Justia Commercial Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in International Law
United States v. You
You, a U.S. citizen of Chinese origin, worked as a chemist, testing the chemical coatings used in Coca-Cola’s beverage cans. You was one of only a few Coca-Cola employees with access to secret BPA-free formulas. You secretly planned to start a company in China to manufacture the BPA-free chemical and received business grants from the Chinese government, claiming that she had developed the world’s “most advanced” BPA-free coating technology. On her last night as a Coca-Cola employee, You transferred the formula files to her Google Drive account and then to a USB drive. You certified that she had not kept any confidential information. You then joined Eastman, where she copied company files to the same account and USB drive. Eastman fired You and became aware of her actions. Eastman retrieved the USB drive and reported You to the FBI.You was convicted of conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, 18 U.S.C. 1832(a)(5), possessing stolen trade secrets, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit economic espionage, and economic espionage. The Sixth Circuit remanded for resentencing after rejecting You’s claims that the district court admitted racist testimony and gave jury instructions that mischaracterized the government’s burden of proof as to You’s knowledge of the trade secrets and their value to China. In calculating the intended loss, the court clearly erred by relying on market estimates that it deemed speculative and by confusing anticipated sales of You’s planned business with its anticipated profits. View "United States v. You" on Justia Law
Ayla, LLC v. Alya Skin Pty. Ltd.
Ayla, a San Francisco-based brand, is the registered owner of trademarks for use of the “AYLA” word mark in connection with on-site beauty services, online retail beauty products, cosmetics services, and cosmetics. Alya Skin, an Australian company, sells and ships skincare products worldwide. Ayla sued in the Northern District of California, asserting trademark infringement and false designation of origin under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1114, 1125(a).Alya Skin asserted that it has no retail stores, offices, officers, directors, employees, bank accounts, or real property in the U.S., does not sell products in U.S. retail stores, solicit business from Americans, nor direct advertising toward California; less than 10% of its sales have been to the U.S. and less than 2% of its sales have been to California. Alya Skin uses an Idaho company to fulfill shipments outside of Australia and New Zealand. Alya Skin filed a U.S. trademark registration application in 2018, and represented to potential customers that its products are FDA-approved; it ships from, and allows returns to, Idaho Alya Skin’s website listed U.S. dollars as the default currency and advertises four-day delivery to the U.S.The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit. Jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(2) comports with due process. Alya Skin had minimum contacts with the U.S., and subjecting it to an action in that forum would not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. The company purposefully directed its activities toward the U.S. The Lanham Act and unfair competition claims arose out of or resulted from Alya Skin’s intentional forum-related activities. View "Ayla, LLC v. Alya Skin Pty. Ltd." on Justia Law
Armada (Singapore) PTE Ltd. v. Amcol International Corp.
Plaintiff, a Singaporean shipping company, entered into shipping contracts with an Indian mining company. The Indian company breached those contracts. Plaintiff believes that American businesses that were the largest stockholders in the Indian company engaged in racketeering activity to divest the Indian company of assets to thwart its attempts to recover damages for the breach. Plaintiff filed suit under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1964(c). While the case was pending, the Supreme Court decided RJR Nabisco v. European Community, holding that “[a] private RICO plaintiff … must allege and prove a domestic injury to its business or property.” The district court granted the American defendants judgment on the RICO claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Plaintiff’s claimed injury—harm to its ability to collect on its judgment and other claims—was economic; economic injuries are felt at a corporation’s principal place of business, and Plaintiff’s principal place of business is in Singapore. The court noted that the district court allowed a maritime fraudulent transfer claim to go forward. View "Armada (Singapore) PTE Ltd. v. Amcol International Corp." on Justia Law
Polar Electro Oy v. Suunto Oy
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
United States v. Nitek Elecs., Inc.
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
Empresa Cubana del Tabaco v. General Cigar Co., Inc.
