS MADE TO US CUSTOMS

On October 5, 2916, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals  in the attached decision in United States ex rel Customs Fraud Investigations, LLC. v. Vitaulic Company, us-vs-vitaulic, reversed the Federal District Court and held that a failure to label imported goods with the proper country of origin is actionable under the False Claim Act (“FCA”).  Vitaulic had imported millions of pounds of steel pipe with the wrong country of origin.

In holding that this is an actionable claim under the FCA, the Court stated:

These actions, according to CFI, give rise to the present qui tam action under the so-called “reverse false claims” provision in the False Claims Act (FCA).  Typically, a claim under the FCA alleges that a person or company submitted a bill to the government for work that was not performed or was performed improperly, resulting in an undeserved payment flowing to that person or company. The FCA was enacted as a reaction to rampant fraud and price gouging by merchants supplying the Union army during the Civil War. In this case, by contrast, the allegation is not that Victaulic is obtaining monies from the government to which it is not entitled, but rather that it is retaining money it should have paid the government in the form of marking duties. Wrongful retention cases such as these are known as “reverse false claims” actions.

The Court went on to state:

Of particular importance here, the Senate Report discussed “customs duties for mismarking country of origin,” and how such duties would be covered by the amended reverse false claims Provision. . . .

The plain text of the FCA’s reverse claims provision is clear: any individual who “knowingly conceals or knowingly and improperly avoids or decreases an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the Government” may be subject to liability. As alleged by CFI in the amended complaint, Victaulic declined to notify the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection of its pipe fittings’ non-conforming status. This failure to notify resulted in the pipe fittings being released into the stream of commerce in the United States and, consequently, marking duties being owed and not paid.

From a policy perspective, the possibility of reverse false claims liability in such circumstances makes sense in the context of the larger import/export regulatory scheme created by Congress. Because of the government’s inability to inspect every shipment entering the United States, an importer may have an incentive to decline to mention that its goods are mismarked on the assumption that the mismarking will not be discovered. In doing so, an importer avoids its obligation under 19 U.S.C. § 1484 to provide the government with such information as is necessary to enable the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection to determine whether the merchandise may be released from government custody or whether it must be properly marked, re-exported or destroyed.

HONEY AND FURNITURE

FURNITURE

On September 30, 2016, Ecologic Industries LLC and OMNI SCM LLC controlled by a Daniel Scott Goldman agreed to pay $1.525 million to settle a civil False Claims Act suit alleging it conspired to make false statements to avoid paying duties on wooden furniture imported from China to avoid the antidumping duties on Wooden Bedroom Furniture from China.  The companies sell furniture for student housing.

The case was filed by a whistleblower Matthew Bissanti, who is the former president and director of OMNI.  The Justice Department reported that Bissanti will receive $228,750 as his share of the settlement.

HONEY

On Aug 12, 2016, in the attached notice, to-bee-or-not-to-bee_-cbp-and-partners-seized-132-drums-of-hone, Customs and Border Protection announced seizure of 42 tons of illegally imported Chinese honey.  The honey was contained in 132 fifty-five gallon drums that were falsely declared as originating from Taiwan to evade antidumping duties applicable to Chinese honey. The evaded antidumping duties on this shipment of Chinese honey would be nearly $180,299.

ANTITRUST LAW

VITAMIN C ANTITRUST CASE—THE REAL ANTIDUMPING BACK STORY

On September 20, 2016, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals handed down its attached decision in the Vitamin C Antitrust case against the Chinese companies, In Re: Vitamin C Antitrust Litigation, vitamin-c-13-4791_opn-2d-cir-sept-20-2016.  In its decision, the Court of Appeals reversed the Federal District Court’s decision that the Chinese Vitamin C companies had fixed prices in violation of the US antitrust because Chinese government action, in effect, insulated the Chinese companies from US antitrust liability.

The Court of Appeals made the correct decision because as indicated below, I have personal knowledge as to the reason the Chinese government set the Vitamin C export price scheme in place to raise Chinese export prices—to deter US and other Antidumping cases.

As the Court of Appeals stated in its opinion:

the Chinese Government filed a formal statement in the district court asserting that Chinese law required Defendants to set prices and reduce quantities of vitamin C sold abroad, and because Defendants could not simultaneously comply with Chinese law and U.S. antitrust law . . .

The Court of Appeals then reversed the District Court “on international comity grounds” and ordered the District Court to dismiss the complaint with prejudice.

In effect, the Second Circuit held that based on comity grounds, that is, respect for Chinese law as evidenced by a formal statement and submission of the Chinese government that the Chinese government lawfully set up a scheme to raise Vitamin C prices, the Federal District Court should have dismissed the case.  The Court of Appeals held that the District Court should have deferred to the Chinese government and exempted the Chinese companies from the application of the US antitrust law based on the state action defense.  It should be noted that the Federal Government and State Governments through state action can insulate US domestic companies from the application of the US antitrust law.

The Court of Appeals specifically determined in the decision that:

The official statements of the Ministry should be credited and accorded deference. . . .The  2002  Notice,  inter  alia,  demonstrates  that  from  2002  to  2005,  the relevant time period alleged in the complaint, Chinese law required Defendants to participate in the PVC regime in order to export vitamin C. This regulatory regime allowed vitamin C manufacturers the export only vitamin C subject to contracts that complied with the “industry‐wide negotiated” price.

Although the 2002 Notice does not specify how the “industry‐wide negotiated” price was set, we defer to the Ministry’s reasonable interpretation that the term means what it suggests—that members of the regulated industry were required to negotiate and agree upon a price.  . . ..

In this context, we find it reasonable to view the entire PVC regime as a decentralized means by which the Ministry, through the Chamber, regulated the export of vitamin C by deferring to the manufacturers and adopting their agreed upon price as the minimum export price. In short, by directing vitamin C manufacturers to coordinate export prices and quantities and adopting those standards into the regulatory regime, the Chinese Government required Defendants to violate the Sherman Act. . . .

Because we hold that Defendants could not comply with both U.S. antitrust laws and Chinese law regulating the foreign export of vitamin C, a true conflict exists between the applicable laws of China and those of the United States.

The Court of Appeals went on to state:

Moreover, there is no evidence that Defendants acted with the express purpose or intent to affect U.S. commerce or harm U.S. businesses in particular. Rather, according to the Ministry, the regulations at issue governing Defendants’ conduct were intended to assist China in its transition from a state‐run command economy to a market‐driven economy, and the resulting price‐fixing was intended to ensure China remained a competitive participant in the global vitamin C market and to prevent harm to China’s trade relations. While it was reasonably foreseeable that China’s vitamin C policies would generally have a negative effect on Plaintiffs as participants in the international market for vitamin C, as noted above, there is no evidence that Defendants’ antitrust activities were specifically directed at Plaintiffs or other U.S. companies.

The purpose of the Chinese export scheme was not to damage US customers or businesses.  In fact, just the opposite was true.  The Chinese government wanted to keep exports flowing.

What was the concern of the Chinese government?  US and other antidumping cases, which could wipe Chinese exports out of the US market for decades.  This was the true number one anticompetitive threat that the Chinese government and companies were facing.  Was this a realistic threat?  Sure was.

The period that the export price scheme was set in place was 2002-2005.  On July 11, 2002, after losing an antidumping case in the mid-90s against Saccharin from China despite very high antidumping rates because of a no injury determination by the US International Trade Commission (“ITC”), PMC, the sole US producer of saccharin, filed a second antidumping case against saccharin from China.  The Chinese Chamber of Commerce in charge of the Saccharin case was the Chamber of Commerce for Medicines, the same Chamber in charge of the Vitamin C case.

