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Best Practices

Best PracticesCBPImportU.S.Customs

Your Cheat Sheet to Comply With CBP’s Forced Labor Requirements

posted by Jennifer Diaz January 11, 2018 0 comments

4444 We recently advised our readers of the 12 Questions on Forced Labor the import community must answer in order to comply with U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) amended Reasonable Care Checklist. This checklist was released September 2017 to:

  1. Comply with the informed compliance requirement of Title VI of the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act (Pub. L. 103-182, 107 Stat. 2057) (Mod Act) and,
  2. Continue Reading
Best PracticesE-CigaretteFDA IssuesImportSeizuresTobacco

The End of Vape Shops, Hookah Shops, & E-Cigs? FDA’s New “Deeming” Laws

posted by Jennifer Diaz May 26, 2016 0 comments

 How to comply

On April 24, 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration(FDA) announced that it was officially “deeming” e-cigs, e-hookah, vape pens, and other tobacco products subject to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). This article covered the proposed regulation at the time. On May 10, 2016 the FDA published the final rule on the new deeming law.

What Are Tobacco Products and What’s Being Regulated?

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Best PracticesBISEventsExportFreight ForwardingOFACUncategorized

Freight Forwarder Pays $125,000 Mitigated Penalty – Avoid This & Learn 11 Steps to Exporting

posted by Jennifer Diaz May 28, 2014 0 comments

Aramex Emirates, LLC, located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), agreed to pay a $125,000 civil penalty to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s (DOC) Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) for the unlicensed export and reexport to Syria, via the U.A.E., of network devices and software without the required BIS licenses.

The Under Secretary of Commerce Eric L. Hirschhorn commented:

Today’s settlement shows the importance of compliance with U.S. law by foreign freight forwarders handling items subject to U.S. export controls.

The items in question could be used by the Syrian government to monitor Internet activity and block pro-democracy websites as part of its brutal crackdown against the Syrian people.

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Best PracticesCBPCounterfeitsImportSeizures

Large Seizure by CBP Highlights High Margins of Counterfeiting, and Necessity of Recordation

posted by Jennifer Diaz November 4, 2013 0 comments

Co Authored by Michael De Biase 

One of CBP’s latest news releases, dated September 27, 2013, noted that more than 16,000 counterfeit Hermes handbags were seized by Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) because Hermes took the extra step of recording their intellectual property with CBP.   Not surprisingly, when you analyze the difference between the alleged value of the counterfeit products (reported to CBP) as compared to the suggested retail price of the genuine goods, you have a grave difference. In this case, $295,665 (value of counterfeit goods) compared to $210,785,475 (value of genuine goods).  That’s over $210 million worth of potential profits for the counterfeiters, at the expense of Hermes – a crime in every sense. Because Hermes recorded its intellectual property with CBP, CBP seized this infringing merchandise, and will also have the ability to issue a penalty for the MSRP of the merchandise. Yes, that means a penalty in the amount of $210,785,475 will be coming to the counterfeiters!

Most often, counterfeiters target large luxury brands whose goodwill and name recognition has a certain element of exclusivity.  While some may not sympathize with profitable companies, what they fail to realize is that counterfeiting hurts in a variety of other ways. Counterfeiting hurts consumers who buy products under the false impression that they are genuine, companies whose goodwill is tarnished by the inferior quality of the counterfeit products bearing their brands, and it hurts those who worked hard to build something of substantial value.  In this case, Hermes lost out on, potentially, more than $210 million dollars in revenue.  That is not only felt by Hermes the corporation, it hurts the retail stores and the malls they’re in, the shipping companies, the raw materials developers, and the families of the employees for all of these parties.

