Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Kiobel v. Cravath, Swain & Moore, LLP, Docket No. 17-424-cv

Discovery (foreign company): Evidence (foreign court): 28 U.S.C. § 1782: Trade secret: Attorney: Ethics (client’s documents):

Section 1782 “provides federalcourt assistance in gathering evidence for use in foreign tribunals.” Intel Corp. v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., 542 U.S. 241, 247 (2004).
PetitionerAppellee Kiobel seeks documents belonging to Royal Dutch Shell (a foreign company) from Shell’s United States counsel, RespondentAppellant Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP. The documents were transferred to Cravath for the purpose of responding to discovery requests in a prior case over which the court was ultimately found to lack jurisdiction. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Hellerstein, J.) granted Kiobel’s petition seeking leave to subpoena Cravath. We reverse: it is an abuse of discretion for a district court to grant a 28 U.S.C. § 1782 petition where the documents sought from a foreign company’s U.S. counsel would be “unreachable in a foreign country,” because this threatens to jeopardize “the policy of promoting open communications between lawyers and their clients.” Application of Sarrio, S.A., 119 F.3d 143, 146 (2d Cir. 1997).
For the purpose of pretrial discovery, the district court consolidated Kiobel’s case with other Alien Tort Statute cases arising out of the same events in Nigeria, the Wiwa cases. See Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 226 F.3d 88 (2d Cir. 2000). The consolidated cases generated a large volume of discovery, including depositions and documents. The discovery materials were subject to a stipulated confidentiality order entered into in the Wiwa cases, and signed by Kiobel. Most of the documents produced by Shell were marked “confidential,” meaning that they were to be used “solely for purposes” of the thenpending Kiobel and Wiwa litigations. The parties agreed to destroy or return each other’s confidential material not later than thirty days after the respective cases’ conclusions, and that the order would survive the end of litigation. Any dedesignation of confidential documents or modification of the confidentiality order required agreement by the parties to the confidentiality order, or could be ordered by the district court. Cravath attorneys signed the stipulation in their capacity as Shell’s counsel.
Years after (…), Kiobel prepared to file suit against Shell in the Netherlands, advancing the same allegations made in her Alien Tort Statute suit. Kiobel now wants to deploy the discovery from her American litigation in her Dutch lawsuit, but is impeded by the confidentiality order which limits its use to only the U.S. Kiobel and Wiwa Alien Tort Statute cases. On October 12, 2016, Kiobel filed the pending 28 U.S.C. Section 1782 petition to subpoeana Cravath and obtain “all deposition transcripts from the Kiobel and Wiwa cases,” as well as “all discovery documents and communications produced to the plaintiffs by Shell and other defendants in Kiobel and the Wiwa cases.”
(…) Therefore, although our Court in Ratliff held that Davis Polk was subject to appellant’s subpoena, Ratliff did not disturb Sarrio’s suggestion that a district court should not exercise its discretion to grant a Section 1782 petition for documents held by a U.S. law firm in its role as counsel for a foreign client if the documents are undiscoverable from the client abroad, because this would disturb attorneyclient communications and relations. Sarrio, 119 F.3d at 146; Ratliff, 354 F.3d at 170.
(…) The decision to alter the confidentiality order without Shell’s participation, and without considering the costs of disclosure to Shell, makes this case exceptional, and mandates reversal. See Mees, 793 F.3d at 302 (explaining that under Intel, district courts should apply the standard from Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 to assess when a discovery request is unduly burdensome); see also In re Catalyst Managerial Servs., DMCC, 680 Fed. App’x 37, 39 & n.1 (2d Cir. 2017) (discussing a party’s argument about the burdens of discovery on a thirdparty putative foreign defendant in the context of the fourth Intel factor).
(…) As amicus the New York City Bar Association notes, its Ethics Opinion 780 states that law firms have an interest in retaining documents where needed to protect themselves from accusations of wrongful conduct. So U.S. law firms may be harmed if they must destroy or return a foreign client’s documents as soon as possible once a proceeding is completed.