On July 2, 2003, the Commerce Department issued an antidumping order against all imports of saccharin from China with rates ranging from an individual dumping rate of 249.39% to 329.29% for all other Chinese companies, effectively blocking all Chinese saccharin from China.  The Antidumping Order was in effect for 10 years.

Although one company that I represented was after three and a half years able to reduce its dumping rate down to 0%, all other Chinese saccharin was blocked out of the US market for 10 years.  Market prices for saccharin in the US soared from a low $1.50 per pound in the investigative period to a price well over $10 a pound.

And US plaintiff companies in the Vitamin C case were complaining about the price rise in Vitamin C exports to the US??!!  I am sure the increase was not 10 times.

Since I represented the Chinese saccharin industry in the Saccharin antidumping case, the Chamber of Commerce for Medicine and I were very aware of the devastating effect a US or other antidumping case could have on Chinese companies and exports.  After the antidumping order was issued, in the Summer of 2003 the Chamber called me to a meeting with the Chinese Vitamin C producers and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (“MOFCOM”} to discuss how to deter US and other antidumping cases.  The Chamber and MOFCOM were very worried that intense Chinese price competition would lead to a wave of antidumping cases against the Vitamin C companies.

The Vitamin C companies, the Chamber and MOFCOM asked what can we do if there is a threat of an antidumping case.  Since Commerce and all other countries treat China as a nonmarket economy country and refuse to use actual prices and costs in China to determine antidumping cases, the general practice of dump proofing where antidumping consultants use computer programs to eliminate the unfair act, dumping, is not an option for Chinese companies.

The only remedy I could think of was that the Chinese government impose an export price floor.  That approach worked in the 90s with another Chamber of Commerce when there was a threat of a US antidumping case against Silicon Carbide from China.  The US Silicon Carbide producer in the one company US industry never filed their threatened antidumping case against China because of the export price floor the Chamber with MOFCOM’s consent put in place.

After suggesting that the Chamber set up an export price floor with MOFCOM’s involvement, I went on to state that MOFCOM would have to issue a law, regulation or action to show that the Government mandated the establishment of the system to insulate the Chinese companies from attack under the US antitrust laws.

The Chamber did set up the export price system for Vitamin C exports to stop US and other antidumping cases from being filed against the Chinese companies.  No Vitamin C antidumping cases were filed because the export price system was put in place.

As indicated by the Second Circuit, MOFOM did take government action to set up the export price scheme, which, in turn, insulated the Chinese companies from US antitrust liability.

The lesson of the story is that although the purpose of US antitrust law is to protect consumers and competition in the US market, the real threat to US consumers and market competition is the US antidumping law.

CRIMINAL IP/TRADE SECRET CASE

On October 5, 2016, the Justice Department in the attached notice, chinese-national-sentenced-to-prison-for-conspiracy-to-steal-tr, announced the sentencing of Mo Hailong, a/k/a Robert Mo, a Chinese national to three years in Federal prison for a conspiracy to steal trade secrets.  Mr. Mo Hailong was the Director of International Business of the Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Company, commonly referred to as DBN. DBN is a Chinese conglomerate with a corn seed subsidiary company, Kings Nower Seed.

According to the plea agreement, Mo Hailong admitted to participating in a long-term conspiracy to steal trade secrets from DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto. Mo Hailong participated in the theft of inbred corn seeds from fields in Iowa and elsewhere for the purpose of transporting the seeds to DBN in China. The stolen inbred, or parent, seeds were the valuable trade secrets of DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto.

U.S. Attorney Kevin E. VanderSchel stated:

“Mo Hailong stole valuable proprietary information in the form of seed corn from DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto in an effort to transport such trade secrets to China. Theft of trade secrets is a serious federal crime, as it harms victim companies that have invested millions of dollars and years of work toward the development of propriety technology. The theft of agricultural trade secrets, and other intellectual property, poses a grave threat to our national economic security. The Justice Department and federal law enforcement partners are committed to prosecuting those who in engage in conduct such as Mo Hailong.”

SECTION 337 AND IP CASES

NEW 337 CASES

On October 6, 2016, Nite Ize, Inc. filed a major 337 case against Device Holders, many of which come from China.  The relevant parts of the ITC notice along with the names of the Chinese respondent companies are below.

Commodity:

Device Holders

Filed by:

James B. Altman

Firm/Organization:

Foster, Murphy, Altman & Nickel, PC

Behalf of:

Nite Ize, Inc.

Description:

Letter to Lisa R. Barton, Secretary, USITC; requesting that the Commission conduct an investigation under section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended, regarding Certain Device Holders, and Components Thereof. The proposed respondents are Shenzhen Youtai Trade Company Limited, d/b/a NoChoice, China; REXS LLC, Lewes, DE; Spinido, Inc., Brighton, CO; Luo, Qiden, d/b/a Lita International Shop, China; Guangzhou Kuaguoyi E-commerece co., ltd., d/b/a Kagu Culture, China; Shenzhen New Dream Technology Co., Ltd., d/b/a Newdreams, China; Shenzhen Gold South technology Co., Ltd. d/b/a Baidatong, China; Zhao Chunhui d/b/a Skyocean, China; Sunpauto Co., ltd., HK; Wang Zhi Gang d/b/a China; Dang Yuya d/b/a Sminiker, China; Shenzhen Topworld Technology Co.,    d/b/a IdeaPro, Hong Kong; Lin Zhen Mei d/b/a Anson, China; Wu Xuying d/b/a Novoland, China; Shenzhen New Dream Sailing Electronic Technology Co., Ltd., d/b/a MegaDream, China; Zhongshan Feiyu Hardware technology Co., Ltd d/b/a YouFo, China; Ninghuazian Wangfulong Chaojishichang Youxian Gongsi, Ltd., d/b/a EasybuyUS, China; Chang Lee d/b/a Frentaly, Duluth, GA; Trendbox USA LLC d/b/a Trendbox, Scottsdale, AZ; Timespa d/b/a Jia Bai Nian (Shenzhen) Electronic Commerce Trade CO., LTD., China; Tontex d/b/a Shenzhen Hetongtai Electronics Co., Ltd., China; Scotabc d/b/a ShenChuang Opto-electronics Technology Co., Ltd., China; Tenswall d/b/a Shenzhen Tenswall International Trading Co., Ltd., La Puente, CA; Luo Jieqiong d/b/a Wekin, China; Pecham d/b/a Baichen Technology Ltd., Hong Kong; Cyrift d/b/a Guangzhou Sunway E-Commerce LLC., China; Rymemo d/b/a Global Box, LLC., Dunbar, PA; Wang Guoxiang d/b/a Minse, China; Yuan I d/b/a Bestrix, China; Zhiping Zhou d/b/a Runshion, China; Funlavie, Riverside, CA; Huijukon d/b/a Shenzhen Hui Ju Kang technology Co., Ltd., China; Zhang Haujun d/b/a CeeOne, China; Easy Acc d/b/a Searay LLC., Newark, DE; Barsone d/b/a Shenzhen Senweite Electronic Commerce Ltd., China; Oumeiou d/b/a Shenzhen Oumeiou Technology Co., Ltd., China; Grando d/b/a Shenzhen Dashentai Network Technology Co., Ltd., China; Shenzhen Yingxue Technology Co., Ltd., China; Shenzhen Longwang Technology Co., Ltd., d/b/a LWANG, China; Hu Peng d/b/a AtomBud, China

CHINESE VERSION OF 337 ARTICLE

Set forth below is a Chinese version of the 337 English article published last month followed by the original English version.

