Central District Of California Dismisses Sherman Act Claims Involving Alleged Los Angeles Outdoor Advertising Market
On November 9, 2020, the United States District Court for the Central District of California granted defendant Outfront Media Inc.’s (“Outfront”) motion to dismiss claims that Outfront engaged in an illegal conspiracy to stifle competition and maintain “monopolistic control” over the alleged market for outdoor advertising (billboards) in Los Angeles. Karraa v. City of Los Angeles, No. 2:20-cv-07036-SVW-AGR (C.D. Cal. Nov. 9, 2020). The Court found that plaintiffs, including rival outdoor advertising company Virtual Media Group, Inc. (“VMG”) and the ground lessors of billboard sites, did not plead facts to establish a violation of either Section 1 or Section 2 of the Sherman Act.
Northern District Of California Engages In Tech Companies’ Fortnite Battle
On October 9, 2020, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California granted in part and denied in part Epic Games’ motion for preliminary injunction against Apple, Inc. Epic Games, Inc. v. Apple Inc. , No. 4:20-cv-05640-YGR (N. D. Cal. 2020). Plaintiff Epic Games (“Epic”) sought to reinstate its popular video game, Fortnite, to the Apple App Store and to regain its access to Apple’s developer tools. The Court declined to reinstate Fortnite to Apple’s App Store, but ordered Apple to allow Epic’s corporate affiliates access to its developer tools.
Tech Startup’s Antitrust Claims Against Professional Networking Site Don’t Get The Job Done
On September 9, 2020, Judge Edward Chen of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed antitrust claims brought against LinkedIn by a tech startup that alleged LinkedIn exploited its monopoly power to deny the startup access to essential information it uses in providing analytics services. hiQ Labs, Inc. v. LinkedIn Corp., No. 17-cv-03301-EMC (N.D. Cal. Sept. 9, 2020).
U.S. District Court Dismisses Auto Parts Maker’s Antitrust Claims Against Wireless Patent Pool
On September 10, 2020, Chief Judge Barbara M. G. Lynn of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas dismissed a major automotive components manufacturer’s antitrust lawsuit against a group of holders of standard-essential patents (“SEPs”) used in wireless telecommunications and their joint licensing agent Avanci LLC, rejecting claims that defendants’ patent licensing platform and practices violated, inter alia, Sections One and Two of the Sherman Act. Continental Automotive Systems, Inc. v. Avanci, LLC, No. 3:19-cv-02933-M (N.D. Tx. Sept. 10, 2020). In dismissing the case, the Court found that plaintiff had failed to adequately plead (1) antitrust standing, (2) an unlawful agreement to restrain trade under Section One, and (3) the anticompetitive conduct necessary to establish a violation of Section Two. On the monopolization claim, this decision is consistent with the Ninth Circuit’s decision last month in FTC v. Qualcomm Inc., in which the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court and rejected similar Section Two challenges to Qualcomm’s licensing practices for its SEPs. It is also consistent with the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division’s July 28, 2020 favorable business review letter addressing Avanci’s 5G patent licensing platform.
Eastern District Of Virginia Wades Into “Grey Area”; Certifies Class Of Thirty-Five Direct Purchaser Plaintiffs
On August 21, 2020, Judge Rebecca Beach Smith of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia certified a class of thirty-five direct purchasers. In Re Zetia (Ezetimibe) Antitrust Litigation, 19-cv-00014 (E.D. Va. Aug. 21, 2020). Plaintiffs, direct purchasers of the branded drug Zetia, alleged that defendant pharmaceutical manufacturers engaged in an unlawful reverse-payment settlement whereby the manufacturer of the branded drug Zetia agreed to pay a generic manufacturer approximately $800 million to delay its launch of a generic for Zetia for nearly five years. Zetia is a drug that prevents cholesterol by inhibiting the buildup of plaque in arteries. The issue before the district court was whether Rule 23 class certification was proper of a direct-purchaser class of only thirty-five members. In finding it was, the court found it credible that many class members would not find it financially worthwhile to pursue the case on their own and that judicial economy would be best served by certification.
