Articles Posted in International Trade

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WesternGeco owns patents for a system used to survey the ocean floor. ION sold a competing system, built from components manufactured in the U.S., then shipped abroad for assembly into a system indistinguishable from WesternGeco’s. WesternGeco sued for patent infringement, 35 U.S.C. 271(f)(1) and (f)(2). The jury awarded WesternGeco royalties and lost profits under section 284. The Supreme Court reversed the Federal Circuit, holding that WesternGeco’s award for lost profits was a permissible domestic application of section 284 of the Patent Act, not an impermissible extraterritorial application of section 271. To determine whether the case involves a domestic application of the statute, courts must identify the statute’s "focus” and ask whether the conduct relevant to that focus occurred in U.S. territory. If so, the case involves a permissible domestic application of the statute. When determining the statute’s focus, the provision at issue must be assessed in concert with other provisions. Section 284, the general damages provision, focuses on “the infringement.” The “overriding purpose” is “complete compensation” for infringements. Section 271 identifies several ways that a patent can be infringed; to determine section 284’s focus in a given case, the type of infringement must be identified. Section 271(f)(2) was the basis for WesternGeco’s claim and damages. That provision regulates the domestic act of “suppl[ying] in or from the United States,” and vindicates domestic interests, The focus of section 284 in a case involving infringement under section 271(f)(2) is the act of exporting components from the U.S., so the relevant conduct occurred in the U.S. Damages are not the statutory focus but are merely the means by which the statute remedies infringements. The overseas events giving rise to the lost-profit damages here were merely incidental to the infringement. View "WesternGeco LLC v. ION Geophysical Corp." on Justia Law

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Purchasers of vitamin C filed suit, alleging that Chinese exporters had agreed to fix the price and quantity of vitamin C exported to the U.S., in violation of the Sherman Act. The exporters unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the complaint and later sought summary judgment, arguing that Chinese law required them to fix the price and quantity of exports, shielding them from liability under U.S. antitrust law. China’s Ministry of Commerce, the authority authorized to regulate foreign trade, asserted that the alleged conspiracy was actually a pricing regime mandated by the Chinese Government. The purchasers countered that the Ministry had identified no law or regulation requiring the agreement; highlighted a publication announcing that the sellers had agreed to control the quantity and rate of exports without government intervention; and noted China’s statement to the World Trade Organization that it ended its export administration of vitamin C in 2002. The Second Circuit reversed a verdict for the purchasers, stating that federal courts are “bound to defer” to the foreign government’s construction of its own law, whenever that construction is “reasonable.” The Supreme Court vacated. A federal court determining foreign law under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 44.1 should accord respectful consideration to a foreign government’s submission, but is not bound to accord conclusive effect to such statements. Relevant considerations include the clarity, thoroughness, and support of the foreign government's statement; its context and purpose; the transparency of the foreign legal system; the role and authority of the entity or official offering the statement; and the statement’s consistency with the foreign government’s past positions. Determination of foreign law must be treated as a question of law; courts are not limited to materials submitted by the parties, but “may consider any relevant material or source.” View "Animal Science Products, Inc. v. Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co." on Justia Law

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Lexmark holds patents on the components of toner cartridges that it manufactures and sells. Lexmark allows consumers to buy a cartridge at full price, with no restrictions, or to buy a cartridge at a discount through Lexmark’s “Return Program,” by signing a contract agreeing to use the cartridge only once and to refrain from transferring the cartridge to anyone but Lexmark. Remanufacturers acquire empty Lexmark cartridges—including Return Program cartridges—from purchasers in the U.S. and overseas, refill them, and resell them in the U.S. Lexmark sued remanufacturers with respect to Return Program cartridges that Lexmark had sold within the U.S. and cartridges that Lexmark had sold abroad and that remanufacturers imported into the country. The Federal Circuit ruled for Lexmark with respect to both. The Supreme Court reversed. Lexmark exhausted its patent rights (35 U.S.C. 271(a)) in all of the cartridges. A patentee’s decision to sell a product exhausts all of its patent rights in that item, regardless of any restrictions the patentee purports to impose. If a patentee negotiates a contract restricting the purchaser’s right to use or resell an item, it may be able to enforce that restriction as a matter of contract law, but may not do so through a patent infringement lawsuit. The exhaustion doctrine is not a presumption about the authority that comes along with a sale; it is a limit on the scope of the patentee’s rights. The Patent Act just ensures that the patentee receives one reward—of whatever it considers satisfactory compensation—for every item that passes outside the scope of its patent monopoly. View "Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc." on Justia Law

