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Meridian Products, LLC v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

March 28, 2017

MERIDIAN PRODUCTS, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee
UNITED STATES, Defendant-Appellant

         Appeal from the United States Court of International Trade in No. l:13-cv-00018-RKM, Senior Judge R. Kenton Musgrave.

          Alexander Schaefer, Crowell & Moring, LLP, Washington, DC, argued for plaintiff-appellee. Also represented by Daniel Cannistra; Frances Pierson Hadfield, New York, NY.

          TARA K. HOGAN, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC, argued for defendant-appellant. Also represented by Benjamin C. Mizer, Jeanne E. Davidson, Reginald T. Blades, Jr.; Jessica M. Link, Office of Chief Counsel for Trade Enforcement and Compliance, United States Department of Commerce, Washington, DC.

          Before Prost, Chief Judge, NEWMAN and WALLACH, Circuit Judges.

          WALLACH, Circuit Judge.

         In 2012, Appellee Meridian Products, LLC ("Meridian") asked the U.S. Department of Commerce ("Commerce") to issue a scope ruling that certain aluminum trim kit packages ("trim kits") do not fall within the scope of the antidumping and countervailing duty orders on aluminum extrusions from the People's Republic of China ("the Orders"). Commerce found the trim kits subject to the Orders' scope, and Meridian challenged that ruling before the U.S. Court of International Trade ("the CIT"). Five opinions and three remands later, the CIT sustained Commerce's third remand determination, in which Commerce found, under protest, that the trim kits do not fall within the Orders' scope. See Meridian Prods., LLC v. United States (Meridian V), 145 F.Supp.3d 1329, 1331 (Ct.Int'l Trade 2016).

         Appellant United States ("Government") appeals. We possess subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(5) (2012). We reverse.


         The instant appeal addresses whether particular products fall within the scope of existing antidumping and countervailing duty orders. As a result, we examine the Orders' scope, the description of the products in question, and the procedural history before turning to the merits.

         I. The Subject Orders

         Commerce generally investigates whether a foreign government or public entity provided "a countervailable subsidy with respect to the manufacture, production, or export" of merchandise that has entered the United States, 19 U.S.C. § 1671(a)(1) (2012), and whether particular merchandise was sold in the United States "at less than its fair value, "[1] id. § 1673(1). At the conclusion of an investigation, if Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission ("the ITC") make the requisite findings, [2] Commerce publishes an order imposing duties on imported merchandise covered by the investigation. Id. §§ 1671e(a), 1673e(a). In each order, Commerce must "include[] a description of the subject merchandise!] in such detail as [it] . . . deems necessary."[3] Id. §§ 1671e(a)(2), 1673e(a)(2).

         In 2011, Commerce published the Orders. See Alumi- num Extrusions from the People's Republic of China (Antidumping Duty Order), 76 Fed. Reg. 30, 650 (Dep't of Commerce May 26, 2011); Aluminum Extrusions from the People's Republic of China (Countervailing Duty Order), 76 Fed. Reg. 30, 653 (Dep't of Commerce May 26, 20ll).[4]The scope of the Orders describes the subject merchandise as "aluminum extrusions" that "are shapes and forms, produced by an extrusion process, made from" specified aluminum alloys. Antidumping Duty Order, 76 Fed. Reg. at 30, 650. The subject extrusions possess "a wide variety of shapes and forms" in "a variety of finishes." Id. The subject extrusions also "may be described at the time of importation as parts for final finished products that are assembled after importation" and "may be identified with reference to their end use." Id. at 30, 650, 30, 651.

         The Orders' scope contains several exclusions. In relevant part, the scope

excludes finished goods containing aluminum extrusions that are entered unassembled in a "finished goods kit." A finished goods kit is understood to mean a packaged combination of parts that contains, at the time of importation, all of the necessary parts to fully assemble a final finished good and requires no further finishing or fabrication, such as cutting or punching, and is assembled "as is" into a finished product. An imported product will not be considered a "finished goods kit" and therefore excluded from the scope of the [Orders] merely by including fasteners such as screws, bolts, etc. in the packaging with an aluminum extrusion product.

Id. at 30, 651. The instant appeal concerns whether Meridian's trim kits meet the terms of the "finished goods kit" exclusion.

         II. Meridian's Trim Kits

         "[B]ecause the descriptions of subject merchandise" in an order's scope pertain to a class or kind of goods and therefore "must be written in general terms, " questions arise as to whether a particular product falls within the scope of an existing order. 19 C.F.R. § 351.225(a) (2012); see 19 U.S.C. § 1677(25) (defining "subject merchandise" as "the class or kind of merchandise that is within the scope of an . . . order"). Congress has authorized Commerce to issue scope rulings clarifying "whether a particular type of merchandise is within the class or kind of merchandise described in an existing . . . order." 19 U.S.C. § 1516a(a)(2)(B)(vi); accord Royal Bus. Machs., Inc. v. United States, 669 F.2d 692, 699 (CCPA 1982) (confirming Commerce's authority to issue scope rulings). An interested party may submit an application to Commerce to obtain clarification about an order's scope.[5] 19 C.F.R. § 351.225(c); see Smith Corona Corp. v. United States, 915 F.2d 683, 685-86 (Fed. Cir. 1990) (explaining that scope rulings clarify the terms of the original order but do not modify or amend them).

         Meridian, the importer of the trim kits, asked Commerce to issue a scope ruling that "confirm[s]" the kits do not fall within the Orders' scope. J.A. 200. Meridian described the trim kits as "an aesthetic frame around the perimeter of (though not attached to) a major home kitchen appliance, " such as a "freezer" or "refrigerator." J.A. 200, 201. According to Meridian, the "[t]rim kits are sold as a package of finished parts" and "consist[] of extruded aluminum forms[] made from aluminum alloy" covered by the Orders' scope. J.A. 201. Meridian further stated that "[t]he trim kits also include a customer installation kit for the consumer to use during the final assembly in the residential kitchen, " with the installation kit consisting ...

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