When “Killing Competition” Isn’t Anticompetitive: Federal Circuit Affirms Dismissal Of Power Grid Tech Company’s Antitrust Claims Against Rival Firms
On July 13, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the Central District of California’s dismissal of a suit brought by a power systems software company against three competitor corporations on grounds that plaintiff’s claims failed to adequately allege anticompetitive conduct under the Sherman Act and related state law claims. Power Analytics Corp. v. Operation Tech., Inc. et al., No. 19-1805 (Fed. Cir. July 13, 2020).
Northern District Of Illinois Dismisses Antitrust Claims Relating To World’s Most Profitable Drug—Humira (Adalimumab)
On June 8, 2020, Judge Manish Shah of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Eastern Division) granted AbbVie’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s Sherman Act claims because the allegations fell “short of alleging the kind of competitive harm remedied by antitrust law.” In re Humira (Adalimumab) Antitrust Litigation, No. 1:19-cv-01873 (N.D. Il. 2020). Plaintiffs are two separate classes of indirect purchasers in a consolidated class action alleging that pharmaceutical manufacturer AbbVie, in concert with competing biosimilar manufacturers (Amgen, Samsung Bioepis, and Sandoz), violated §§ 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act by improperly exercising monopoly power over the market for the drug Adalimumab.
Northern District Of Texas Rejects Walker Process And Sham Patent Litigation Antitrust Claims For Lack Of Standing Based On Failure To Show Causation
On April 13, 2020, Judge Reed O’Connor of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment on plaintiffs’ monopolization claim based on plaintiffs’ failure to present substantial evidence that fraud on the Patent Office and subsequent sham litigation were a material cause of plaintiffs’ alleged lost profits. Chandler et al v. Phoenix Services LLC, 19-cv-00014 (N.D. Tex. April 13, 2020). With regard to plaintiffs’ claims for fees and costs expended in defending the sham litigation, the Court found that these claims were barred by the statute of limitations.
Central District Of California Allows Sherman Act Claims Against Performing Rights Organization To Proceed But Strikes Claims For Monetary Relief
On February 13, 2020, Judge Terry Hatter of the United States District Court for the Central District of California issued an order denying Defendant Global Music Rights LLC (GMR)’s motion to dismiss antitrust claims based on its licensing practices, but striking all claims for restitution or disgorgement of profits. Radio Music License Committee Inc. v. Global Music Rights LLC, 19-cv-03957 (C.D. Cal. February 13, 2020).
D.C. District Court Denies Motion To Dismiss FTC Monopolization Claim Based On Loyalty Discount Program And Exclusive Dealing Arrangements
On January 17, 2020, District Judge John D. Bates of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia denied defendant’s motion to dismiss an FTC complaint alleging monopolization in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act against a health information technology company (the “Company”), rejecting the Company’s arguments that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act, and finding that FTC had adequately pleaded a Section 2 violation. FTC v. Surescripts LLC, 19-1090 (D.D.C. Jan. 17, 2020).
Southern District Of New York Dismisses “Truly Novel” Restraint Of Trade Theory In Pharmaceutical Antitrust Action
On October 8, 2019, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York Ronnie Abrams dismissed all but one claim in a putative antitrust class action brought against Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd. and various Takeda entities, as well as generic manufacturers Teva Pharmaceuticals, Ranbaxy Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Actavis PLC, and Mylan Inc. In re: Actos Direct Purchaser Antitrust Litigation, No. 1:15-cv-03278 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 8, 2019). The class complaint alleged that Takeda illegally conspired with the other defendants to delay generic competition for its blockbuster diabetes drug Actos through a series of patent settlement agreements, which granted the other defendants non-exclusive licenses to produce generic Actos at a future date prior to the expiration of Takeda’s patents. The Court dismissed these conspiracy claims, finding that plaintiffs’ “truly novel” theory for why the settlement agreements between Takeda and the other defendants violated the antitrust laws lacked “even a colorable basis” of support. The Court’s decision left in place one remaining claim against Takeda for monopolization.