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Promega sublicensed a patent, which claims a toolkit for genetic testing, to Life Technologies for the manufacture and sale of kits for use in licensed law enforcement fields worldwide. One of the kit’s five components, an enzyme, was manufactured by Life Technologies in the U.S. and shipped to the United Kingdom, where the other components were made, for combination there. When Life Technologies began selling kits outside the licensed fields of use, Promega sued, citing section 271(f)(1) of the Patent Act, which prohibits the supply from the U.S. of “all or a substantial portion of the components of a patented invention” for combination abroad. The district court held that the section did not encompass the supply of a single component of a multicomponent invention. The Federal Circuit reversed, reasoning that a single important component could constitute a “substantial portion” of the components of an invention. The Supreme Court reversed. The supply of a single component of a multicomponent invention for manufacture abroad does not give rise to liability under section 271(f)(1), which refers to a quantitative measurement. The Court rejected Promega’s proffered “case-specific approach,” which would require a factfinder to decipher whether the components at issue are a “substantial portion” under either a qualitative or a quantitative test. When a product is made abroad and all components but a single commodity article are supplied from abroad, the activity is outside the statute’s scope. View "Life Technologies Corp. v. Promega Corp." on Justia Law

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After the Republic of Argentina defaulted on its external debt, NML, one of its bondholders, prevailed in 11 debt-collection actions filed against Argentina in New York. To execute its judgments, NML sought discovery of Argentina’s property, serving subpoenas on nonparty banks for records relating to global financial transactions. The district court granted motions to compel compliance. The Second Circuit affirmed, rejecting Argentina’s argument that the order transgressed the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1330, 1602. The Supreme Court affirmed; the FSIA does not immunize a foreign-sovereign judgment debtor from post-judgment discovery of information concerning its extraterritorial assets. The FSIA replaced factor-intensive loosely-common-law-based immunity with “a comprehensive framework for resolving any claim of sovereign immunity” so that any sort of immunity defense made by a foreign sovereign in a U.S. court must stand or fall on its text. The FSIA established jurisdictional immunity, section 1604, which was waived here. FSIA execution immunity under sections 1609, 1610, 1611, generally shields “property in the United States of a foreign state” from attachment, arrest, and execution. Nothing forbids or limits discovery in aid of execution of a foreign-sovereign judgment debtor’s assets. Even if Argentina is correct that section 1609 execution immunity implies coextensive discovery-¬in-aid-of-execution immunity, there would be no protection from discovery a foreign sovereign’s extraterritorial assets. Section 1609 immunizes only foreign-state property “in the United States.” The prospect that NML’s general request for information about Argentina’s worldwide assets may turn up information about property that Argentina regards as immune does not mean that NML cannot pursue its discovery. View "Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Residents of Argentina sued Daimler, a German company, in a California federal district court, alleging that Mercedes-Benz Argentina, a Daimler subsidiary, collaborated with state security forces during Argentina’s 1976–1983 “Dirty War” to kidnap, detain, torture, and kill MB Argentina workers, related to the plaintiffs. They asserted claims under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991, and under California and Argentina law. Personal jurisdiction was predicated on the California contacts of Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA), another Daimler subsidiary, incorporated in Delaware with its principal place of business in New Jersey. MBUSA distributes Daimler-manufactured vehicles to independent U.S. dealerships, including some in California. The district court dismissed. The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that MBUSA, which it assumed to fall within the California courts’ all-purpose jurisdiction, was Daimler’s “agent” for jurisdictional purposes. The Supreme Court reversed. Daimler is not amenable to suit in California for injuries allegedly caused by MB Argentina outside the U.S. California’s long-arm statute allows the exercise of personal jurisdiction to the full extent permissible under the U. S. Constitution. Even if California is home to MBUSA, Daimler’s affiliations with California are not sufficient to subject it to the general jurisdiction of that State’s courts. The proper inquiry is whether a foreign corporation’s “affiliations with the State are so ‘continuous and systematic’ as to render [it] essentially at home in the forum State.” Neither Daimler nor MBUSA is incorporated in California; neither has its principal place of business there. If Daimler’s California activities sufficed to allow adjudication of this case in California, the same global reach would presumably be available in every other state in which MBUSA’s sales are sizable. View "Daimler AG v. Bauman" on Justia Law