Luckily for importers and consumers, CBP recognizes the importance of intellectual property protection and provides assistance in stopping the infringing products at our borders.  CBP’s Intellectual Property Rights Recordation (“IPRR”) system allows holders of registered trademarks and copyrights to record their registration with CBP, so that CBP can police the borders for infringing goods.  Once recorded, it is entered into a online search system named IPRS. According to the news released mentioned above regarding catching counterfeiting Hermes at the border, once intellectual property is recorded with CBP,

CBP officers are trained to identify and interdict counterfeit goods, and this is a great example of how their training and expertise are employed every day in our ports of entry,” said CBP Director of Field Operations in Los Angeles Todd C. Owen

Considering the incentives for counterfeiters along with the potential losses for intellectual property rights holders, companies that import merchandise must consider recordation a necessity. Importantly, when you record your marks, you must go to an expert in this area – as this is your opportunity to train CBP on the methods of policing your mark – and only trained experts can work on this proficiently so you have the best results with CBP, like Hermes did. To learn more about the top four benefits of recording your intellectual property, review this article.

To get started on recording your intellectual property, or if you have any questions on how to best have CBP police your recorded trademarks and copyrights, please contact Michael or me

Best PracticesFDA IssuesFoodFSMAImport

FDA Finally Issues Definition of “GLUTEN FREE”!

posted by Jennifer Diaz August 2, 2013 0 comments

HOT OFF THE PRESS!!! FDA issued the update below today DEFINING the term “Gluten Free”.   As a Celiac, this is extremely exciting news! The reason this is a HUGE deal?  Us Celiac’s need to know we can trust food products that are labeled “gluten free”.  If they are not, the repercussions are severe, ranging from serious health problems, including nutritional deficiencies, osteoporosis, growth retardation, infertility, miscarriages, short stature, and intestinal cancers…

My sincere hope is FDA will now test imported products that make “GLUTEN FREE” claims, and assure these companies are legitimately using the gluten free claim.  Meaning, I hope FDA will enforce and penalize those that are importing misbranded product and not correctly utilizing the gluten free claim!  The enforcement tools I will look for include FDA detaining imported product making gluten free claims, and sending them to FDA’s own laboratories to check the parts per million of gluten in the product.  If the product contains more than 20 parts per million of gluten, FDA should refuse admission of the product – meaning it would need to be exported or destroyed within 90 days of the refusal, otherwise, companies would face a liquidated damages claim. I also hope FDA will take the added step of adding non-compliant companies to the FDA’s Import Alert (black list) so that the products are AUTOMATICALLY stopped before entering the U.S. and the importer is forced to prove compliance prior to getting FDA to release the goods.

The “Compliance Date” for this final rule is August 5, 2014. If consumers see products labeled “gluten free” we should be able to TRUST that those products legitimately do not contain gluten. Now, we have a standard. Products labeled gluten free must contain LESS than 20 parts per million of gluten to be legitimately labeled so.

This is a fantastic start!!! Here’s what the FDA had to say, and the actual FINAL RULE is included as a hyperlink at the end.

FDA defines “gluten-free” for food labeling

New rule provides standard definition to protect the health of Americans with celiac disease

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today published a new regulation defining the term “gluten-free” for voluntary food labeling. This will provide a uniform standard definition to help the up to 3 million Americans who have celiac disease, an autoimmune digestive condition that can be effectively managed only by eating a gluten free diet.

“Adherence to a gluten-free diet is the key to treating celiac disease, which can be very disruptive to everyday life,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “The FDA’s new ‘gluten-free’ definition will help people with this condition make food choices with confidence and allow them to better manage their health.”

This new federal definition standardizes the meaning of “gluten-free” claims across the food industry. It requires that, in order to use the term “gluten-free” on its label, a food must meet all of the requirements of the definition, including that the food must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The rule also requires foods with the claims “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten” to meet the definition for “gluten-free.”

The FDA recognizes that many foods currently labeled as “gluten-free” may be able to meet the new federal definition already. Food manufacturers will have a year after the rule is published to bring their labels into compliance with the new requirements.

“We encourage the food industry to come into compliance with the new definition as soon as possible and help us make it as easy as possible for people with celiac disease to identify foods that meet the federal definition of ‘gluten-free’” said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.

The term “gluten” refers to proteins that occur naturally in wheat, rye, barley and cross-bred hybrids of these grains. In people with celiac disease, foods that contain gluten trigger production of antibodies that attack and damage the lining of the small intestine. Such damage limits the ability of celiac disease patients to absorb nutrients and puts them at risk of other very serious health problems, including nutritional deficiencies, osteoporosis, growth retardation, infertility, miscarriages, short stature, and intestinal cancers.