Second Circuit Finds District Court Failed To Properly Consider Two-Sided Markets In Travel Platform Suit, Voids $15M Antitrust Verdict
On September 11, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in a panel consisting of Judges Robert D. Sack, Debra Ann Livingston and Denny Chin, affirmed in part, reversed in part and vacated in part a lower court’s decision in an antitrust action related to contracts for a travel technology platform. US Airways, Inc., for American v. Sabre Holdings Corporation, No. 17-960 (2d Cir. Sept. 11, 2019). The Second Circuit held that the district court had erred in failing to find the relevant market to be two-sided as a matter of law. The case was remanded for a new trial on the substantive question of whether certain contractual provisions in the business agreements between the parties were unlawful restraints of trade in violation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act.
Seventh Circuit Allows Beer Conspiracy Allegations One More Shot
On September 5, 2019, Judge Kenneth Ripple, writing for a unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, partially reversed a lower court’s dismissal of antitrust claims alleging that two brewers conspired to restrict a competitor’s exports of beer to Ontario, Canada. Mountain Crest SRL, LLC v. Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, No. 18-2327, 2019 WL 4198809 (7th Cir. Sept. 5, 2019). The Seventh Circuit held that agreements with a Canadian government-controlled entity (the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, or “LCBO”) were immune from antitrust scrutiny under the act of state doctrine. However, the Court held that claims of an alleged conspiracy between competitors to strong-arm the LCBO into entering into the agreements did not implicate the act of state doctrine and were improperly dismissed.
Second Circuit Affirms Dismissal Of Price Fixing Claims Against Oil Companies
On August 29, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an Opinion and Summary Order affirming the dismissal of plaintiffs-appellant derivatives traders’ Sherman Act and Commodities Exchange Act claims against defendant-appellees oil companies. Prime International Trading, Ltd., et al. v. BP PLC, et al., No. 1:17-cv-2233 (2d Cir. 2019).
Seventh Circuit Extinguishes Antitrust Conspiracy Claims About Local Fire Alarm Laws
On July 15, 2019, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed claims alleging an antitrust conspiracy between a local municipality, an intergovernmental cooperation association and a private provider of commercial fire-alarm services. Alarm Detection Sys., Inc. v. Vill. of Schaumburg, No. 18-3316, 2019 WL 3071744 (7th Cir. July 15, 2019). The Court held that plaintiffs failed to plausibly plead the existence of an underlying agreement between defendants as required to plead an antitrust conspiracy claim.
Third Circuit Affirms Dismissal In Favor Of Defendant Internet Service Provider By Disconnecting Monopsony And Conspiracy Claims
On April 19, 2019, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the Middle District of Pennsylvania’s dismissal of monopsony, antitrust conspiracy, and race discrimination claims by two plaintiff cable installer contractors against defendant, a dominant provider of internet services. Cable Line, Inc. v. Comcast Cable Communications of Pennsylvania, Inc., No. 18-2316 (3d Cir. Apr. 19, 2019). On the antitrust claims, the Third Circuit held that plaintiffs did not adequately allege facts to show that they suffered antitrust injury from the allegedly anticompetitive conduct, that defendant held monopsony power and used it to exclude other buyers of cable installation services, or that defendant had any agreement with the installers it chose as part of its RFP process to restrain trade in the cable installation market. The Third Circuit did, however, suggest that plaintiffs consider a retooled complaint alleging that defendant ties cable installation to its cable services, which may cause higher installation prices and reduce downstream competition.