Cubatabaco, a Cuban entity, and General, a Delaware company, manufacture and distribute cigars using the COHIBA mark. General owns trademark registrations issued in 1981 and 1995. Cubatabaco owns the mark in Cuba and uses it worldwide. Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR), prohibit Cubatabaco from selling cigars in the U.S.; 31 C.F.R. 515.201(b) prohibits “transfer of property rights . . . to a Cuban entity,” but a general or specific license allows Cuban entities to engage in otherwise prohibited transactions. General licenses are available for transactions “related to the registration and renewal” of U.S. trademark. Specific licenses issue from the Office of Foreign Assets Control. Cubatabaco used a general license to attempt to register the COHIBA mark in 1997, relying on 15 U.S.C. 1126(e), which allows reliance on a foreign registration if the applicant has a bona fide intent to use the mark in commerce. Cubatabaco also sought to cancel General’s registrations, which the PTO cited as a basis for likelihood of confusion. Cubatabaco obtained a special license to sue General. The district court held that General had abandoned its registration by non-use and enjoined General’s use of the COHIBA mark, finding that Cubatabaco had acquired ownership under the famous marks doctrine. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that injunctive relief would involve a prohibited transfer under CACR because Cubatabaco would acquire ownership of the mark and later affirmed denial of General’s motion concerning cancellation of its registrations. The Board then dismissed Cubatabaco’s petition, stating that it need not address preclusion because Cubatabaco lacked standing. The Federal Circuit vacated, finding that Cubatabaco has a statutory cause of action to petition to cancel the registrations and that issue and claim preclusion do not bar that petition View "Empresa Cubana del Tabaco v. General Cigar Co., Inc." on Justia Law
JPMorgan Chase & Co., N.A. v. Asia Pulp & Paper Co., Ltd.
In 1996 Beloit agreed to build high-speed paper-making machines for Indonesian paper companies. Two of the companies executed promissory notes in favor of Beloit reflecting a principal indebtedness of $43.8 million. The paper companies guaranteed the notes; Beloit assigned them to JPMorgan in exchange for construction financing. The machines were delivered in 1998 but did not run as specified. In 2000 the parties settled claims pertaining to the machines but preserved obligations under the notes. JPMorgan sued for nonpayment. The district court held that warranty-based claims were foreclosed by the settlement and that other defenses lacked merit; it awarded JPMorgan $53 million. After the appeal was filed, JPMorgan issued citations to discover assets. Although the companies raised an international conflict-of-law question, the district court ordered compliance with the citations. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The settlement waived implied warranty defenses and counterclaims. The fraud defense is also mostly barred; to the extent it is not, the evidence was insufficient to survive summary judgment. The court also rejected defenses that the notes lacked consideration; that the notes were issued for a “special purpose” and were not intended to be repaid; and that JPMorgan is not a holder in due course. The discovery order was not appealable. View "JPMorgan Chase & Co., N.A. v. Asia Pulp & Paper Co., Ltd." on Justia Law
Control Screening LLC v. Technological Application & Prod. Co.
CS manufactures and sells X-ray and metal detection devices for use in public facilities around the world. Tecapro is a private, state-owned company that was formed by the Vietnamese government to advanced technologies into the Vietnamese market. In 2010, Tecapro purchased 28 customized AutoClear X-ray machines from CS for $1,021,156. The contract provides that disputes shall be settled at International Arbitration Center of European countries for claim in the suing party’s country under the rule of the Center. Tecapro initiated arbitration proceedings in Belgium in November 2010. In December 2010, CS notified Tecapro of its intention to commence arbitration proceedings in New Jersey. In January 2011, CS filed its petition to compel arbitration in New Jersey and enjoin Tecapro from proceeding with arbitration in Belgium. The district court concluded that it had subject matter jurisdiction under the U.N.Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, that it had personal jurisdiction over Tecapro, and that Tecapro could have sought to arbitrate in Vietnam and CS in New Jersey. The latter is what happened, so “the arbitration shall proceed in New Jersey.” After determining that it had jurisdiction under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 1, the Third Circuit affirmed. View "Control Screening LLC v. Technological Application & Prod. Co." on Justia Law
Greenpack of PR, Inc. v. Am. President Lines
Plaintiff sought damages resulting from a delayed delivery of perishable food items from Puerto Limón, Costa Rica to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The district court dismissed as time-barred by the statute of limitations in the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, 46 U.S.C. 30701. The First Circuit affirmed,rejecting and argument that the parties meant to incorporate COGSA solely for the purpose of limiting the carrier's liability to $500, per COGSA's limitation of liability provision and equitable arguments. View "Greenpack of PR, Inc. v. Am. President Lines" on Justia Law
Conn v. Zakharov
Defendant, a Russian citizen, attended graduate school and owns real property, vehicles, and bank accounts in Ohio. He spends some time in Ohio each year, ranging from 40 days in 2007 to a total of 17 days in 2008–2009. He visits under a tourist visa and does not have an Ohio driver's license. After going to Russia to take part in a business venture with defendant, plaintiff filed suit in Ohio. The contract had no connection to the state. The trial court dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction, noting that defendant was not served with process in a manner that automatically confers personal jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding that notions of fair play and substantial justice weigh against jurisdiction in Ohio. The court quoted a Russian proverb, “If you’re afraid of wolves, don’t go into the forest” that could be read, “If you’re afraid of the Russian legal system, don't do business in Russia.” View "Conn v. Zakharov" on Justia Law