阻止来自中国的侵权产品:337条款调查案

随着亚马逊和eBay加大力度引入中国卖家,以及越来越多的中国制造商另辟蹊径生产本身的产品,向我们在中国的律师咨询有关盗版产品和仿冒问题的公司数目也随之猛增。若该问题涉及到把侵权产品进口到美国,拥有美国知识产权的公司可以采取强大的补救措施进行反击。其中一个最强有力的补救措施就是337条款调查案,它可以用来阻止侵权产品进入美国,无论该产品生产自何处。

337条款调查案(该名称源自于19 U.S.C. 1337法令)可用来打击侵犯版权、商标、专利或商业秘密的进口品。但是由于注册商标和版权拥有人一般上可以采取其它的法律行动,337条款调查案对专利、未注册商标和商业秘密的拥有人尤其有效。虽然该调查案通常局限于知识产权,正在对钢铁产品进行的337调查案中,美国钢铁业试图将不公平行为的定义扩大以便将入侵计算机系统和违反反垄断行为包含在内。

首先,美国国际贸易委员会(“ITC”)会发起337条款的调查。如果ITC发现某进口货侵犯了特定的知识产权,可以发出排除令(exclusion order),美国海关就会扣留所有侵权的进口货。

大量种类各异的产品已经因337条款调查案而被禁止入口:从玩具(魔方拼图、椰菜娃娃)、鞋类(匡威运动鞋)、大型机器(造纸机)、消费类产品(首饰盒、汽车配件、电子香烟和烫发器)到高科技产品(电脑、手机和半导体芯片)等等。

337条款是知识产权和贸易的混合型法令,某个美国产业必须证明受到了伤害。伤害证明的要求很低,几乎所有的案例都符合此要求——只许一些销售损失就能证明伤害。对符合美国产业的要求可说是关键所在。美国产业通常是一家持有相关知识产权的公司。如果该知识产权是一项注册商标、版权或专利,美国产业的要求范围已扩大至凡在美国进行的工厂和设备、劳动力或资本的重大投资,以及专利权开发的实质性投资,包括工程、研发或授权许可,均可视为国内产业。然而,ITC最近提高了美国产业的要求,让专利“流氓”或非执业实体更难提出337调查案诉求。

337条款调查案由行政法官(ALJ)负责审理,诉讼过程迅速且激烈,一般上只需12至15个月来完成。ITC收到一份337调查的申请后,有30天的时间来决定是否立案。一旦确定立案,ITC会将诉状和调查通知答辩方。外国被诉方有30天的时间应诉,美国国内的被诉方则只有20天的时间应诉。如果进口商或外国被诉方没有做出回应,ITC会可认定公司放弃抗辩而发出排除令。

ITC在337调查案中所采取的是“对物”管辖权,也就是针对进口到美国的产品进行管辖。这很合理:ITC无权管制外国公司,但有权管制其进口产品。一般而言,337条款调查案和大多数的普通诉讼案不同,申诉方可以打赢一家1)不可能送达诉状、2)未能出庭聆讯,以及3)不可能被追讨款项的中国公司。

337条款调查案所采取的补救措施是颁布排除令,阻止答辩方的侵权产品进入美国。但是在某些特殊情况下,如果某个产品非常容易制造,ITC可以发布普遍排除令,不分来源地禁止所有同类侵权产品进入美国。以我处理过的魔方拼图案件为例,Ideal公司(申请人)把超过400家台湾公司列为侵犯其普通法商标的答辩人。ITC在1983年发布了普遍排除令(General Exclusion Order),阻止非Ideal公司制造的魔方产品进入美国市场,这一禁令沿用至今。除了排除令,ITC也可以发布制止令(cease and desist orders),禁止美国进口商继续售卖相关侵权产品。

337条款调查案的双方也可以选择庭外和解,但是和解协议必须经由ITC复审。我们经常协助客户尽早解决337条款调查案,以减少他们的诉讼费用。在20世纪90年代初期,RCA针对中国进口的电视提出了337条款调查。所有涉及的中国公司通过与RCA签署授权许可协议,迅速地解决了该调查案。

337条款调查案中的答辩人通常可以通过修改本身产品的设计来避开相关的侵权指责。约翰迪尔(John Deere)曾经指控把拖拉机漆成绿色和黄色的中国公司侵犯了约翰迪尔的商标,因而提出了一项著名的337条款调查案。大部分的中国答辩人与申诉人达成协议并改变拖拉机的颜色,例如蓝红色。

关键点:337条款调查案是ITC发起的强有力诉讼案,美国公司应该把它视为阻止侵权产品进入美国市场的手段。另一方面,涉及这些调查案的美国进口商和外国答辩人应该认真地对待它们,并且迅速做出回应,因为排除令发出后可延续多年有效。

 STOP IP INFRINGING PRODUCTS FROM CHINA AND OTHER COUNTRIES USING CUSTOMS AND SECTION 337 CASES

With Amazon and Ebay having increased their efforts at bringing in Chinese sellers and with more and more Chinese manufacturers branching out and making their own products, the number of companies contacting our China lawyers here at Harris Moure about problems with counterfeit products and knockoffs has soared. If the problem involves infringing products being imported into the United States, powerful remedies are available to companies with US IP rights if the infringing imports are products coming across the US border.

If the IP holder has a registered trademark or copyright, the individual or company holding the trademark or copyright can go directly to Customs and record the trademark under 19 CFR 133.1 or the copyright under 19 CFR 133.31.  See https://iprr.cbp.gov/.

Many years ago a US floor tile company was having massive problems with imports infringing its copyrights on its tile designs.  Initially, we looked at a Section 337 case as described below, but the more we dug down into the facts, we discovered that the company simply failed to register its copyrights with US Customs.

Once the trademarks and copyrights are registered, however, it is very important for the company to continually police the situation and educate the various Customs ports in the United States about the registered trademarks and copyrights and the infringing imports coming into the US.  Such a campaign can help educate the Customs officers as to what they should be looking out for when it comes to identifying which imports infringe the trademarks and copyrights in question.  The US recording industry many years ago had a very successful campaign at US Customs to stop infringing imports.

For those companies with problems from Chinese infringing imports, another alternative is to go to Chinese Customs to stop the export of infringing products from China.  The owner of Beanie Babies did this very successfully having Chinese Customs stop the export of the infringing Beanie Babies out of China.

One of the most powerful remedies is a Section 337 case, which can block infringing products, regardless of their origin, from entering the U.S.  A Section 337 action (the name comes from the implementing statute, 19 U.S.C. 1337) is available against imported goods that infringe a copyright, trademark, patent, or trade secret. But because other actions are usually readily available to owners of registered trademarks and copyrights, Section 337 actions are particularly effective for owners of patents, unregistered trademarks, and trade secrets. Although generally limited to IP rights, in the ongoing Section 337 steel case, US Steel has been attempting to expand the definition of unfair acts to include hacking into computer systems and antitrust violations.

The starting point is a section 337 investigation at the US International Trade Commission (“ITC”).  If the ITC finds certain imports infringe a specific intellectual property right, it can issue an exclusion order and U.S. Customs will then keep out all the infringing imports at the border.