The FDA was directed to issue the new regulation by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), which directed FDA to set guidelines for the use of the term “gluten-free” to help people with celiac disease maintain a gluten-free diet.

The regulation was published today in the Federal Register.

Best PracticesEvents

Jen Diaz Honored as Rising Star by DBR

posted by Jennifer Diaz July 19, 2013 0 comments

On July 18, 2013, the Daily Business Review (DBR) announced the 40 young Florida lawyers chosen as 2013 Rising Stars by a panel of DBR judges. I’m proud to announce I have been selected as one of the 40 Rising Stars!

The article stated:

Our panel carefully reviewed more than 125 nominations of attorneys 40 years old and under who have established themselves as top contributors to the practice of law and their communities, and are in a position to become tomorrow’s top lawyers and leaders.

See the list of the 40 Rising Star honorees.

Profiles of all the Rising Stars will appear in a DBR special section on Wednesday, Sept. 18, and an event honoring their accomplishments will be held that night from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Bankers Club in downtown Miami, One Biscayne Tower, Biscayne Room, 14th Floor.

For those who wish to attend the event to honor the Rising Stars, please contact Andre Sutton at asutton@alm.com or (757) 721-9020. The event’s main sponsor is Ice Legal.

Congratulations to the 2013 Rising Stars.

-David Lyons, Editor in Chief
-Chris Mobley, Publisher

I’m honored to have been selected and invite you to join me as we celebrate on September 18th at the Bankers Club.
 

Best PracticesExportFreight Forwarding

OTI’s – July 31 is Deadline to Voice Opinion on FMC’s Proposed Changes

posted by Jennifer Diaz July 5, 2013 0 comments

Now’s the time to apply to become a non vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC) and/or ocean freight forwarder (OFF).  FMC has proposed major changes to its regulations and application requirements for Ocean Transportation Intermediaries (OTIs).   Get your application in now to avoid those changes, and/or, learn the changes and spend the time to comment on them while you can.  Detailed summaries of those changes are below.  July 31, 2013 is the cutoff to have your voice heard!

FMC issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) that would significantly amend the regulations governing the licensing, bonding and duties of NVOCCs and ocean freight forwarders. The ANPRM is 117 pages long!! You can review the ANPRM in FMC’s Docket No. 13-05, Amendments to Regulations Governing Ocean Transportation Intermediary Licensing and Financial Responsibility Requirements, and General Duties. 

The major changes are:

  • Qualifying Individual (QI) Changes – Included in the proposed changes are changes to many definitions – this one impacts what it will take to become a QI.  The standards will be tougher.  For one, the QI’s 3 years of relevant experience will only qualify if one has worked for a licensed, bonded, registered OTI. Experience obtained while the individual was employed by a licensed domestic OTI, a vessel operator, or a registered foreign-based NVOCC would be acceptable.
  • All Owners will now be Vetted – Background checks will now not be limited to the QI, all owners will go through background checks (and my two cents, your application will take that much longer to be processed with every additional owner)..
  • All Licenses will now be Online – FMC proposes to go green in its application process.  Application fees are much cheaper online, $250 vs. the paper application fee of $850.   
  • License Renewal Every 2 Years! – All licenses, both forwarder and NVOCC, be renewed every two years, regardless of how long a company has held a license. As part of that renewal process, the licensee would be required to pay a filing fee in an amount yet to be determined. As proposed, the information to be provided would include the name of the current Qualifying Individual, all shareholders, officers and directors (and, their social security numbers), and require the production of corporate good standing certificates. Each company would be required to submit an application for renewal at least 60 days prior to the scheduled expiration dateof its current license. 
  • Suspension/Revocation of Licenses – Under the current regulations, a license can be suspended or revoked for failing to respond to a lawful order, making materially false or misleading statements, or failing to have a current tariff or bond. The ANPRM now proposes to also subject licenses to revocation if the OTI “knowingly and willfully accepts cargo from, processes, books, or transports cargo” for, an NVOCC that is either unlicensed or fails to have the required bond. The Commission also proposes tostreamline” the appeals process for any revocation of licenses by eliminating an OTI’s right for a full evidentiary hearing. Indicating that such proceedings are “often lengthy and expensive,” the ANPRM proposes to establish a procedure by which appeals could be handled by a hearing officer on a written record, without any apparent right of discovery concerning matters that may be in the Commission’s files.
  • Foreign Registered NVOCCs – The ANPRM would require foreign registered NVOCCs to submit a detailed registration form and a filing fee, with those registrations only valid for a period of two years. Under current regulations, and as is the case with existing OTI licenses, registrations are valid for an indefinite period. The foreign NVOs would be required, in their registration forms, to provide their legal name, any trade names, their principal business address with contact information, a contact person with an email address, and their U.S. resident legal agent.
  • Increase Bond Requirements – Citing incidents in which two NVOCCs went out of business owing significantly more than the $75,000 bond, which meant that claimants were unable to recover all monies owed, the ANPRM proposes to increase all OTI bonds as follows: Ocean Forwarder $50,000 $75,000, Licensed NVOCC $75,000 $100,000, Registered NVOCC $150,000 $200,000, Group Bond $3 Million $4 Million
  • Tiers for Claims on Bonds – The ANPRM would establish three tiers of payment priorities for claims against the bond.
  • FMC Website Publication of Claims – The Commission would publish these notices and claims on its website, which would be available to the general public as well as the various sureties. 
  • Prohibit Surety From Payment of 20%+ of Bond – Another proposal would prohibit the surety from paying any claims that amount to more than 20 percent of the face amount of the bond for a period of at least five months after the date the claim is received.
  • License Revocation when Bond Termination Occurs – In this proposed rule, FMC licenses and registrations could be revoked “without hearing or other proceeding” in the event the required bond is terminated.
  • New Class of NVOCCs for Household GoodsThe commission seeks comments on such a change, not an actual proposal at this time.

How do you feel about these changes?  Think they are fair?  Want to comment to the FMC?  Make sure you speak up before July 31! Ready to submit your application? Contact me today at jdiaz@becker-poliakoff.com.  

 

Best PracticesCBPCounterfeitsCPSCImportInvestigationIPR, Trademarks and LogosSeizuresU.S.Customs

Florida Companies Convicted and Sentenced

posted by Jennifer Diaz June 24, 2013 0 comments

Co Authored by Robert Becerra

In another example of the government’s continuing use of the criminal justice system to enforce international trade laws, three Florida companies and their management were recently convicted and sentenced for importing smuggled toys from China containing lead and containing counterfeit trademarks.

LM Import-Export, Inc., Lam’s Investment Corp., and LK Toys Corp., Hung Lam and Isabella Kit Yeung plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to traffic and smuggle toys containing hazardous substances such as lead, and one count of trafficking in counterfeit goods, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Secs. 371 and 2320, respectively. Co-defendant Yeung plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of submitting a false country of origin label, in violation of 19 U.S.C. Sec. 1304(a). The information, or charging document filed in court, against all defendants, as well as the plea agreements for each defendant can be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida. (If you have trouble getting these documents, email me and I’d be happy to share them with you).

The facts underlying the charges, as stated in court documents, are that from April, 2000, until May 2011, a span of 11 years, the corporate defendants conspired to sell children’s products imported from China in violation of the Consumer Product Safety Act 15 U.S.C. Sec. 2068, and the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, 15 U.S.C. Sec. 1263. Some of the toys contained lead, while others presented various hazards such as choking, aspiration or ingestion. The products were imported using false statements on Customs declaration forms and with false country of origin labeling.

Hung Lam was sentenced to 22 months incarceration, 3 years of supervised release and a $10,000 fine. The corporations were sentenced to 5 years of probation. Yeung was sentenced to 1 year probation and a $1,000 fine. An order was entered mandating the forfeiture to the government of $862,500 and all products imported by the defendants that were seized by the government. The press release from the Consumer Products Safety Commission and Department of Justice discussing the case can be found here and here respectively.