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After the Republic of Argentina defaulted on its external debt, NML, one of its bondholders, prevailed in 11 debt-collection actions filed against Argentina in New York. To execute its judgments, NML sought discovery of Argentina’s property, serving subpoenas on nonparty banks for records relating to global financial transactions. The district court granted motions to compel compliance. The Second Circuit affirmed, rejecting Argentina’s argument that the order transgressed the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1330, 1602. The Supreme Court affirmed; the FSIA does not immunize a foreign-sovereign judgment debtor from post-judgment discovery of information concerning its extraterritorial assets. The FSIA replaced factor-intensive loosely-common-law-based immunity with “a comprehensive framework for resolving any claim of sovereign immunity” so that any sort of immunity defense made by a foreign sovereign in a U.S. court must stand or fall on its text. The FSIA established jurisdictional immunity, section 1604, which was waived here. FSIA execution immunity under sections 1609, 1610, 1611, generally shields “property in the United States of a foreign state” from attachment, arrest, and execution. Nothing forbids or limits discovery in aid of execution of a foreign-sovereign judgment debtor’s assets. Even if Argentina is correct that section 1609 execution immunity implies coextensive discovery-¬in-aid-of-execution immunity, there would be no protection from discovery a foreign sovereign’s extraterritorial assets. Section 1609 immunizes only foreign-state property “in the United States.” The prospect that NML’s general request for information about Argentina’s worldwide assets may turn up information about property that Argentina regards as immune does not mean that NML cannot pursue its discovery. View "Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Residents of Argentina sued Daimler, a German company, in a California federal district court, alleging that Mercedes-Benz Argentina, a Daimler subsidiary, collaborated with state security forces during Argentina’s 1976–1983 “Dirty War” to kidnap, detain, torture, and kill MB Argentina workers, related to the plaintiffs. They asserted claims under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991, and under California and Argentina law. Personal jurisdiction was predicated on the California contacts of Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA), another Daimler subsidiary, incorporated in Delaware with its principal place of business in New Jersey. MBUSA distributes Daimler-manufactured vehicles to independent U.S. dealerships, including some in California. The district court dismissed. The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that MBUSA, which it assumed to fall within the California courts’ all-purpose jurisdiction, was Daimler’s “agent” for jurisdictional purposes. The Supreme Court reversed. Daimler is not amenable to suit in California for injuries allegedly caused by MB Argentina outside the U.S. California’s long-arm statute allows the exercise of personal jurisdiction to the full extent permissible under the U. S. Constitution. Even if California is home to MBUSA, Daimler’s affiliations with California are not sufficient to subject it to the general jurisdiction of that State’s courts. The proper inquiry is whether a foreign corporation’s “affiliations with the State are so ‘continuous and systematic’ as to render [it] essentially at home in the forum State.” Neither Daimler nor MBUSA is incorporated in California; neither has its principal place of business there. If Daimler’s California activities sufficed to allow adjudication of this case in California, the same global reach would presumably be available in every other state in which MBUSA’s sales are sizable. View "Daimler AG v. Bauman" on Justia Law

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Wiley, an academic publisher, often assigns to its foreign subsidiary (WileyAsia) rights to publish, print, and sell Wiley’s English language textbooks abroad. WileyAsia’s books state that they are not to be taken (without permission) into the U.S. When Kirtsaeng moved to the U.S., he asked friends to buy foreign edition English-language textbooks in Thai book shops, where they sold at low prices, and mail them to him. He sold the books at a profit. Wiley claimed that Kirtsaeng’s unauthorized importation and resale was an infringement of Wiley’s 17 U.S.C. 106(3) exclusive rights to distribute its copyrighted work and section 602’s import prohibition. Kirtsaeng cited section 109(a)’s “first sale” doctrine, which provides that “the owner of a particular copy or phonorecord lawfully made under this title ... is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to sell or otherwise dispose of the possession of that copy or phonorecord.” The district court held that the defense did not apply to goods manufactured abroad. The jury found that Kirtsaeng had willfully infringed Wiley’s American copyrights and assessed damages. The Second Circuit affirmed, concluding that section 109(a)’s “lawfully made under this title” language indicated that the “first sale” doctrine does not apply to copies of American copyrighted works manufactured abroad. The Supreme Court reversed; the “first sale” doctrine applies to copies of a copyrighted work lawfully made abroad. Section 109(a) says nothing about geography. A geographical interpretation of the first-sale doctrine could re¬quire libraries to obtain permission before circulating the many books in their collections that were printed overseas; potential practical problems are too serious, extensive, and likely to come about to be dismissed as insignificant—particularly in light of the ever-growing importance of foreign trade to America. View "Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc." on Justia Law