A complaint filed in the United States Court of International Trade (“CIT”) late last week highlights the practical challenges and frustration that come from delayed resolutions and parallel proceedings between federal courts and agencies, such as US Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”). In the Complaint, One World Technologies, Inc. (“One World”), a manufacturer of garage door openers sought injunctive relief and declaratory judgment against CBP for its continued detention of One World’s products contrary to the CIT’s prior order.
This dispute originally began in July 2016, when another garage door manufacturer filed a complaint alleging that One World’s wireless garage door model infringed on their patents. As part of the litigation that ensued, One World changed redesigned its garage door openers to resolve the infringement claims. One World sent shipments of the redesigned products which CBP detained in light of the ongoing infringement dispute.
On December 14, 2018, the CIT entered an order in which it found that One World’s redesigned products did not infringe the patent at issue. The CIT, however, declined to exercise jurisdiction over the pending protest before CBP in which One World sought approval to import the products. This left One World in a position where the CIT had determined that the products were not infringing, but the CBP proceedings had not yet progressed to their own determination. The practical reality being that One World’s non-infringing products remain in CBP detention. Accordingly, One World filed its new complaint urging the Court to intervene and direct CBP to release the products.
While the Court’s reluctance to interfere with administrative proceedings is certainly reasonable, the practical effect for companies can be frustrating. Here, a federal court had made a determination as to the question of infringement, but the parallel proceeding before CBP rendered the CIT’s order all but ineffective. There is no simple resolution when these unfortunate systemic inefficiencies arise, but experienced counsel can help anticipate potential periods of delay and find the most efficient path forward – even if the path is fraught with frustration.