United States District Court For The Northern District Of California Focuses On Information Sharing To Magnify Anticompetitive Conspiracy In Antitrust Suit Against Telescope Manufacturers
On March 29, 2019, Judge Edward J. Davila of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California denied a motion to dismiss, finding that plaintiff Orion Telescopes & Binoculars (“Orion”) had sufficiently pled that defendants Ningbo Sunny Electronic Co., Ltd. (“Ningbo”) and Celestron, LLC (“Celestron”) had conspired to divide the market for low- to medium-end telescopes and block a competing manufacturer’s acquisition that would have enabled expansion and broader supply-side competition. Optronic Technologies, Inc., v. Ningbo Sunny Electronic Co., Ltd., No. 16-CV-6370 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 29, 2019). Judge Davila cited plaintiff’s specific allegations of: (a) a division among competitors of the low-end (to Ningbo) and high-end (to Celestron) telescope markets (facilitated in part by a transfer of intellectual property to Ningbo); and (b) Celestron’s advance knowledge of Ningbo’s interest in the merger. Celestron settled prior to the litigation, but Orion and Ningbo will continue into discovery.
United States District Court For The District Of Delaware Dismisses Allegations Of Anticompetitive Drone Pricing
On March 18, 2019, Judge Leonard P. Stark of the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware dismissed allegations of predatory pricing in the “prosumer” drones market by DJI Technology Co., Ltd. and DJI Europe B.V. (collectively “DJI”). SZ DJI Technology Co., Ltd. v. Autel Robotics USA LLC, No. 16-706-LPS (D. Del. Mar. 18, 2019). The Court ruled in favor of the DJI plaintiffs, who were defendants in the antitrust counterclaims in the suit, finding that defendants Autel Robotics USA LLC and Autel Aerial Technology Co., Ltd. (collectively “Autel”) did not allege sufficient facts for a plausible predatory pricing claim. In particular, the Court found that Autel failed to show that DJI’s prices were below cost.
Delaware District Court Dismisses Antitrust Suit Against Lab Testing Company Alleging Conspiracy To Exclude Smaller Lab From Market
On February 14, 2019, Judge Maryellen Noreika of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware dismissed a complaint alleging violations of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. Prescient Medicine Holdings, LLC v. Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings et al, No. 1:18-cv-00600 (D. Del. Feb 14. 2019). The complaint was filed by Prescient Medicine Holdings, LLC, a provider of laboratory testing services. Plaintiff alleged that an agreement between a competitor laboratory testing service—Laboratory Corporation of America and Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings (“LabCorp”)—and a managed care organization—AmeriHealth, Inc. and AmeriHealth Caritas Delaware Inc. (“AmeriHealth”) was a collusive scheme to monopolize the in-network Medicaid market and exclude plaintiff from that market. Judge Noreika held that plaintiff failed to adequately plead antitrust standing and failed to define a relevant market.
Ninth Circuit Reinstates $53 Million Jury Award Against Supplier In “Refusal to Deal” Monopolization Action
On February 8, 2019, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court and reinstated a jury verdict that found a cigar manufacturer liable for attempted monopolization under Section Two of the Sherman Act for various actions it took or refused to take in connection a contract manufacturing relationship with a competitor. Trendsettah USA, Inc. v. Swisher Int’l, Inc., No. 16-56823 (9th Cir. Feb. 8, 2019). The decision is notable in allowing the imposition of Sherman Act liability for conduct that amounted largely to alleged breaches of, and a refusal to renew, a supply contract, and illustrates that potential claims under Aspen Skiing Co. v. Aspen Highlands Skiing Corp., 472 U.S. 585 (1985), still pose litigation risks for firms with significant market shares that terminate profitable relationships with their competitors.
United States District Court For The Eastern District of New York Rejects One-Sided Market And Single-Brand Market Definitions In Credit Card Antitrust Litigation
On January 14, 2019, Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York granted defendant American Express’ motion for summary judgment as to three of the four relevant markets proposed by the plaintiffs in their antitrust challenge to the “anti-steering” provisions in American Express’s merchant contracts. In re American Express Anti-Steering Rules Antitrust Litigation, No. 11-MD-2221 (NGG) (RER) (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 15, 2019). Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in a parallel challenge to the same contractual provisions by the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and several states, Ohio v. American Express Company, 138 S. Ct. 2274 (2018), Judge Garaufis rejected the retail merchant plaintiffs’ proposed product market definitions that were limited to the merchant side of card transactions, i.e., the “one-sided” markets, finding that the Supreme Court’s decision required an examination of competition on both sides of the credit card platform – the cardholder side and the merchant side – i.e., the “two-sided” market. The court also rejected the plaintiffs’ attempt to limit the relevant product market to American Express card transactions (the “Amex-only market”) because other general purpose credit and charge cards are reasonably interchangeable with American Express cards and therefore in the same relevant product market. American Express did not move for summary judgment on the plaintiffs’ two-sided, all general purpose credit card market definition, and the case will proceed to trial on that theory.