(U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, July 10, 2018, Kiobel v. Cravath, Swain & Moore, LLP, Docket No. 17-424-cv, J. Jacobs)

28 U.S.C. § 1782 prévoit l’assistance des cours fédérales dans le processus de production de moyens de preuve à l’intention de Tribunaux étrangers.
En conformité avec sa jurisprudence Sarrio rendue en 1997 (analysant 28 U.S.C. § 1782), le 2è Circuit fédéral juge en l’espèce qu’une cour de district fédérale ne peut pas ordonner d’une étude d’avocats sur territoire U.S. la production de moyens de preuve appartenant à un client étranger de l’étude quand le but de cette procédure est la production de ces moyens de preuve dans le cadre d’une autre procédure hors U.S., laquelle procédure ne permettant pas (encore) la production desdits moyens de preuve (même s’ils peuvent être produits ultérieurement). De la sorte, ces moyens de preuve ne peuvent pas être obtenus si la procédure hors U.S. n’a pas encore débuté et que dite procédure (typiquement des systèmes de droit civil) ne connaît pas l’institution de « discovery » antérieure au procès proprement dit (typiquement des systèmes de Common law).
En juger autrement reviendrait à porter atteinte au principe de libre et complète communication entre le client et son avocat.
Il est à noter que la partie requérante ne sollicitait la production qu’à l’encontre de l’étude d’avocats, et non à l’encontre de son client.
Par ailleurs, en l’espèce, les moyens de preuve recherchés avaient antérieurement été produits dans une procédure, terminée, devant les cours U.S. Les parties à cette procédure avaient convenu de leur caractère confidentiel, ces moyens devant être détruits ou retournés après la fin de la procédure. Les parties avaient convenu que la confidentialité ne pouvait être levée que de leur mutuel consentement, ou par ordre de la cour de district fédérale. Dès lors, sans l’intervention de la cour de district, les moyens de preuve ne pouvaient pas être produits hors U.S. considérant la confidentialité promise. D’où la présente procédure en production fondée sur 28 U.S.C. § 1782. Le 2è Circuit juge donc ici que requérir et obtenir ces documents contreviendrait au principe de libre communication entre le client et l’avocat.
Cette affaire est considérée comme exceptionnelle par la cour. Dans des affaires plus « ordinaires » n’impliquant ni clauses de confidentialité ni principe de libre communication entre client et avocat, les cours fédérales examinent une requête en production fondée sur 28 U.S.C. § 1782 sous l’angle des quatre facteurs établis par la jurisprudence Intel rendue par la Cour Suprême fédérale en 2004 (542 U.S. 241).
(La présente décision cite aussi l’ « Ethics Opinion 780 » de l’association du barreau de la ville de New York, qui dispose que les études d’avocats ont un intérêt à la conservation des documents, pour pouvoir faire face cas échéant à des reproches de violations d’obligations professionnelles).

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

E-commerce, Restore Online Shoppers' Confidence Act

E-commerce: Consumer protection: Competition: Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (ROSCA): Continuity plans: Negative Options: Injunction: FTC:

Time for a ROSCA recap: FTC says “risk free trial” was risky – and not free
By: Lesley Fair | Jul 3, 2018

Like the three sides of a triangle, ROSCA – the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act – has three basic compliance requirements for online sellers who enroll consumers in continuity plans, often known as negative options. The law bans online negative options unless the seller: 1) clearly discloses all material terms of the deal before obtaining a consumer’s billing information; 2) gets the consumer’s express informed consent before making the charge; and 3) provides a simple mechanism for stopping recurring charges.
A federal district court has granted the Federal Trade Commission’s request to stop a group of San Diego-based Internet marketers from deceptively advertising free trial offers and not only charging consumers full-price for the trial product, but also enrolling them in expensive, ongoing continuity plans without their knowledge or consent. The court order announced today temporarily halts the operation, freezes its assets, and appoints a temporary receiver over the business.

The complaint for permanent injunction and other equitable relief:
The counts:
Count 1: Misrepresentations of the price of the trial offers
Count 2: Misrepresentation that order is not complete
Count 3: Failure to disclose adequately material terms of trial offer
Count 4: Unfairly charging consumers without authorization
Count 5: Violations of ROSCA – Auto-renewal continuity plan, violations of the Electronic Fund transfer Act and Regulation E
Count 6: Unauthorized debiting from Consumers’ accounts

Friday, June 29, 2018

Pinkette Clothing, Inc. v. Cosmetic Warriors Ltd., Docket No. 17-55325

Trademark infringement: Copyright infringement: Patent infringement: Laches: Statute of limitations: Constructive notice:

The Lanham Act recognizes laches as a defense to a petition for cancellation of a trademark registration. 15 U.S.C. § 1069. Although such a petition may be filed “at any time,” § 1064 limits the grounds for cancellation after five years have passed from the date of registration—i.e., after the mark becomes incontestable. Id. § 1064. Relying on Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 1962 (2014), and SCA Hygiene Products v. First Quality Baby Products, LLC, 137 S. Ct. 954 (2017), CWL argues that laches cannot bar a cancellation claim if it is brought within the five-year period specified in § 1064.
We write principally to address what effect, if any, Petrella and SCA Hygiene had on applying laches to a trademark cancellation claim. In Petrella, the Supreme Court held that laches could not bar a copyright infringement claim brought within the Copyright Act’s three-year statute of limitations. 134 S. Ct. at 1967. And in SCA Hygiene, the Court held that laches could not bar a patent infringement claim brought within the Patent Act’s six-year statute of limitations. 137 S. Ct. at 959. We conclude that the principle at work in these cases—a concern over laches overriding a statute of limitations—does not apply here, where the Lanham Act has no statute of limitations and expressly makes laches a defense to cancellation.
(…) There was no opposition to Pinkette’s application, and Pinkette’s LUSH mark was registered in July 2010, thereby putting CWL on constructive notice of Pinkette’s claim to ownership. See 15 U.S.C. § 1072 (“Registration of a mark on the principal register . . . shall be constructive notice of the registrant’s claim of ownership thereof.”).
It was not until June 2015—approximately four years and eleven months after Pinkette’s registration issued—that CWL finally filed a petition with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) to cancel Pinkette’s registration.
After CWL filed its cancellation petition, Pinkette filed this action in federal court, seeking a declaratory judgment that it did not infringe on CWL’s trademark rights, or alternatively that laches bars CWL from asserting its rights against Pinkette. CWL counterclaimed for trademark infringement and cancellation of Pinkette’s registration, among other claims. On the parties’ joint motion, proceedings before the TTAB were stayed pending resolution of this case.

Laches :
“We analyze the laches defense with a two-step process.” La Quinta Worldwide LLC v. Q.R.T.M., S.A. de C.V., 762 F.3d 867, 878 (9th Cir. 2014). First, we assess the plaintiff’s delay by looking to whether the most analogous state statute of limitations has expired. Id. If the most analogous state statute of limitations expired before suit was filed, there is a strong presumption in favor of laches. Id. That presumption is reversed, however, if the most analogous state statute of limitations expired after suit was filed. Id.
Second, we assess the equity of applying laches using the E-Systems factors: (1) “strength and value of trademark rights asserted;” (2) “plaintiff’s diligence in enforcing mark;” (3) “harm to senior user if relief denied;” (4) “good faith ignorance by junior user;” (5) “competition between senior and junior users;” and (6) “extent of harm suffered by junior user because of senior user’s delay.” E-Sys., Inc. v. Monitek, Inc., 720 F.2d 604, 607 (9th Cir. 1983). We review a district court’s application of laches for abuse of discretion. In re Beaty, 306 F.3d 914, 921 (9th Cir. 2002).
The most analogous state statute of limitations in this case is California’s four-year statute of limitations for trademark infringement actions. See Internet Specialties W., Inc. v. Milon-DiGiorgio Enters., Inc., 559 F.3d 985, 990 n.2 (9th Cir. 2009).
(…) The district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to apply the doctrine of unclean hands.
(…) The inevitable confusion doctrine is inapplicable.

(U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, June 29, 2018, Pinkette Clothing, Inc. v. Cosmetic Warriors Ltd., Docket No. 17-55325, Judge Bybee)

