Monthly Archives

December 2013

Ex-Im Bank Approves $694 Million to Finance Export of U.S. Mining and Rail Equipment to Australia: Transaction Supports 3,400 U.S. Jobs

By International Business, News, Technology Transactions

In a decision that will support thousands of U.S. jobs, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) has authorized a $694.4 million loan to Roy Hill Holdings of Australia contingent upon the purchase of U.S. mining and rail equipment from Caterpillar Inc., GE, and Atlas Copco.

According to Bank estimates derived from Departments of Commerce and Labor data and methodology, the credit will support 3,400 U.S. jobs across America. Furthermore, an estimated 20 percent of the job support will benefit small-business jobs.

“After a comprehensive review, the Bank determined that this transaction represents a significant opportunity for American exporters to create and sustain American jobs,” said Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg. “Our financing positions American companies on a level playing field so they can close the sales and expand their homegrown workforces. Projects this size can be difficult to finance—that’s where Ex-Im comes in. And I am proud that today’s action will support 3,400 jobs across the country, many of them at small businesses.”

Export credit agencies of several other countries have obtained preliminary or final approvals for the Roy Hill transaction as well.

The exported equipment will contribute to the development of the Roy Hill iron ore mine, an open-pit surface mine in the Pilbara region of northwestern Australia. The mine sits approximately 280 kilometers south of Port Hedland.

Ex-Im Bank’s loan increases the likelihood that Caterpillar, a leading equipment manufacturer based in Peoria, Ill., will provide surface-mining equipment for the project.

“Caterpillar applauds Ex-Im Bank for approving the long-term financing request for the Roy Hill’s Australian iron-ore project,” said Steve Wunning, group president with responsibility for the Resource Industries Group, Caterpillar Inc. “By backing this project, Ex-Im Bank is bolstering U.S. manufacturing competitiveness, supporting American jobs and promoting exports. Ex-Im Bank is also providing Caterpillar and other U.S. suppliers with the opportunity to support Roy Hill with mining equipment that may have otherwise been supplied by non-U.S. competitors using their countries’ export credit agencies. We appreciate the support of Chairman Hochberg and all the Ex-Im Bank officials who worked so hard to get us to this point.”

The financing also increases the likelihood that GE will furnish locomotives to transport the iron ore to the port.

“Ex-Im Bank’s support of the Roy Hill’s Australian iron-ore project represents a major milestone for the mining industry and U.S. job growth,” said Russell Stokes, president and chief executive officer, GE Transportation. “Further, it’s testament to the great outcomes that can be achieved through collaboration of federal and private sector leadership. We’re thrilled to have our locomotives leading the charge and enabling transport efficiencies.”

In line with its economic-impact procedures, Ex-Im Bank performed a detailed economic-impact analysis and found that the transaction will likely have a significant net positive effect on the U.S. economy. Additionally, Ex-Im Bank obtained a market-based supplemental analysis prepared by a third party that also yielded a positive finding.

ABOUT EX-IM BANK:

Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal agency that creates and maintains U.S. jobs by filling gaps in private export financing at no cost to American taxpayers. The Bank provides a variety of financing mechanisms, including working-capital guarantees, export-credit insurance and financing to help foreign buyers purchase U.S. goods and services. In the past fiscal year alone, Ex-Im Bank earned for U.S. taxpayers more than $1 billion above the cost of operations.

In FY 2013, Ex-Im Bank approved more than $27 billion in total authorizations to support an estimated $37.4 billion in U.S. export sales and approximately 205,000 American jobs in communities across the country. For the year, the Bank approved a record 3,413 transactions– or 89 percent–for small-businesses. For more information, visit www.exim.gov.

SOURCE:  US EXPORT-IMPORT BANK

Norwegian Tax Authority Declares “BitCoins” Property, not Currency

By International Business, Technology Transactions

Bitcoins, the online currency, have received much media attention in a short time and become an up-and-coming international means of payment.  The Norwegian Tax Administration (NTA) has weighed in on the legal classification of bitcoins by issuing a “Principle Statement” stating that, although one may accept payment in bitcoins, they are not a currency but a capital property and therefore sales using bitcoins that entail a profit will make the seller liable for Norwegian taxes. (Bruk av bitcoins – skatte- og avgiftsmessige konsekvenser, NTA website (Nov. 11, 2013).) Conversely, losses incurred through trading in Bitcoins are deductible.

While Norwegian law provides for an exemption from taxes on small winnings gained from currency exchanges in currencies commonly used for travel, the exemption does not extend to bitcoins, according to the NTA. (Marius Lorentzen, Skatteeataten har bestemt seg: handler du bitcoins må du ut med bade skatt og moms, E24 DIGITAL (last updated Nov. 22, 2013).)

The NTA’s finding that bitcoins and similar forms of payment used by online payment service units are not currencies has consequences for business owners as well. Any trade in bitcoins is subject to the 25% Norwegian VAT.

Because the use of bitcoins is new and controversial, the issue of the legal definition of such digital forms of payment is likely to eventually reach the Norwegian courts. For now, however, bitcoin users in Norway are advised to take note and keep track of their bitcoin purchases.