District Court Rejects Motion To Dismiss Antitrust Claims In Data Analytics Joint Venture
On December 12, 2018, Judge William H. Orrick of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order granting in part and denying in part defendants’ motion to dismiss on a variety of trade secret, antitrust, and copyright claims. Teradata Corporation, et al., v. SAP SE, et al., Case No. 3:18-cv-03670 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 12, 2018). The Court agreed with defendants that the trade secret claims required additional specificity, but found the remaining claims, including those based on copyright and antitrust grounds, to be sufficiently pled.
Oregon District Court Allows Claim Against Association Of Colleges And Universities To Proceed And Accepts Harm To Defendant’s Members As Evidence Of Antitrust Injury
On November 28, 2018, Judge Marco A. Hernández of the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, on remand from the Ninth Circuit, reversed its prior grant of a motion to dismiss and held that plaintiff — which brought antitrust conspiracy claims against a non-profit corporation made up of 549 member colleges — sufficiently demonstrated antitrust injury by alleging harm to the member colleges. CollegeNET, Inc. v. The Common Application, Inc., No. 3:14-CV-00771-HZ (D. Or. Nov. 28, 2018).
District Of New Jersey Denies Class Certification Based On Presence Of Uninjured Class Members In Proposed Class
On October 30, 2018, Judge Madeline C. Arleo of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey declined to certify a proposed consumer class in litigation accusing a pharmaceutical manufacturer (the “Company”) of maintaining a monopoly for two of its drugs. Judge Arleo held that, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, a class cannot be certified when a non-trivial portion of class members were not injured, absent some “reasonable and workable plan” to segregate those members from the rest of the class. In re Thalomid and Revlimid Antitrust Litig., No. 2:14-cv-06997, at *26, *29 (D.N.J. Oct. 30, 2018) (“Opinion”). In so holding, Judge Arleo relied heavily on the First Circuit’s recent decision in In re Asacol Antitrust Litig., which reversed a district court’s approval of a class on similar grounds. No. 18-1065, 2018 WL 4958856, at *11 (1st Cir. Oct. 15, 2018); https://www.lit-antitrust.shearman.com/first-circuit-reverses-class-certification-based.
First Circuit Reverses Class Certification Based On Presence Of Uninjured Class Members In Certified Class
On October 15, 2018, the United Stated Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in an opinion by Judge William J. Kayatta, reversed a district court’s certification of a class of indirect purchasers of the drug Asacol, holding that, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, a class cannot be certified when a non-trivial portion of class members were not injured in fact, absent some “reasonable and workable plan” to segregate those members from the rest of the class. In re Asacol Antitrust Litig., No. 18-1065, 2018 WL 4958856, at *11 (1st Cir. Oct. 15, 2018).
United States District Court For The District Of Minnesota Rejects Sherman Act Section 2 Suit Against Food Packaging Company Predicated On Sham Litigation And Discount Bundling Claims
On September 5, 2018, Judge Ann D. Montgomery of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota issued a decision ruling rejecting a food packaging company’s allegations that the largest company in the market maintained its dominant position through unlawful discount bundling and sham intellectual property claims. Inline Packaging, LLC v. Graphic Packaging International, LLC, No. 0:15-cv-03183-ADM-LIB (D. Minn. Sept. 5, 2018).CATEGORY: Sherman Act § 2
Northern District Of California Rejects Motion To Dismiss Sherman Act Claims Against Parties To A Joint Venture In The Vanity Mobile Dial Code Market
On April 19, 2018, Judge Beth L. Freeman of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California denied defendants’ motion to dismiss antitrust claims under Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, rejecting defense arguments that the complaint alleged no more than permissible unilateral conduct by a legitimate joint venture.
