Articles Posted in International Law

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Stellar and Allied are American companies. Stellar sent Allied's Mexican distributors notice letters accusing them of infringing Stellar’s Mexican Patent. Allied manufactures the accused products in the U.S., which are then sold in Mexico by the distributors. Allied sells the same product in the U.S. under a different name. Allied’s U.S. counsel responded to Stellar’s notice letters on behalf of the distributors, arguing that the products did not infringe. Stellar did not respond but filed infringement actions in Mexico. Allied then sought a declaratory judgment against Stellar in the Southern District of Florida, of non-infringement, invalidity, unenforceability due to inequitable conduct, and tortious interference with business relationships. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, stating: “Stellar’s decision to enforce its Mexican patent under Mexican law against separate entities cannot, without further affirmative action by Stellar, create an actual controversy with Allied with regard to its U.S. Patent,” and that the complaint was “devoid of any allegations that Stellar has done anything to give Allied a reasonable belief that Stellar intends to enforce its 974 Patent in the United States.” The Federal Circuit affirmed. Stellar’s actions do not create a justiciable case or controversy. View "Allied Mineral Products, Inc. v. OSMI, Inc." on Justia Law

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AT&T’s patent is directed to a method of compressing and transmitting transform coefficients in a manner that does not rely on scanning the coefficients in any particular order; all of the coefficients in a block are transmitted at once. Days before the America Invents Act inter partes review procedures went into effect, LG requested inter partes reexamination of the patent, alleging anticipation. Before the PTO decided whether to initiate reexamination, LG asked the PTO to suspend its rule prohibiting a requester from filing documents between requesting inter partes reexamination and the PTO’s initial office action on the merits so that it could file a second request, requesting denial of its initial request. LG did not withdraw, nor did it withdraw its reexamination request. The PTO granted LG’s initial request and declined to suspend the rules. The examiner found new grounds of rejection. While discussions between AT&T and the examiner were ongoing, LG withdrew. The examiner suspended the prohibition against interviews during inter partes reexamination proceedings. Before any amendment, the examiner issued an Action Closing Prosecution that explained a different basis for finding the patent anticipated. The Board and the Federal Circuit affirmed. The Board did not exceed its statutory authority when instituting the reexamination and substantial evidence supported the finding of anticipation. View "In re: AT&T Intellectual Property II" on Justia Law

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Polar, a Finnish company based in Finland, owns U.S. patents directed to a method and apparatus for measuring heart rates during physical exercise. Polar sued, alleging infringement directly and indirectly, through the manufacture, use, sale, and importation of Suunto products. Suunto is a Finnish company with a principal place of business and manufacturing facilities in Finland. Suunto and ASWO (a Delaware corporation with a principal place of business in Utah) are owned by the same parent company. ASWO distributes Suunto’s products in the U.S. Suunto ships the accused products to addresses specified by ASWO. ASWO pays for shipping; title passes to ASWO at Suunto’s shipping dock in Finland. At least 94 accused products have been shipped from Finland to Delaware retailers using that standard ordering process. At least three Delaware retail stores sell the products. Suunto also owns, but ASWO maintains, a website, where customers can locate Delaware Suunto retailers or order Suunto products. At least eight online sales have been made in Delaware. The Federal Circuit vacated dismissal of Suunto for lack of personal jurisdiction. Suunto’s activities demonstrated its intent to serve the Delaware market specifically; the accused products have been sold in Delaware. Suunto had purposeful minimum contacts, so that Delaware’s “assertion of personal jurisdiction is reasonable and fair” and proper under the Delaware long-arm​ statute. View "Polar Electro Oy v. Suunto Oy" on Justia Law

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Halo, a Hong Kong company that designs and sells high-end modern furniture, owns two U.S. design patents, 13 U.S. copyrights, and one U.S. common law trademark, all relating to its furniture designs. Halo’s common law trademark, ODEON, is used in association with at least four of its designs. Halo sells its furniture in the U.S., including through its own retail stores. Comptoir, a Canadian corporation, also designs and markets high-end furniture that is manufactured in China, Vietnam, and India. Comptoir’s furniture is imported and sold to U.S. consumers directly at furniture shows and through distributors, including in Illinois. Halo sued, alleging infringement and violation of Illinois consumer fraud and deceptive business practices statutes. The district court dismissed on forum non conveniens grounds, finding that the balance of interests favored Canada and that Canada, where the defendants reside, was an adequate forum. The Federal Circuit reversed. The policies underlying U.S. copyright, patent, and trademark laws would be defeated if a domestic forum to adjudicate the rights they convey was denied without a sufficient showing of the adequacy of the alternative foreign jurisdiction; the Federal Court of Canada would not provide any “potential avenue for redress for the subject matter” of Halo’s dispute. View "Halo Creative & Design, Ltd. v. Comptoir des Indes Inc." on Justia Law