Section 337 cases have been brought and exclusion orders issued against a vast range of different products: from toys (Rubik’s Cube Puzzles, Cabbage Patch Dolls) to footwear (Converse sneakers) to large machinery (paper-making machines) to consumer products (caskets, auto parts, electronic cigarettes and hair irons) to high tech products (computers, cell phones, and semiconductor chips).

Section 337 is a hybrid IP and trade statute, which requires a showing of injury to a US industry. The injury requirement is very low and can nearly always be met–a few lost sales will suffice to show injury. The US industry requirement can be a sticking point. The US industry is usually the one company that holds the intellectual property right in question. If the IP right is a registered trademark, copyright or patent, the US industry requirement has been expanded to not only include significant US investment in plant and equipment, labor or capital to substantial investment in the exploitation of the IP right, including engineering, research and development or licensing.  Recently, however, the ITC has raised the US industry requirement to make it harder for patent “trolls” or Non Practicing Entities to bring 337 cases.

Section 337 cases, however, are directed at truly unfair acts.  Patents and Copyrights are protected by the US Constitution so in contrast to antidumping and countervailing duty cases, respondents in these cases get more due process protection.  The Administrative Procedures Act is applied to Section 337 cases with a full trial before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), extended full discovery, a long trial type hearing, but on a very expedited time frame.

Section 337 actions, in fact, are the bullet train of IP litigation, fast, intense litigation in front of an ALJ.  The typical section 337 case takes only 12-15 months. Once a 337 petition is filed, the ITC has 30 days to determine whether or not to institute the case. After institution, the ITC will serve the complaint and notice of investigation on the respondents. Foreign respondents have 30 days to respond to the complaint; US respondents have only 20 days. If the importers or foreign respondents do not respond to the complaint, the ITC can find the companies in default and issue an exclusion order.

The ITC’s jurisdiction in 337 cases is “in rem,” which means it is over the product being imported into the US. This makes sense: the ITC has no power over the foreign companies themselves, but it does have power over the imports. What this means in everyday terms is that unlike most regular litigation, a Section 337 case can be effectively won against a Chinese company that 1) is impossible to serve, 2) fails to show up at the hearing, and 3) is impossible to collect any money from.

The remedy in section 337 cases is an exclusion order excluding the respondent’s infringing products from entering the United States. In special situations, however, where it is very easy to manufacture a product, the ITC can issue a general exclusion order against the World.  In the Rubik’s Cube puzzle case, which was my case at the ITC, Ideal (the claimant) named over 400 Taiwan companies as respondents infringing its common law trademark. The ITC issued a General Exclusion Order in 1983 and it is still in force today, blocking Rubik’s Cube not made by Ideal from entering the United States. In addition to exclusion orders, the ITC can issue cease and desist orders prohibiting US importers from selling products in inventory that infringe the IP rights in question

Section 337 cases can also be privately settled, but the settlement agreement is subject to ITC review. We frequently work with our respondent clients to settle 337 cases early to minimize their legal fees. In the early 1990s, RCA filed a section 337 case against TVs from China. The Chinese companies all quickly settled the case by signing a license agreement with RCA.

Respondents caught in section 337 cases often can modify their designs to avoid the IP right in question. John Deere brought a famous 337 case aimed at Chinese companies that painted their tractors green and yellow infringing John Deere’s trademark. Most of the Chinese respondents settled the case and painted their tractors different colors, such as blue and red.

Bottom Line: Section 337 cases are intense litigation before the ITC, and should be considered by U.S. companies as a tool for fighting against infringing products entering the United States. On the flip side, US importers and foreign respondents named in these cases should take them very seriously and respond quickly because exclusion orders can stay in place for years.

If you have any questions about these cases or about US trade policy, TPP, the antidumping or countervailing duty law, trade adjustment assistance, customs, False Claims Act or 337 IP/patent law in general, please feel free to contact me.

Best regards,

Bill Perry

 

 

IMPORT SENSITIVE PRODUCTS AND NEW 337 CASES

Commerce Department After the Snow Pennsylvania Avenue WashingtoIMPORT SENSITIVE PRODUCTS

Over the last several years, because of my international trade expertise, many US importers have called me because they wake up one morning and find they are liable for antidumping (“AD”) and countervailing duties (“CVD”) on a number of different products.  These duties can be in the millions of dollars, when the importers simply did not know that the imported products were covered by US AD and CVD orders.  One unfortunate fact is that US importers, companies that import products into the United States, are liable for AD and CVD on imports and they can be retroactively liable.

This post highlights the breadth of products currently subject to antidumping and countervailing duty orders and it thus should serve as a warning to anyone in the United States who imports products from China.

If you were an importer of a solar recharger for an RV unit, for example, would you know that the product is covered by the US AD order on solar cells from China?  If you were importing curtain walls/the sides of buildings, auto parts, geodesic domes, and lighting equipment, would you know that the products were covered by US AD and CVD orders against aluminum extrusions?

In fact, the US presently has more than 130 AD and CVD orders against China and 100s of AD and CVD orders against imports from other countries.  The Chinese AD and CVD orders block more than $30 billion in imports, and those AD and CVD orders can stay in place for 5 to 30 years.  The orders can also expand to cover downstream products, such as curtain walls, certain solar cell consumer products, and gardening equipment.

With regards to China, more than 80 of the AD and CVD orders are against raw materials, chemicals, metals and various steel products, used in downstream US production.  In the Steel area, there are AD and CVD orders against the following Chinese steel products:

carbon steel plate, hot rolled carbon steel flat products, circular welded and seamless carbon quality steel pipe, rectangular pipe and tube, circular welded austenitic stainless pressure pipe, steel threaded rod, oil country tubular goods, steel wire strand and wire, high pressure steel cylinders, non-oriented electrical steel, and carbon and certain alloy steel wire rod.

There are ongoing investigations against cold-rolled steel and corrosion resistant/galvanized steel so almost all Chinese steel products from China are blocked by US AD and CVD orders.

In addition to steel, other metal products, such as silicomanganese, metallurgical coke, magnesium, silicon metal, and graphite electrodes, which are used in downstream steel production, are also blocked by AD orders.  Electrolytic Manganese Dioxide used to produce batteries is also covered, which led Panasonic to close its US battery factory and move to China.  The Magnesium AD orders have led to the destruction of the US Magnesium Dye Casting industry and the movement of light weight auto parts production to Canada.

In addition to steel and metal products, chemical products, such as sulfanilic acid, polyvinyl alcohol, barium carbonate, potassium permanganate, activated carbon, glycine, isocyanurates/swimming pool chemicals, xanthan gum, citric acid, and calcium hypochlorite, are covered by orders.  The AD order on sulfanilic acid led to the injury of the US optical brightening industry, which brought its own antidumping case against China.

In addition to raw materials, however, many household products are covered by AD and CVD orders, including ironing tables, steel sinks, wood flooring, wooden bedroom furniture, steel shelving, and steel cooking ware.  Other consumer products covered are: tires, hand trucks, lawn groomers, steel nails, paper clips, pencils, ribbons, candles, paper products, gift wrap and heavy forged hand tools.

In addition to household products, food products, such as shrimp, honey, crawfish and garlic, are covered by AD orders against China and other countries.