Third Circuit Upholds Dismissal Of Attempted Monopolization Claims For Failure To Allege An Antitrust Violation Or Antitrust Injury
On March 27, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld a March 2017 order by Judge Sanchez of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissing an attempted monopolization claim asserted by the Philadelphia Taxi Association (“PTA”) and 80 individual taxicab companies against a leading ride-hailing company. Phila. Taxi Ass’n v. Uber Tech., Inc., No. 17-1871 (3d Cir. Mar. 27, 2018). The Court held that plaintiffs had failed to state a claim under Section 2 of the Sherman Act and had failed to allege antitrust injury.
District Of Delaware Denies Building Supply Company’s Motion To Dismiss Claims That It Monopolized And Unlawfully Restrained Trade In The Ceiling Tile Market Through Exclusive Agreements
On February 9, 2018, Judge Mark A. Kearney of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware denied in part Armstrong World Industries Inc.’s (“Armstrong”) motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by rival ceiling tile manufacturer Roxul USA Inc. (“Roxul”), finding that Roxul alleged facts plausibly demonstrating monopolization and attempted monopolization in violation of Sherman Act Section 2, and concerted action in restraint of trade in violation of Sherman Act Section 1 and Clayton Act Section 3. However, Judge Kearney granted Armstrong’s motion to dismiss Roxul’s claims relating to the sale of ceiling tiles in Canada because Roxul failed to allege how reduced competition in Canada had a “direct, substantial and reasonably foreseeable effect” on U.S. commerce, as required by the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act (“FTAIA”).
Northern District Of California Dismisses Monopolization Claims By Hospital Operators For Failure To State A Claim
On December 7, 2017, Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a conspiracy to monopolize claim brought by two local hospital operators against Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Inc., and Permanente Medical Group, Inc. Northbay Healthcare Grp., Inc., et al. v. Kaiser Found. Health Plan, Inc., et al., No. 17-cv-05005-LB, 2017 WL 6059299 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 7, 2017). The plaintiffs, who operate two hospitals in Solano County, California, alleged that defendants conspired to monopolize the healthcare insurance and services market in Solano County by (1) terminating their rate agreements with plaintiffs, and (2) steering patients to or away from defendants’ hospital emergency rooms based on the defendants’ financial incentives. The Court dismissed the complaint, holding that plaintiffs did not adequately allege (1) a combination or conspiracy to monopolize, (2) specific intent to monopolize, or (3) a causal antitrust injury. Finding these elements lacking, the Court did not address whether plaintiffs alleged an overt act in furtherance of the alleged conspiracy, the fourth element of the claim.
United States District Court For The District Of Maryland Grants Summary Judgment To Non-Practicing Entity Intellectual Ventures Against Monopolization Counterclaims Alleging Sham Patent Litigation
On November 30, 2017, Judge Paul W. Grimm of the United States District Court for the Southern Division of the District of Maryland granted Intellectual Ventures (“IV”) and affiliates’ motion for summary judgment on Capital One’s antitrust counterclaims based on IV’s alleged bad faith assertion of patent claims, concluding that Capital One’s antitrust counterclaims were barred by both Noerr-Pennington immunity and collateral estoppel. Intellectual Ventures I LLC et al v. Capital One Financial Corp., 8-14-cv-00111 (MDD 2017-12-01, Order). The Court’s thorough and careful opinion is a good illustration of the challenges of litigation over the conduct of a non-practicing patent-assertion entity, or as some would have it, a patent troll, under the Sherman Act.