SOURCE:  US Library of Congress; Global Legal Monitor

EU Proposes New Law on Protection of Trade Secrets

By Innovation, Intellectual Property, International IP

On November 28, 2013, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a new directive on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets) against their unlawful acquisition, use, and disclosure. Trade secrets, otherwise known as “confidential business information” or “undisclosed information,” are used by a large number of companies to safeguard a wide range of different information, including, for example, such things as the manufacturing process of Michelin tires, the technology and know-how used in Airbus aircraft, and Google’s search algorithm. (Press Release, European Commission, Commission Proposes Rules to Help Protect Against the Theft of Confidential Business Information (Nov. 28, 2013).)

According to a survey, one in five companies in the European Union has been beset by at least one attempt of trade secret theft during the last ten years. In general, trade secrets do not enjoy the same legal protection as inventions, because no exclusive right applies to the confidential information. At present, some EU members have no specific law on the protection of trade secrets while others have differing rules in place.

The proposed directive is designed to harmonize common rules on trade secrets across the EU by establishing a common definition of trade secrets and to facilitate access to national courts for victims of abuse of trade secrets, in order to allow them to seek redress. Among the remedial measures available, in addition to monetary compensation, will be the removal of trade secret infringing products from the market.

The proposal will be submitted to the Council of the EU and the Parliament for review and adoption.

SOURCE:  US Library of Congress, Global Legal Monitor

Black-Out Monday: 706 Web Sites Selling Counterfeit Merchandise Seized

By copyright, Customs IP Enforcement, Export, Import, Intellectual Property, International IP, Internet / eCommerce, News, Technology Transactions

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) teamed with 10 foreign law enforcement agencies to seize hundreds of domain names that were illegally selling counterfeit merchandise online to unsuspecting consumers. Seizures come as US consumers flock to the Web for Cyber Monday shopping deals.

The 706 domain names seized were set up to dupe consumers into unknowingly buying counterfeit goods as part of the holiday shopping season. The operations were coordinated by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington, D.C.

An iteration of “Operation In Our Sites,” Project Cyber Monday IV resulted in the seizure of 297 domain names from undercover operations conducted by HSI offices around the country. This is the fourth year that the IPR Center has targeted websites selling counterfeit products online in conjunction with Cyber Monday. Due to the global nature of Internet crime, the IPR Center partnered with Europol who, through its member countries, seized 393 foreign-based top-level domains as part of Project Transatlantic III. Additionally, Hong Kong Customs coordinated the seizure of 16 foreign-based top-level domains hosted in Hong Kong, enlisting the assistance of the web-hosting companies to suspend the service of related websites.

“Working with our international partners on operations like this shows the true global impact of IP crime,” said ICE Acting Director John Sandweg. “Counterfeiters take advantage of the holiday season and sell cheap fakes to unsuspecting consumers everywhere. Consumers need to protect themselves, their families, and their personal financial information from the criminal networks operating these bogus sites.”

During the weeks leading up to the end of the year, the market is flooded with counterfeit products being sold at stores, on street corners, and online, according to law enforcement officials, not only ripping off the consumer with shoddy products, but also putting their personal financial information at risk. The most popular counterfeit products seized each year include headphones, sports jerseys, personal care products, shoes, toys, luxury goods, cell phones and electronic accessories, according to the IPR Center.

“This operation is another good example of how transatlantic law enforcement cooperation works. It sends a signal to criminals that they should not feel safe anywhere,” said Rob Wainwright, director of Europol. “Unfortunately the economic downturn has meant that disposable income has gone down, which may tempt more people to buy products for prices that are too good to be true. Consumers should realize that, by buying these products, they risk supporting organized crime.”

During the last few weeks, the IPR Center and its international partners received leads from trademark holders regarding the infringing websites. Those leads were disseminated to HSI offices in Denver, Dallas, El Paso, Houston and Salt Lake City as well as the Belgium Economic Inspection, Belgium Customs, Denmark Police, Hungarian Customs, French Gendarmerie, French Customs, Romanian Police, Spanish Guardia Civil, City of London Police, and Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department.

The domain names seized are now in the custody of the governments involved in these operations. Visitors typing those domain names into their Web browsers will now find a banner that notifies them of the seizure and educates them about the federal crime of willful copyright infringement.

During this operation, federal law enforcement officers made undercover purchases of a host of products including professional sports jerseys and equipment, DVD sets and a variety of clothing, jewelry and luxury goods from online retailers who were suspected of selling counterfeit products. Upon confirmation by the trademark or copyright holders that the purchased products were counterfeit or otherwise illegal, law enforcement officers obtained seizure orders for the domain names of the websites that sold these goods.

Operation In Our Sites is a sustained law enforcement initiative that began more than three years ago to protect consumers by targeting the sale of counterfeit merchandise on the Internet. The 297 domain names seized under Project Cyber Monday IV bring the total number of In Our Sites domain names seized to 2,550 since the operation began in June 2010. In that time, the seizure banner has received more than 122 million individual views.

U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the District of Utah, Western District of Texas, Southern District of Texas, Northern District of Texas, and the District of Colorado issued the warrants for U.S. seizures. Significant assistance was provided by the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.

The HSI-led IPR Center is one of the U.S. government’s key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. Working in close coordination with the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21-member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to intellectual property theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public’s health and safety and the U.S. economy.

SOURCE:  U.S. ICE (www.iprcenter.gov)