At this point in time, any product being imported from China is at least somewhat import sensitive and could well be attacked by US trade actions.  This means that an importer should monitor the products it imports for any potential trade sanctions. And if you the importer are hit with sanctions, know that in contrast to other legal statutes, the AD and CVD law are remedial statutes so you can request an antidumping or countervailing duty review investigation to get the rates reduced and with that your own liability for past imports.

NEW SECTION 337 INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY CASES FILED AT ITC AGAINST CHINA

On June 22, 2016,  Schutz Container Systems Inc. filed a section 337 IP case at the US International Trade Commission (“ITC”) against Composite Intermediate Bulk Containers.  The proposed respondent is Zhenjiang Runzhou Jinshan Packaging Factory, China.

On June 24, 2016, Excel Dryer, Inc. filed a section 337 IP case at the ITC against Hand Dryers and Housings for Hand Dryers.  The proposed respondents, including Chinese companies, are: ACL Group (Intl.) Ltd, United Kingdom; Alpine Industries Inc., Irving, New Jersey; FactoryDirectSale, Ontario, CA; Fujian Oryth Industrial Co., Ltd. (a/k/a Oryth), China; Jinhua Kingwe Electrical Co. Ltd., (a/k/a Kingwe), China; Penson & Co., China; Taizhou Dihour Electrical Appliances Co., Ltd. a/k/a Dihour, China; TC Bunny Co., Ltd., China; Toolsempire, Ontario, CA; US Air Hand Dryer, Sacramento, CA; Vinovo, China; and Zhejiang Akie Appliance Co., Ltd., China.

On July 5, 2016, The Chamberlain Group Inc. filed a section 337 case at the ITC against Access Control Systems.  The proposed respondents, including a Chinese company, are: Techtronic Industries Co. Ltd, Hong Kong; Techtronic Industries North America, Inc., Hunt Valley, Maryland; One World Technologies Inc., Anderson, South Carolina; OWT Industries Inc., Pickens, South Carolina; Ryobi Technologies Inc., Anderson, South Carolina; and Et Technology (Wuxi) Co., Ltd., China.

If you have any questions about these cases or about the antidumping or countervailing duty law, US trade policy, trade adjustment assistance, customs, or 337 IP/patent law in general, please feel free to contact me.

Best regards,

Bill Perry

US CHINA TRADE WAR —DEVELOPMENTS IN TRADE, CUSTOMS, PATENTS, AND SECURITIES

Jinshang Park from Forbidden City Yellow Roofs Gugong Palace BeiDear Friends,

There have been some new developments in the trade, customs, patents, and securities areas.

TRADE

NEW ANTIDUMPING CASE AGAINST CHINA ON CONCRETE STEEL RAIL TIE WIRE

On Tuesday, April 23, a new antidumping case was filed against Concrete Steel Rail Tie Wire from China.  The alleged antidumping rate is 54%.  Attached is a copy of the relevant pages of the petition.  Steel Rail Tie Wire Petition-4-25-13  The ITC Preliminary Conference will be held on May 14, 2013.  See attached ITC notice. ITC PRELIM NOTICE

HARDWOOD PLYWOOD ANTIDUMPING PRELIM —  FAIRNESS COMMERCE STYLE

On April 30th, Commerce issued its preliminary antidumping duty determinaton and the hardwood plywood companies got nailed again.  The two mandatory companies received, in effect, 0% duty rates.  But one hundred and one Chinese exporters, the rest of China, which is supposed to get the average rate or at least a rate that reflects commercial reality, received 22%. Keep in mind that the US importers pay these antidumping duties, not the Chinese exporters.  See the attached fact sheet.  factsheet_China-Hardwood-Decorative-Plywood-Prelim-30APR13

GOVT AND PETITIONER’S COUNSEL AWARDED LEGAL FEES AND COSTS FROM CHINESE COMPANY IN TIANJIN MAGNESIUM CASE

Attached is an opinion of the Court of International Trade awarding the government and Petitioner’s counsel $42,344 in legal fees and costs from TMI for TMI’s obstructive behavior in trade proceedings.  TIANJIN MAGNESIUM SANCTIONS CASE

As the CIT stated in the attached opinion:

“TMI’s repeated efforts — through counsel — to obstruct Commerce’s exercise of its statutory duties, to delay proceedings through frivolous argumentation and filings, and to mislead the court on material matters of fact and law constitute an intolerable level of vexatiousness and bad faith.  . . . Given TMI’s persistent misconduct before this Court and before Commerce, an award of fees and costs related to its problematic filings in this case is warranted and necessary to deter additional costly distractions in future trade proceedings.”

CUSTOMS

HONEY RICO ACTION

On April 19, 2013, three US honey producers filed a class action lawsuit in the Federal Court in Illinois against Honey Holding Ltd. under RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act alleging that Honey Holding had defrauded the US government and domestic honey makers by “landering” cheap altered versions of Chinese honey to disguise its country of origin and evade the Honey antidumping order.

Plaintiffs are asking for triple damages plus attorney fees.  The RICO Act or RICO is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. The RICO Act focuses specifically on racketeering, and it allows the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes which they ordered others to do or assisted them in doing.

Attached is a copy of the complaint HONEY HOLDING COMPLAINT, which alleges that:

“Plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and Class Members, bring this action as a national class action under Title XI (“RICO”) of Public Law 91-452, 84 Stat. 922 (1970) (as codified at 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961–1968, as amended) and the common law against Defendants for their fraud, negligent misrepresentation, conspiracy, and clandestine and wrongful importation and dumping of Chinese honey (and possibly honey from other unlawful source countries) on the United States honey market without paying the corresponding antidumping duties, by reason of which, Defendants substantially depressed the price of honey legitimately produced, packed, marketed, and sold in the United States by Plaintiffs and Class Members, damaged the Government in its governmental functions, and damaged Plaintiffs and Class Members in their businesses and/or property.  . . .”

“At all relevant times, since as early as 2000, Defendants have participated in a worldwide conspiracy to deceive Government import authorities about the origin of honey produced in China, avoid paying the corresponding antidumping duties on the Chinese honey, defraud the United States honey market and substantially injure Plaintiffs and Class Members—legitimate domestic honey producers and packers—in their businesses and property. “

PATENTS

ZTE AND LENOVO

Attached are patent complaints filed by Wyncomm on April 13, 2013 against ZTE and Lenovo.  ZTE PATENT LENOVO

HUAWEI AND ZTE—POTTER VOICE    

Attached is a patent complaint filed on April 25, 2013 against ZTE and Huawei by Potter Voice Technologies.  ZTE POTTER VOICE

CHINESE SEMICONDUCTOR COMPANIES

Attached is a patent complaint filed on April 18, 2013 by Semcon Tech LLC against Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, Semiconductor International Shanghai, Semiconductor Manufacturing International , Beijing and Tianjin, and Shenzhen and Siltech Semiconductor Shanghai  SHORT SEMICONDUCTOR PATENT

SECURITIES

US SECURITIES CASE BETWEEN TWO CHINESE COMPANIES IN US FEDERAL COURT

Attached is a securities complaint filed on April 17, 2013 in US Federal Court in California by one Chinese company suing another Chinese company for securities fraud under US Securities law.  The case is Great Dynasty International Financial Holdings Ltd. v. Haiting Li, Zhiyan Li, and Pacific Bepure Industry, Inc.  INTER CHINA SECURITIES CASE

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–TRADE, PATENTS, SECURITIES, ANTITRUST

Jackson Statue Lafayette Park Monument White House After Snow WaDear Friends,

Over the last week, there have been major developments in the Trade, Patents, Securities and Antitrust areas.  The beat of the US China Trade War goes on.