Droit des marques, utilisation par un tiers, risque de confusion, action en annulation de l’enregistrement d’une marque, défense fondée sur la tardiveté à agir (« laches »), délai.
Dans le cadre d’une action en annulation de l’enregistrement d’une marque, le Lanham Act prévoit que la tardiveté à agir peut être invoquée par le défendeur. Cette action peut être ouverte à n’importe quel moment, mais 15 U.S.C. § 1064 limite les motifs d’annulation après un délai de cinq ans dès l’enregistrement. Après ce délai, la marque est qualifiée d’ « incontestable ».
En l’espèce, la partie demanderesse soutient que la doctrine de la tardiveté à agir ne peut pas être efficacement opposée à une action en annulation déposée avant l’expiration du délai de cinq ans précité. A tort, juge ici le 9è Circuit.
En effet, la Cour Suprême fédérale a jugé dans sa décision Petrella qu’une action en violation d’un copyright, déposée dans le délai légal de trois ans, ne pouvait pas être barrée par la défense de la tardiveté à agir. Et dans sa décision SCA Hygiene, la même Cour Suprême a jugé qu’une action en violation d’un brevet d’invention, déposée dans le délai légal de six ans, ne pouvait pas échouer par l’invocation de la défense de la tardiveté à agir. Ces deux décisions visent à empêcher que la doctrine de la tardiveté à agir ne chevauche des délais légaux. Or, en l’espèce, le Lanham Act ne fixe aucun délai (légal) au dépôt de l’action en annulation de l’enregistrement d’une marque. Le délai de cinq ans précité (15 U.S.C. § 1064) n’est pas un délai légal au sens strict.
(…) L’enregistrement d’une marque entraine « constructive notice », erga omnes, de la revendication de titularité de la marque (cf. 15 U.S.C. § 1072).
(…) En l’espèce, ce n’est que quatre ans et onze mois après l’enregistrement que la demanderesse a ouvert action devant le « Trademark Trial and Appeal Board » (TTAB). Puis la défenderesse a ouvert action en constatation devant la cour fédérale, concluant à ce qu’il plaise à la cour de dire et déclarer qu’elle n’avait pas porté atteinte au droit des marques, subsidiairement de juger que la doctrine de la tardiveté à agir barrait les allégations de la demanderesse. La procédure devant le TTAB a été suspendue d’un commun accord.
Suit une description de la théorie de la tardiveté à agir (« laches ») : ce moyen de défense suppose une analyse en deux temps : tout d’abord, le délai pendant lequel le demandeur aurait pu agir est comparé au délai légal prévu par la loi étatique qui se rapproche le plus de la difficulté à juger. Si l’action a été ouverte après une durée de temps supérieur au délai légal, la tardiveté à agir sera fortement présumée. Ensuite et enfin est évalué le caractère équitable ou non d’une application de la théorie de la tardiveté à agir. Les critères d’évaluation du caractère équitable sont la force des droits des marques invoqués, la diligence avec laquelle le demandeur a défendu sa marque, le dommage causé à l’usager antérieur si ses conclusions sont rejetées, l’ignorance de bonne foi par l’usager postérieur, les rapports de concurrence entre les usagers antérieur et postérieur, et l’étendue du dommage causé à l’usager postérieur du fait de la tardiveté à agir.

Monday, June 25, 2018

16 CFR Parts 801-803, Amendments to the Hart-Scott-Rodino Premerger Notification Rules

The Federal Trade Commission, with the concurrence of the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, has approved amendments to the Hart-Scott-Rodino Premerger Notification Rules and to the instructions for filling out the form that companies use to report a proposed merger, acquisition, or similar transaction under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act.
The Premerger Notification and Report Form (known also as the HSR Form) is designed to provide the FTC and the Antitrust Division of DOJ with the necessary information for an initial evaluation of the potential anticompetitive impact of proposed transactions.
The amendments simplify and clarify some language used in the Rules and the instructions, and they allow for the use of email in certain circumstances, such as in granting early termination. A notice in the Federal Register provides more information:



Premerger Notification, Early terminations

An important aspect of the FTC’s Premerger Notification Program is the granting of early terminations. Any person filing an HSR form may request that the waiting period be terminated before the statutory waiting period expires, allowing the parties to consummate their deal. Such a request for “early termination” (ET) is granted only if both the FTC and Department of Justice Antitrust Division complete their review and determine not to take any enforcement action during the waiting period.
The FTC publishes an online notification of early terminations that have been granted, which is updated almost every weekday.
In some instances, after an investigation involving a Request for Additional Information and Documentary Material (Second Request) has been issued, the investigating agency will determine that no further action is necessary and terminate the waiting period before full compliance with the Second Request is made. A grant of ET may also be made after the parties agree to a consent order with the investigating Agency, whether or not there was Second Request compliance.
The list of transactions that have been granted early termination is only a subset of the transactions filed each year. Generally, the fact that a filing has been made is confidential by statute. Only if one (or both) of the parties to the transaction has requested ET, and that request has been granted, will notice be made. If neither party requests early termination, or the request is not granted, the fact that a filing has been made will remain confidential.

