Customs & International Trade

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Customs & International Trade

Customs and international trade law is a complex field of statutes and regulations that is frequently changing.  Companies that import and export merchandise, services, and technology must be familiar with the regulations and restrictions that impact their international sales, purchases, and other business transactions, to guard against violations of the law and regulations and reduce civil and criminal penalty risks.  Our lawyers have experience assisting U.S. and foreign start-up, middle market, and publicly-traded companies on matters of Customs and international trade law.  We frequently receive referrals and work with licensed customs house brokers, freight forwarders, public accountants, and other international trade consultants to address Customs and international trade legal issues for their clients.


Early planning can lead to cost-saving importing strategies that consider trade agreements, duty rate comparisons, the use of Foreign Trade Zones, as well as protect a company’s intellectual property rights against infringing and counterfeit products from entering the U.S. market.  Early planning can also lead to better import compliance which reduces the risk of potentially costly penalties.

Companies are required to use “reasonable care” when importing, including consulting with outside consultants and lawyers, when warranted.   The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and several other federal agencies that enforce U.S. laws relating to imported goods have increased investigation and enforcement efforts and are imposing significant penalties against companies that have violated the import laws and regulations.  Our attorneys can assist companies on a broad range of Customs matters.

Representative Experience

  • Represented Ohio importer in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) criminal investigation of valuation and classification of imported goods from China and Korea, successfully showing lack of criminal liability.  Continued representation in civil investigation by ICE and CBP and ongoing defense of fraud penalty proceedings, including advising client on statute of limitations waiver and potential officer/owner personal liability.  Continuing to assist client to implement suitable import compliance policy and practices.
  • Representing New York motor carrier before CBP on liquidated damages penalty assessed due to negligent entry resulting in breach of import bond.
  • Ongoing counselling of New York privately-held manufacturing company on prior disclosure to CBP regarding related-party imports and proper valuation of the same, advising client on potential antidumping duty order application to prior imports and on recent Court of Appeals decision finding countervailing duties not applicable to Non-Market Economies, namely China.
  • Successfully represented Canadian company before CBP on penalty proceedings involving non-payment of antidumping duties, obtaining 75% reduction.
  • Successfully represented family-owned Ohio marble and granite importing company before CBP on civil penalty proceedings, achieving 75% reduction of penalty amount.  Negotiating offer in compromise with CBP to resolve case for less than penalty amount and avoid filing of civil penalty enforcement lawsuit against company.
  • Represented Hong Kong apparel company before CBP regarding investigation of imported young girls’ apparel manufactured in China.  Filed Protest and Request for Further Review against CBP’s duty increase, arguing for application of the First Sale Rule to support proper valuation of imported goods.
  • Represented Ohio importer and national retailer before the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) regarding seizure of consumer products containing counterfeit components from China.  Presented legal memorandum and supporting documents to argue mitigating factors and requested penalty remittance or a nominal penalty under negligence standard.  Negotiated with CBP for client to replace counterfeit components with legitimate components to allow shipment’s release.  CBP imposed a minimal penalty and released the merchandise in time for seasonal sales.
  • Successfully represented Ohio chemical manufacturer before U.S. Customs to obtain Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) refund claim after tax ruled unconstitutional by U.S. Supreme Court.

International Trade

  • Advising Canadian company on importation of e-cigarettes to U.S. market on Food and Drug Administration and CBP regulations, recordation with CBP of U.S. trademark, as well as assisting customs broker on classification and importation strategy.
  • Advised Chicago family-owned company on planning start-up of Canadian operation and market strategy in response to U.S. antidumping duty order.
  • Ongoing advise to privately-held Ohio oil/gas sector company on “Made in USA” marking requirements and foreign marking requirements.
  • Counselled multi-national manufacturing company on scope of antidumping duty order and prepared memorandum advising imported products from China were outside scope of order to support position with customs broker and CBP.
  • Advised Ohio aerospace manufacturer on temporary import from Canada of defense articles subject to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) to ensure compliance.  Issued opinion letter to company regarding applicability of ITAR Brokering requirements to foreign representatives and compliance with same, relied on by suitor company during due diligence.
  • Counselled Ukrainian silicon wafer manufacturer on potential U.S. antitrust violation by New York equipment manufacturer for refusal to sell upgraded equipment.
  • Ongoing advice to industry-leading charitable gaming manufacturer and Canadian, UK, and Mexican subsidiaries on import-export matters, including NAFTA regulations and qualification, country of origin marking, classification, and duty rates.
  • Advised New York subsidiary of publicly-traded company to assess potential voluntary disclosure strategy for foreign representative’s sale to sanctioned country.
  • Advised U.S. subsidiary of Korean pharmaceutical company on Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Federal Trade Commission, and U.S. Customs regulatory compliance relating to importation and distribution of nicotine-free cigarette product and dietary supplement products.
  • Advised Ohio medical training device manufacturer on regulatory compliance with Australian Therapeutic Goods Act in connection with sale of products to leading Australian medical university.  Counselled company on evaluating prospective distributors and commercial agents to sell products in Malaysia and Turkey, as well as advising on potential global master distributorship agreement strategy with leading UK company.  Advised company on proper Schedule B/HS Number for export of products.
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