 

TRADE

SOLAR CELLS

Commerce has referred a number of Chinese exporters and US importers to Customs for evasion of the Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Orders through the Third Country Solar Cells issue.  See attached document.  PUBLIC VERSION Solar Cells Referral to CBP  In fact, we are working with one importer now because Customs is requiring the importer to prove that all the solar cells in the Chinese panels and modules are foreign solar cells and have not been commingled with Chinese solar cells.

STEEL SINKS

Unfortunately, the ITC reached an affirmative injury determination in the Steel Sinks case, ignoring the “but for” standard, the higher causation standard set in the Wood Flooring appeal.  The major reason for the loss in this case, however, was the failure of US importers and Chinese producers/exporters to participate in the case.  They gave up too soon.  Attached are the antidumping and countervailing duty orders that were issued in the case.  SINKS AD ORDER FED REG   SINKS CVD ORDER FED REG

COMMERCE DEPARTMENT RULE CHANGE

Attached is a revision to the Commerce Department’s antidumping and countervailing duty regulations regarding the submission of factual information, including surrogate value information, on the record at the Commerce Department, which was published April 10, 2013 in the Federal Register.  COMMERCE RULES CHANGE ON SURROGATE VALUES  The most important change apparently is the decision of the Commerce to eliminate the opportunity to submit surrogate values after the preliminary determination.

This is a real blow to US importers and Chinese producers/exporters because often the Chinese respondents have no idea what critical value Commerce will use until they see the Commerce Department’s preliminary determination.  If, for example, Commerce uses an aberrational surrogate value for a specific raw material input in the preliminary determination, the US importer or the Chinese company had the opportunity to get a more reasonable value and put it on the record.  No longer.

By the way, Commerce’s argument that Petitioners or respondents could not comment on the submission of the surrogate values after the preliminary determination is bogus.  Generally, Commerce takes another 6 months after the preliminary determination to issue its final determination and during that period both Petitioners and Respondents submit case and rebuttal briefs and attend a hearing at Commerce.

Now the chance to counter an aberrational surrogate value has been eliminated making it even more difficult for US importers and Chinese producers/exporters to get a fair determination at the Commerce Department.

CUSTOMS FRAUD

HONEYGATE– HONEY TRANSSHIPMENT

Attached is an article about the Customs fraud investigations in the transshipment of Chinese honey around US antidumping orders.  Honeygatel  The author is Michael Coursey, at the Kelley, Drye law firm.  Mike and I used to work at the Commerce Department together. Mike represents the US producers in the Honey, Mushrooms and Garlic from China antidumping cases so understand that he is looking at antidumping cases from a domestic producer’s point of view.

The point of the article, however, is that US producers are pushing for Customs investigations against transshipment around antidumping orders, and Customs is taking these investigations very seriously. As Mike states in the attached article as just one example of the Customs investigations listed in the Article:

“ICE’s undercover investigation also led to it to uncover another major player in Honeygate: Jun Yang, a wealthy Chinese businessman and purported pillar of the Houston, Texas community who served on advisory boards to the Mayor of Houston and hobnobbed with the rich and famous. Yang is believed to be involved in efforts to avoid dumping duties through the “new shipper” administrative review process at the Commerce Department. Specifically, Yang made millions as owner of honey and seafood importer National Commodity Corp. by brokering sales to Honey Solutions and others of honey that was adulterated or mislabeled as being from India and Malaysia when it really came from China. Yang has agreed to the prosecutors’ recommendation for a 74-month prison sentence, imposition of a $250,000 fine and restitution of $2.64 million. The judge has not yet ruled on the plea agreement. . . .”

“In addition to Honeygate, there is an increasing trend of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and private citizens fighting customs fraud under the False Claims Act, which allows private citizens to sue on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery if they provide the government with the necessary information and evidence. The first phase of Honeygate marked the DOJ’s first use of Sarbanes-Oxley’s criminal obstruction of justice statute, which includes a 20-year incarceration penalty per offense, in the Alfred L. Wolff prosecutions.

This trend has continued in other customs fraud prosecutions of importers that falsify entry documents and cover-up such fraud in order to avoid paying millions in customs duties.  Much of this area is still evolving, with at least four U.S. federal circuit courts currently split as to whether certain customs fraud and smuggling laws are just civil or also criminal in nature.”

In talking to Mike, he also told me that he is behind the effort to go after the US insurance companies that posted new shipper bonds for Chinese producers/exporters.  Mike estimated that the liability for one US insurance company is close to $200 million.

Attached is also another article about the Honeygate Customs fraud cases.  CANADIAN FOOD WHOLESALER HONEY GATE

PATENTS

HAIER

Attached is a patent complaint that was filed on April 8, 2013 by Guardian Media Technologies against Haier, Desay, Lasonic, Digway, Veehom, Denca and Express Way Ltd. for infringement of certain patents for TVs and DVD players.  HAIER CASE

HUAWEI

Another patent complaint was filed on April 11, 2013 against Huawei by Media Digital.  HUAWEI PATENT MEDIA DIGITAL

337 CASES

A new section 337 case was filed on April 3rd against China on Linear Actuators.  If anyone wants a copy of the complaint, please feel free to contact me.  The notice is below:

Pending Institution

Docket No: 2949

Document Type: 337 Complaint

Filed By: Gorman & Williams

Behalf Of: Okin America Inc. and Dewert Okin GmbH

Date Received: April 3, 2013

Commodity: Linear Actuators

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 Linear Actuators. The

proposed respondents are Changzhou Kaidi Electrical Co. Ltd., China and

Kaidi LLC, Easton Rapids, MI.

SECURITIES

FARRIS ARTICLE—DELAWARE COURT DECISION ON ZST DIGITAL NETWORKS

On April 9, 2013, Ted Farris, an international capital markets partner in our New York office, authored an article about Deutsch v. ZST Digital Networks, Inc. (Del. Ch. C.P.A. No. 8014-VCL, March 28, 2013), in which the Delaware Chancery Court authorized seizure of a Chinese company’s assets and a court ordered shareholder buy-out in what should have been a simple books and records case. See attached order.  ZST ACTUAL ORDER  Ted Farris specializes in assisting Chinese companies, acquirers and special committees in considering an exit from U.S. regulatory and reporting requirements in going dark and going private transactions, including delistings from US stock exchanges.  As Ted states in the Article:

 

“Delaware Court Authorizes Seizure of Chinese Company’s Assets in Books and Records Case

China-based companies incorporated and publicly traded in the United States have received another harsh blow from the Delaware Court of Chancery, which appears to be losing patience with failure of Chinese companies to comply with Delaware corporate-law requirements. In Deutsch v. ZST Digital Networks, Inc. (Del. Ch. C.P.A. No. 8014-VCL, March 28, 2013), China-based ZST Digital failed to comply with a December 2012 default judgment ordering it to produce corporate books and records to a U.S. shareholder in Delaware pursuant to Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law. On the shareholder’s motion, Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster held the company in contempt of court, granted the U.S. shareholder the right to put his shares back to the company at a price based on book value derived from its last SEC financial report, and appointed a receiver for the Chinese company’s assets to enforce the court orders, including payment of the put price. Although, as a practical matter, it may be extremely difficult for the receiver to reach the company’s assets which are all in China, the case unveils a potentially powerful new weapon to enforce U.S. corporate-law standards on Chinese companies that are incorporated in the United States and have shares traded in U.S. markets. The ruling may further encourage China-based companies to consider exiting U.S. securities markets.