FTC launches first Web API to make Early Terminations more accessible

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

EU Commission implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/886 of 20 June 2018


on certain commercial policy measures concerning certain products originating in the United States of America and amending Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/724

The Union shall apply additional customs duties on imports into the Union of the products listed in Annex I and Annex II to this Regulation and originating in the United States of America

Règlement d'exécution (UE) 2018/886 de la Commission du 20 juin 2018 concernant certaines mesures de politique commerciale visant certains produits originaires des États-Unis d'Amérique, et modifiant le règlement d'exécution (UE) 2018/724

L'Union applique des droits de douane additionnels sur les importations dans l'Union des produits énumérés à l'annexe I et à l'annexe II du présent règlement et originaires des États-Unis d'Amérique

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Animal Science Products, Inc. v. Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co., Docket No. 16-1220

Conflict of laws: Foreign law: Antitrust: Export: Act of state doctrine: Foreign sovereign compulsion doctrine: Comity (international): Common law:

When foreign law is relevant to a case instituted in a federal court, and the foreign government whose law is in contention submits an official statement on the meaning and interpretation of its domestic law, may the federal court look beyond that official statement? The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit answered generally “no,” ruling that federal courts are “bound to defer” to a foreign government’s construction of its own law, whenever that construction is “reasonable.” In re Vitamin C Antitrust Litigation, 837 F. 3d 175, 189 (2016).
We hold otherwise. A federal court should accord respectful consideration to a foreign government’s submission, but is not bound to accord conclusive effect to the foreign government’s statements. Instead, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 44.1 instructs that, in determining foreign law, “the court may consider any relevant material or source . . . whether or not submitted by a party.” As “the court’s determination must be treated as a ruling on a question of law,” Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 44.1, the court “may engage in its own research and consider any relevant material thus found,” Advisory Committee’s 1966 Note on Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 44.1, 28 U. S. C. App., p. 892. Because the Second Circuit ordered dismissal of this case on the ground that the foreign government’s statements could not be gainsaid, we vacate that court’s judgment and remand the case for further consideration.
Petitioners, U. S.-based purchasers of vitamin C, filed a class-action suit against four Chinese corporations that manufacture and export the nutrient. The U. S. purchasers alleged that the Chinese sellers, two of whom are respondents here, had agreed to fix the price and quantity of vitamin C exported to the United States from China, in violation of §1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U. S. C. §1. More particularly, the U. S. purchasers stated that the Chinese sellers had formed a cartel “facilitated by the efforts of their trade association,” the Chamber of Commerce of Medicines and Health Products Importers and Exporters. Complaint in No. 1:05–CV–453, Docket No. 1, ¶43. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated the instant case and related suits for pretrial proceedings in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
The Chinese sellers moved to dismiss the U. S. purchasers’ complaint on the ground that Chinese law required them to fix the price and quantity of vitamin C exports. Therefore, the Chinese sellers urged, they are shielded from liability under U. S. antitrust law by the act of state doctrine, the foreign sovereign compulsion doctrine, and principles of international comity.
At common law, the content of foreign law relevant to a dispute was treated “as a question of fact.” Miller, Federal Rule 44.1 and the “Fact” Approach to Determining Foreign Law: Death Knell for a Die-Hard Doctrine, 65 Mich. L. Rev. 613, 617–619 (1967). In 1801, this Court endorsed the common-law rule, instructing that “the laws of a foreign nation” must be “proved as facts.” Talbot v. Seeman, 1 Cranch 1, 38 (1801); see, e.g., Church v. Hubbart, 2 Cranch 187, 236 (1804).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 44.1, adopted in 1966, fundamentally changed the mode of determining foreign law in federal courts. The Rule specifies that a court’s determination of foreign law “must be treated as a ruling on a question of law,” rather than as a finding of fact. (…) (Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 26.1 establishes “substantially the same” rule for criminal cases. Advisory Committee’s 1966 Note on Fed. Rule Crim. Proc. 26.1, 18 U. S. C. App., p. 709).
(…) In the spirit of “international comity,” Société Nationale Industrielle Aérospatiale v. United States Dist. Court for Southern Dist. of Iowa, 482 U. S. 522, 543, and n. 27 (1987), a federal court should carefully consider a foreign state’s views about the meaning of its own laws. (…) But the appropriate weight in each case will depend upon the circumstances; a federal court is neither bound to adopt the foreign government’s characterization nor required to ignore other relevant materials. When a foreign government makes conflicting statements, or, as here, offers an account in the context of litigation, there may be cause for caution in evaluating the foreign government’s submission. Given the world’s many and diverse legal systems, and the range of circumstances in which a foreign government’s views may be presented, no single formula or rule will fit all cases in which a foreign government describes its own law. Relevant considerations include the statement’s clarity, thoroughness, and support; 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.
(…) The Court of Appeals additionally mischaracterized the Ministry’s brief as a “sworn evidentiary proffer.” 837 F. 3d, at 189. In so describing the Ministry’s submission, the Court of Appeals overlooked that a court’s resolution of an issue of foreign law “must be treated as a ruling on a question of law.” Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 44.1. The Ministry’s brief, while a probative source for resolving the legal question at hand, was not an attestation to facts.
The understanding that a government’s expressed view of its own law is ordinarily entitled to substantial but not conclusive weight is also consistent with two international treaties that establish formal mechanisms by which one government may obtain from another an official statement characterizing its laws. Those treaties specify that “the information given in the reply shall not bind the judicial authority from which the request emanated.” European Convention on Information on Foreign Law, Art. 8, June 7, 1968, 720 U. N. T. S. 154; see Inter-American Convention on Proof of and Information on Foreign Law, Art. 6, May 8, 1979, O. A. S. T. S. 1439 U. N. T. S. 111 (similar). Although the United States is not a party to those treaties, they reflect an international practice inconsistent with the Court of Appeals’ “binding, if reasonable” resolution.