This case is extremely important for importers to be familiar with and understand that:

  1. It is vital for importers to retain counsel to assist with pre-compliance before you import.
  2. When you receive any violation notice from the federal government, retain counsel immediately and be sure to address all violations with remedial action and enhanced compliance procedures in an attempt to keep administrative penalties or forfeiture cases from turning into potential criminal matters.
  3. Resolving a civil action through a consent decree with the government does not absolve you of criminal liability.
  4. Once contacted by government officials, retain counsel immediately. Any evidence you provide or any statements you make will be used against you in court.
  5. Repeated misconduct and federal regulatory law violations over a period of years will often result in criminal prosecution of both companies and their individual employees, resulting in federal prison sentences and substantial fines and forfeitures.

 

Best PracticesCBPEventsImportIPR, Trademarks and LogosSeizuresSpeakingU.S.Customs

Do You Know the Top 10 Tips When Importing?

posted by Jennifer Diaz June 18, 2013 0 comments

Do you know the top 10 tips when importing to ensure compliance?  If not, here’s why you should attend my Compliance Online webinar on June 27, 2013 at 10:00 a.m., EST. 

If you import merchandise into the U.S., you are the responsible party and must be aware your requirements and potential liability.  In this presentation, we will discuss how to comply with U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) vast laws and regulations. By the end of the webinar you will know and understand the importance of:

  • Tariff classification;
  • Customs valuation;
  • Country of origin marking;
  • Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Protection and CBP Enforcement; and
  • Free Trade Agreements (FTA)  you should be taking advantage of.

You will also learn basic customs concepts and terms like:

  • CBP Form 3461 & CBP 7501;
  • Protests;
  • Seizure cases;
  • Liquidated damage claims, Penalties/Fines;
  • Prior disclosure; and
  • FP&F Petition Process.

Learn key best practices and hear real life case studies. Learn what to do, and more importantly, what NOT to do, and what the consequences are for non compliance.

To register for this webinar on June 27, 2013 at 10:00 EST, click here.

Best PracticesExportInternational TravelOFAC

Ready to Travel to Cuba? OFAC Simplifies Process

posted by Jennifer Diaz April 29, 2013 1 Comment

On April 18, 2013, the Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") announced its effort to streamline license processing procedures by accepting requests for licenses, license amendments, and interpretive guidance electronically. This will not only simplify the process for those that wish to travel to Cuba, this new electronic application program can also be used for applications to request the release of blocked funds and much more.

 

For those that are more "old school" – you still have the opportunity to submit applications by snail mail pursuant to 31 C.F.R. § 501.801.

 

The new electronic OFAC License Application Page will allow users to apply:

  1. to travel to Cuba (for many, though not all, categories of travel to Cuba);
  2. to export agricultural commodities, medicine, or medical devices to Sudan or Iran pursuant to the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000;
  3. for the release of a wire transfer blocked at a U.S. financial institution; and
  4. for a license or interpretive guidance in all other circumstances (referred to generally as Transactional).

For those wishing to travel to Cuba in a jiffy, you must first consult an expert to review and assure you understand the Comprehensive Guidelines for License Applications to Engage in Travel-Related Transactions Involving Cuba.  Once you know that you can apply to OFAC for your specific category of travel – the next step is reviewing the online application page.

Thus far, the electronic form may be used to apply for licenses to travel to Cuba in the following categories of travel, which are not generally authorized pursuant to 31 C.F.R. 515:   

  • Journalistic Activities
  • Professional Research and Professional Meetings
  • Religious Activities
  • Support for the Cuban People
  • Humanitarian Projects Activities of Private Foundations  
  • Research or Educational Institutes Exportation
  • Importation
  • Transmission of Information or Informational Materials
  • Licensed Exportations

The OFAC has stated that they intend to update the online application system in the future so that all the categories of travel (including family visits, educational activities, public performances, clinics, workshops, competitions, and exhibitions) may be applied for using this streamlined online process.

 

If you want to travel to Cuba, want to export agricultural commodities, medicine, or medical devices to Sudan or Iran, have funds blocked by OFAC, or want interpretive guidance from OFAC, assure you consult a regulatory expert so you have the best chance for success with OFAC.