Stonewalling a Books and Records Request

ZST Digital is a China-based company that was incorporated in Delaware in 2006. Its business operations are entirely in China where it is engaged in supplying digital and optical equipment to cable equipment operators, including internet-enabled set top boxes, primarily in Henan Province. ZST Digital’s common shares became publicly traded through a 2009 share exchange that was accounted for as a reverse merger. The company filed reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission until August 2012, when it “went dark” by filing a Form 15 with the SEC to terminate its reporting obligations under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. However, its shares continued to trade in the over-the-counter market. The company’s last SEC filing, its Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2011, claimed total revenue exceeding $125 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2011. After that filing, ZST Digital ceased filing financial reports with the SEC. In addition, BDO, the company’s auditor resigned in March 2012, and the company claimed it was therefore unable to provide audited financial statements (although it subsequently hired a new auditor). The company’s share price declined from a high of approximately $11.00 in January 2010 to $1.30 per share in April 2013. The stock’s current 52-week range as of April 5, 2013 was from $6.76 to $0.31 per share.

Peter Deutsch, a ZST Digital shareholder who claimed to own more than 3.9 million shares, brought an action in the Delaware Court of Chancery after ZST Digital “went dark” seeking access to the company’s books and records under DGCL Section 220.  Prior to the lawsuit, the company’s counsel at Pillsbury Madison & Sutro LLP had responded by letter offering access to the books and records at the company’s principal office in China, a common response by China-based companies to such a request. Deutsch was not willing to travel to China to see the documents and filed suit demanding that they be produced in Delaware or New York. ZST Digital ultimately failed to respond, and a default judgment was entered on the Section 220 claim in December 2012.

The default judgment ordered ZST Digital to produce books and records in the State of Delaware that included extensive financial disclosures and company strategic plans, including any plans to “go private.” The court rejected the company’s request that Deutsch travel to China to inspect the information. When ZST Digital failed to comply with the terms of the initial order, Deutsch filed a motion against the company for contempt of court, for grant of a put right at the fair value of his shares and for appointment of a receiver. Vice Chancellor Laster granted the plaintiff’s motion for contempt and also granted Deutsch the extraordinary and unprecedented right to put his shares of ZST Digital back to the company at their supposed book value of $8.21 per share (at a time when the shares were trading for only approximately $1.39 per share).

The value of the court-ordered buy back exceeded $30 million and was based on the Company’s book value derived from the balance sheet included in its last-filed Form 10-Q report for the quarter ended September 30, 2011. The court further ordered the appointment of a receiver for the company’s assets for the purpose of enforcing the court’s orders, including the put right, and ordered ZST Digital to pay all costs and expenses of the action, the receivership and enforcement of the court’s orders. ZST Digital has so far failed to respond to the court’s orders.

In his court filings, Plaintiff Deutsch alleged that ZST Digital and other Chinese companies have “gone dark” and ceased filing reports with the SEC in order to lower their stock prices and make a “going private” transaction less expensive. The court-ordered buy-out option requested by Plaintiff Deutsch was based on court-ordered buy-outs in the context of closely held corporations. Plaintiff conceded the unprecedented nature of the “put” remedy in the public company context. The court’s order will effectively prevent ZST Digital from undertaking a “going private” transaction as many other Chinese companies have done over the last several years. (More than 100 Chinese companies have “gone dark” or “gone private” since January 1, 2008.)  Any effort to cash out U.S. shareholders now would undoubtedly face substantial court obstacles given Deutsch’s put right and the receivership order. What impact this will have on the company’s U.S. shareholders remains to be seen.

As ZST Digital has simply failed to respond to the lawsuit, Deutsch’s extraordinary legal victory may have little practical impact so long as the company stays out of the United States and does not attempt a transaction with its U.S. shareholders. ZST Digital has no U.S. assets for the receiver to seize and has so far shown no inclination to pay the put price required by the court’s order. Nevertheless, the case shows that the Delaware courts are willing to use every conceivable remedy against a Chinese company that they perceive as having flouted court orders and ignored the corporate-law rights of U.S. shareholders. The decision leaves both ZST Digital and its shareholders in limbo.

Conclusion

Chinese companies have often attempted to stonewall U.S. shareholders of their Delaware-incorporated entities under DGCL Section 220 by insisting that U.S. shareholders travel to China to inspect books and records. Vice Chancellor Laster made clear that shareholders can insist on such production in the State of Delaware. Further, the list of documents ordered to be produced under DGCL Section 220 was extremely broad and included detailed financial and strategic information even though ZST Digital was no longer required, as a matter of U.S. securities law, to file any reports or disclose information under SEC reporting requirements. In the absence of a confidentiality agreement with a shareholder, this kind of material, nonpublic information could not, as a practical matter, be disclosed to one shareholder (who might freely trade on it) without making that information available to all shareholders through a public announcement.

If Delaware courts can really require public disclosure of financial information by non-reporting companies pursuant to a shareholder demand under DGCL Section 220, this section could in theory be used to defeat a company’s purpose in “going dark” by deregistering under the Exchange Act. Nevertheless, the extreme remedies of granting a put right (in effect a court ordered buy out), appointing a receiver and effectively requiring public disclosure of financial and strategic information by a publicly traded company may reflect the unusual facts of the case. There is no question that ZST Digital’s refusal to participate in the case and its repeated defaults in responding to court orders motivated Vice Chancellor Laster in shaping these extraordinary remedies. If ZST Digital had instead made an appearance, contested the matter and offered some compromise proposal on the information requested, it could almost certainly have obtained a better result for the company that would not have limited its future flexibility in dealing with U.S. shareholders.

Still, the ZST Digital case means that Chinese companies would be well advised to pay more attention to U.S. legal risks given the Delaware courts’ increasingly tough stances in these areas. It is no longer sufficient for U.S.-incorporated Chinese companies to “go dark” and then ignore compliance with basic requirements of U.S. corporate law. The Delaware courts are not likely to give such companies the benefit of the doubt any longer (if they ever did), and other states regularly follow Delaware’s lead in matters of corporate law.

China-based companies with shares trading in U.S. public markets should carefully consider the implications of the ZST Digital case as part of their determination of whether to remain trading in the United States or to consider an exit through a “going private” transaction.”

 

Attached also an article from “Theasset.com” quoting Mr. Farris on this issue.  FARRIS QUOTE

LONGTOP—DELOITTE

On April 8, 2013, a New York Federal District Court Judge tossed Deloitte out of a class action securities lawsuit against Longtop Financial Technologies for lying to investors and exaggerating the size of its profit margins.  In the attached opinion, the Judge determined that the Plaintiff had failed to sufficiently allege that Deloitte violated federal securities laws in signing off on Longtop accounts between June 2009-May 2011. LONGTOP SECURITIES DECISION TOSSING DELOITTE

CITIC AND PUDA COAL

ON April 8, 2013, a class action securities case was brought in the Federal Court in the Southern District of New York against Puda Coal Inc. and CITIC Trust Co., Ltd.  Attached is a copy of the complaint.  PUDA COAL CITIC

The complaint alleges that CITIC is “the largest Chinese private equity fund and merchant bank, which, by means of a transfer of 49% ownership interest and a 51 % pledge as security for a loan, now controls Puda’s sole operating subsidiary and its only source of revenues.”