Eastern District Of North Carolina Finds Plaintiff Plausibly Pleads Tying Claims In Foam Insulation Antitrust Case
On October 24, 2017, Judge Terrence W. Boyle of the Eastern District of North Carolina declined to dismiss monopolization and other antitrust claims based on alleged tying and exclusive dealing of foam insulation products against Armacell, Inc. K-Flex, Inc. v. Armacell, Inc., No. 5:17-CV-279-BO (E.D.N.C. Oct. 24, 2017). The Court held that plaintiff K-Flex, Inc.’s complaint plausibly alleged that Armacell violated Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act (15 U.S.C. §§ 1 & 2), Section 3 of the Clayton Act (15 U.S.C. § 14), and North Carolina’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act (N.C.G.S.A. § 75-1.1), by conditioning sales of one product – polyethylene or “PE” foam insulation, as to which Armacell had substantial market power – on the distributor’s agreement to purchase a second type of insulation product – elastomeric foam insulation - exclusively from Armacell and coercing a distributor to terminate the plaintiff. The opinion is notable in sustaining a monopolization claim against a manufacturer based largely on an alleged exclusive dealing/tying arrangement with a single regional distributor.
United States District Court For The Western District Of Texas Grants Motion To Dismiss Antitrust Claims Brought By Physician Against Texas Medical Board
On October 20, 2017, Judge Sam Sparks of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas granted a motion to dismiss antitrust claims filed against the Texas Medical Board (“TMB”) and certain of its individual members. Allibone v. Texas Medical Board, et al., No. A-17-CA-00064-SS (W.D. Tex. Oct. 20, 2017). Judge Sparks’s opinion provides a clear articulation of how the doctrines of sovereign immunity and the state action defense interact in antitrust cases in which state regulatory boards that include the plaintiff’s competitors are involved.
Eastern District Of Pennsylvania Holds That Monopoly Power And Anti-Competitive Conduct By One Subsidiary Cannot Be Imputed To Another Subsidiary Of The Same Parent
On October 17, 2017, Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissed monopolization claims brought by the Attorneys General of several states against Reckitt Benckiser Healthcare (UK) Ltd. (“RBH”) premised on an alleged “product hopping” scheme designed to prevent or delay less expensive generic versions of the drug Suboxone from entering the market. In re Suboxone (Buphrenorphine and Naloxone) Antitrust Litigation, No. 13-MD-2445, 2017 WL 4642285 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 17, 2017). In so doing, the Court held that the mere fact that two subsidiaries are owned by a common parent is not sufficient either to consolidate the alleged market power of the two firms for the purpose of assessing monopoly power or to attribute the actions of one subsidiary to the other in evaluating allegations of exclusionary conduct.
United States District Court For The Southern District Of Iowa Grants Motion To Dismiss Antitrust Claims Against PepsiCo Based On Alleged “Price Squeeze”
On September 15, 2017, Judge James E. Gritzner of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa granted a motion to dismiss antitrust claims filed against PepsiCo Inc. and its bottler-distributor subsidiary by an independent bottling company. Mahaska Bottling Co. v. PepsiCo Inc., No. 4:16-cv-00114-JEG (S.D. Iowa Sept. 15, 2017). In so doing, Judge Gritzner rejected the bottler’s proffered “price squeeze” theory and its other allegations of exclusionary conduct under Section 2 of the Sherman Act, as well as its proffered market definition, and found that Mahaska had failed to allege harm to competition or, relatedly, antitrust injury. The Court also dismissed claims brought under the Robinson-Patman Act and Iowa state antitrust statutes. While this case does not break new ground, it is useful in demonstrating again the difficulties that a distributor faces in asserting antitrust claims against a supplier that the distributor believes is seeking to end the relationship, even with unusual “in perpetuity” exclusive arrangement at issue here.
Ninth Circuit Holds That Stare Decisis Bars Reconsideration Of ‘Business Of Baseball’ Antitrust Exemption As To Minor League Players
On June 26, 2017, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a putative class action brought by professional minor league baseball players (“Players”) against the former commissioner of major league baseball and all thirty major league franchises (collectively “Major League Baseball” or “MLB”). Miranda v. Selig, No. 15-16938 (9th Cir. 2017). Players alleged that MLB’s hiring and employment policies violated federal antitrust laws and argued that minor league players did not fall within the well-established antitrust exemption for the business of baseball. Invoking the judicial principle of stare decisis, the panel held unanimously that the baseball exemption applied to Players’ claims and affirmed the lower court’s dismissal.