Secondary sources: Miller, Federal Rule 44.1 and the “Fact” Approach to Determining Foreign Law: Death Knell for a Die-Hard Doctrine, 65 Mich. L. Rev. 613, 617–619 (1967); C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure §2441, p. 324 (3d ed. 2008).

(U.S.S.C., June 14, 2018, Animal Science Products, Inc. v. Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co., Docket No. 16-1220, J. Ginsburg, unanimous)

En l’espèce, des acheteurs U.S. de vitamine C ont déposé une « class action » contre quatre entreprises chinoises qui la fabrique et l’exporte.
Quand une cour fédérale doit considérer un droit étranger et que le gouvernement étranger émet une déclaration officielle exposant le sens et l’interprétation de ce droit, la cour fédérale se doit de prendre en compte dite déclaration, mais n’est pas tenue de la suivre, en application de la Règle 44.1 de procédure civile fédérale. En pratique, pour déterminer le contenu du droit étranger, la cour peut entreprendre sa propre recherche et s’inspirer de toutes sources utiles.
Les importateurs, demandeurs à l’action de classe, allèguent que les entreprises chinoises venderesses se sont entendues pour fixer les prix de vente et les quantités, en violation de la §1 du Sherman Act (15 U.S.C. §1). Les entreprises défenderesses soutiennent que le droit chinois leur impose de fixer le prix de la vitamine C et les quantités exportées. De la sorte, invoquent-elles, elles seraient protégées par le droit U.S. de l’antitrust, par l’« act of state doctrine », par la « foreign sovereign compulsion doctrine » et par les principes de l’ « international comity ».
Sous le régime de la Common law, la détermination du contenu du droit étranger était traitée comme une question de fait, et non de droit. La Cour a repris sur ce point la Common law par une décision de 1801.
Ce régime a été fondamentalement modifié par la Règle 44.1 de procédure civile fédérale (et par la Règle 26.1 de procédure pénale fédérale) : la détermination du droit étranger se traite désormais comme une question de droit.
L’essence de l’ « international comity » impose à une cour fédérale de considérer avec soin les vues d’un état étranger au sujet de son propre droit. Mais le poids à donner à ces vues dépend des circonstances du cas d’espèce. Une cour fédérale n’est pas tenue de se conformer à ces vues, et n’est pas tenue non plus d’ignorer d’autres sources permettant d’appréhender le contenu du droit étranger. Ainsi, quand un gouvernement étranger émet des opinions contradictoires ou, comme ici, s’exprime dans le contexte d’une procédure judiciaire, il se peut que l’avis du gouvernement étranger doive être apprécié avec retenue. En pratique, l’avis du gouvernement étranger doit être analysé sous l’angle de sa clarté, de sa rigueur, de sa motivation, de son contexte, de son but, de la transparence du système juridique étranger, du rôle et de l’autorité de l’entité gouvernementale qui s’est exprimée, et de sa consistance avec les prises de position passées dudit gouvernement étranger.
(L’autorité inférieure, à tort, a caractérisé la déclaration du gouvernement étranger comme une attestation officielle donnée sous serment).
Les Etats-Unis ne sont pas parties aux deux traités suivants : European Convention on Information on Foreign Law, Inter-American Convention on Proof of and Information on Foreign Law. Cependant, la Cour observe que la Règle 44.1 est conforme à ces deux traités.