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JBLU does business as C’est Toi Jeans USA. In 2010, JBLU imported jeans manufactured in China, embroidered with “C’est Toi Jeans USA,” “CT Jeans USA,” or “C’est Toi Jeans Los Angeles” in various fonts. JBLU filed trademark applications for “C’est Toi Jeans USA” and “CT Jeans USA” on October 8, 2010, stating that the marks had been used in commerce since 2005. Customs inspected the jeans and found violation of the Tariff Act, which requires that imported articles be marked with their country of origin, 19 U.S.C. 1304(a); JBLU’s jeans were marked with “USA” and “Los Angeles,” but small-font “Made in China” labels were not in close proximity to and of at least the same size as “USA” and “Los Angeles.” Customs applied more lenient requirements to the jeans that were marked with “C’est Toi Jeans USA” or “CT Jeans USA” and were imported after JBLU filed its trademark applications. The Trade Court granted the government summary judgment. The Federal Circuit reversed, finding that the more-lenient requirements apply to unregistered, as well as registered, trademarks. Regulations in the same chapter as 19 C.F.R. 134.47 and regulations in a different chapter but the same title use the word “trademark” to include registered and unregistered trademarks. View "JBLU, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Binzel, which manufactures welding equipment, owns the German DE 934 patent, filed in 1997, and the U.S. 406 patent, issued in 2002, which claims priority to the German application, for a method of manufacturing a contact tip for metal inert gas welding. Lismont, a resident of Belgium asserts that, beginning in 1995, he developed the method disclosed in both patents for Binzel and, that by mid-1997, he had disclosed the details to Binzel. Lismont contends that, despite Binzel's representations that he was the first to conceive of this method, Binzel filed the DE 934 application naming its employee, Sattler, as the inventor. In 2000-2002 Lismont initiated suits in the German Federal Court and sought information about the countries in which Binzel was pursuing patents and about the manufacture and sales of contact tips that used the method at issue. The German courts ruled against Lismont, finding that he failed to prove that he had an inventorship interest. The German Supreme Court rejected his appeal in 2009. Lismont then filed actions in the German Constitutional Court and in the European Court of Human Rights. In 2012, Lismont initiated U.S. litigation seeking to correct inventorship of the 406 patent (35 U.S.C. 256(a)). After discovery concerning the issue of laches, the court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Federal Circuit affirmed: Lismont failed to rebut the presumption of laches. View "Lismont v. Alexander Binzel Corp." on Justia Law

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Between 2001 and 2004, Nitek Electronics, Inc. entered thirty-six shipments of pipe fitting components used for gas meters into the United States from China. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“Customs”) claimed that the merchandise was misclassified and issued Nitek a final penalty claim stating that the tentative culpability was gross negligence. Customs then referred the matter to the United States Department of Justice (“Government”) to bring a claim against Nitek in the Court of International Trade to enforce the penalty. The Government brought suit against Nitek to recover lost duties, antidumping duties, and a penalty based on negligence under 19 U.S.C. 1592. Nitek moved to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim. The court denied dismissal of the claims to recover lost duties and antidumping duties but did dismiss the Government’s claim for a penalty based on negligence, concluding that the Government had failed to exhaust all administrative remedies under 19 U.S.C. 1592 by not having Customs demand a penalty based on negligence, instead of gross negligence. The Federal Circuit affirmed, holding that the statutory framework of section 1592 does not allow the Government to bring a penalty claim based on negligence in court because such a claim did not exist at the administrative level. View "United States v. Nitek Elecs., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Department of Commerce determined that utility scale wind towers from the People’s Republic of China and utility scale wind towers from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (together, the subject merchandise) were sold in the United States at less than fair value and that it received countervailable subsidies. The International Trade Commission made a final affirmative determination of material injury to the domestic industry. The determination was by divided vote of the six-member Commission. The Court of International Trade upheld the Commission’s affirmative injury determination. Siemens Energy, Inc., an importer of utility scale wind towers, challenged the determination. The issues on appeal concerned the interpretation and effect of the divided vote. The Federal Circuit affirmed, holding that the Court of International Trade properly upheld the Commission’s affirmative injury determination. View "Simens Energy, Inc. v. United States, Wind Tower Trade Coalition" on Justia Law

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The Tariff Act of 1930 gives the International Trade Commission authority to remedy only those unfair acts that involve the importation of “articles” as described in 19 U.S.C. 1337(a). The Commission instituted an investigation based on a complaint filed by Align, concerning violation of 19 U.S.C. 1337 by reason of infringement of various claims of seven different patents concerning orthodontic devices. The accused “articles” were the transmission of the “digital models, digital data and treatment plans, expressed as digital data sets, which are virtual three-dimensional models of the desired positions of the patients’ teeth at various stages of orthodontic treatment” from Pakistan to the United States. The Federal Circuit reversed, holding that the Commission lacked jurisdiction. The Commission’s decision to expand the scope of its jurisdiction to include electronic transmissions of digital data runs counter to the “unambiguously expressed intent of Congress.” View "ClearCorrect Operating, LLC v. Int'l Trade Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Nippon Steel filed suit, charging POSCO with patent infringement and unfair competition. The court entered a protective order prohibiting cross-use of confidential materials which “shall be used by the receiving Party solely for purposes of the prosecution or defense of this action.” POSCO later produced several million pages of documents containing confidential information. Nippon also sued POSCO (based in Korea) in Japan for alleged trade secret misappropriation. POSCO filed a declaratory judgment action in Korea. Discovery in U.S. federal courts is more generous than in Japan and Korea, so Nippon moved the court to modify its discovery protective order for the purposes of providing foreign counsel in the Japanese and Korean actions approximately 200 pages of proprietary documentation relating to POSCO’s manufacturing process. Based on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the balancing framework for modifying discovery orders, a special master concluded that modification should be granted, subject to restrictions to keep the information confidential. Among the restrictions: “[b]efore the documents may be submitted to a foreign court, the court must identify the information and agree that it would be maintained as confidential and restricted from third party access.” The district court and Federal Circuit affirmed. View "In re: Posco" on Justia Law