The complaint further alleges that “this action arises from a fraudulent scheme in which Puda insiders improperly transferred the Company’s only revenue-producing, operating subsidiary to CITIC and then, with the assistance of CITIC, falsely portrayed to investors in Puda that the Company still possessed its operating subsidiary.”

ANTITRUST

VITAMIN C

The Vitamin C case goes on to the next phase.  The first attack is the motion by Plaintiffs to obtain their legal fees from the Chinese defendants.  The legal fees for Plaintiffs could well be in the millions.  See the attached document asking for an extension to file the motion.  VITAMIN C MOTION TO PAY PLAINTIFF’S LEGAL FEES  The Court granted the extension.

This was followed by an April 11, 2013 Renewed Motion by Hebei Welcome and North China Pharmaceutical Group Corp. that the case be dismissed as a matter of law based on state and foreign sovereign compulsion and international comity.  See attached document.  SHORT HEBEI MOTION JUDGMENT  In the motion, the Chinese defendants go into detail as to MOFCOM regulations issued in the late 1990s purportedly giving the Chamber the authority to set up a group to set prices.  The Court has yet to rule on the Renewed Motion.

On April 12, 2013, Plaintiffs filed the attached injunction motion to enjoin the Chinese defendants from operating the cartel and setting the export prices for Vitamin C.  INJUNCTION MOTION  In the Fact Section of the attached motion, Plaintiffs state:

“Evidence admitted at trial established that after Plaintiffs filed their complaint in January 2005, Defendants continued meeting, exchanging information, and reaching agreements with one another. In November 2005, Wang Qiang of Aland wrote that the defendants “should not have any worry” about the lawsuit whether they won or lost, but that they should “do many things in a more hidden and smart way”:

“This act of deciding production or prices based on coordination is a kind of monopoly whatever the reasons. However, I believe we should not have any worry since the Ministry of Commerce is a friend of the court in the lawsuit. If we won the lawsuit, it would be hard for foreigners to make more trouble. Even if we lost the case, government would take the foremost part of responsibility. After all, we need to do many things in a more hidden and smart way.”

. .  . . (“The recent antitrust lawsuit is unprecedented, but we shall not suspend the coordination mechanism of the VC industry in our country”); (noting that “the antitrust investigation was time-consuming” and that “[e]verybody must pay special attention to relevant matters on confidentiality”).

Wang Qi also testified that after the lawsuit was filed, the defendants discussed the need to keep meetings confidential and to be more careful about what was written down.  . . . And Qiao Haili testified that, as a result of the lawsuit, any notes taken by meeting participants “would be torn apart.” . . . .

Eventually, with trial approaching, the meetings to discuss price subsided. At trial, Wang Qi of Aland testified that in the time since his 2008 deposition, his company had stopped meeting with competitors to discuss prices.  . . . He also testified that he would know if such communications were taking place. . . .”

DOJ ANNUAL ANTITRUST REPORT 2013

On April 11, 2013, the Justice Department issued its annual 2013 antitrust report.  In the report, there are two sections of interest to Chinese companies and US importers because it demonstrates how the Justice Department is going after foreign companies for price fixing of export prices using a cartel in the export of products to the United States.  The point is that antitrust cases against foreign cartels are not just aimed at China.

The Criminal Division of the report states as follows:

Liquid Crystal Display Panels

On March 13, 2012, following an eight-week trial, a jury in the Northern District of California returned guilty verdicts against AU Optronics (AUO), a Taiwan manufacturer of liquid crystal display panels, its American subsidiary, AU Optronics America, and the former president and former vice president of AUO for their participation in a conspiracy to fix the price of thin film transistor liquid crystal display panels (TFT-LCD panels).

The jury was unable to return a unanimous verdict as to one of the subordinates charged. It returned not guilty verdicts against two other subordinates.

The guilty verdicts were notable in that the jury determined that the Division had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the gain derived from the conspirators for sales into the U.S. was at least $500 million. This was the first time that a jury convicted a corporate defendant under the antitrust laws and applied the “twice the pecuniary gain or loss” alternative fine provision of 18 U.S.C. § 3571(d).

On September 20, 2012, AUO was sentenced to pay a $500 million fine and the convicted executives were each sentenced to serve three years in prison. The $500 million fine matches the largest fine ever imposed against a company for violating the U.S. antitrust laws.

The Division successfully retried the third AUO executive, who was found guilty after a three-week trial, on December 18, 2012. Including these trial convictions, the Division’s LCD investigation thus far has resulted in convictions of ten companies and criminal fines totaling $1.39 billion, as well as convictions of 13 executives, and charges against seven additional individuals (one awaiting trial and six who remain fugitives). . .  .

Ongoing Investigations Continue to Produce Results

Auto Parts

The Division is dedicating significant resources to the ongoing automobile parts investigation. To date, this investigation has yielded charges against nine companies and 12 individuals and more than $809 million in criminal fines for participation in conspiracies to fix prices of and rig bids on automobile parts, including safety systems such as seatbelts, airbags, steering wheels, and antilock brake systems, and critical parts such as instrument panel clusters and wire harnesses. Two of the executives charged are Japanese citizens. Each was sentenced in 2012 to serve two years in prison, the longest sentences imposed on foreign nationals voluntarily submitting to U.S. jurisdiction for an antitrust violation. During FY 2012, this investigation also yielded the third-largest criminal antitrust fine ever imposed—a $470 million fine against Yazaki Corporation. The Division continues to cooperate with its counterparts in Japan, Korea, the EC, and Canada, among others, on this investigation.

To date, the following corporate fines have been obtained:

• U.S. v. Yazaki Corporation, $470 million—the third largest criminal fine ever for an antitrust violation

• U.S. v. Furukawa Electric Company Ltd., $200 million

• U.S. v. DENSO Corporation, $78 million

• U.S. v. Fujikura Ltd., $20 million

• U.S. v. Tokai Rika Co., Ltd., $17.7 million

• U.S. v. Autoliv, Inc., $14.5 million

• U.S. v. TRW Deutschland Holding GMBH, $5.7 million

• U.S. v. G.S. Electech, Inc., $2.7 million

• U.S. v. Nippon Seiki Co., Ltd., $1 million

GENERAL LITIGATION PROBLEMS AGAINST CHINESE COMPANIES

In the attached decision, United States v. Pangang Group Company Ltd. and a group of affiliated Pangang companies, a federal judge in California threw out summonses that the Justice Department issued against titanium and steel producer, Pangang Group Co., and related entities in a criminal suit alleging the Chinese state-owned companies stole trade secrets from DuPont Co. by finding that the U.S. government failed to properly serve the defendants.  PANGANG ORDER

Pangang was allegedly aided by former DuPont employee Tze Chao and others in the U.S. who wanted to sell titanium dioxide trade secrets. These include chemical technology company USA Performance Technology and one of its co-owners Walter Liew and his wife Christina.  The Liews were arrested in July 2011 and indicted in August 2011 on charges that they tampered with witnesses, made false statements and attempted to delay the FBI’s effort to uncover the illegal sale of DuPont’s trade secrets to rival manufacturers, including Pangang.

Chao pled guilty in March 2012 to leaking confidential information from documents he reportedly retained after retiring in 2002.  The Liews pled not guilty in April 2012 to charges over their alleged role in the scheme. In February, a magistrate judge ordered Walter Liew to be freed on $2 million bail after 19 months in custody.

If you have any questions about these cases or about these laws in general, please feel free to contact me.

Best regards,

Bill Perry

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