Sixth Circuit Affirms Dismissal Of Aspiring NBA Player Agent’s Suit Alleging NBPA And NBA Conspired To Prevent Him From Becoming An Agent
On December 30, 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit unanimously affirmed the district court’s dismissal of an aspiring National Basketball Association (NBA) player agent’s suit against the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) and the NBA. Rosel C. Hurley III v. National Basketball Players Association, et al., No. 22-3038 (6th Cir. Dec. 30, 2022). Plaintiff alleged that the NBPA and NBA conspired to exclude him from the marketplace for NBA player agents. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal, because it viewed the NBPA and NBA’s alleged actions as exempt from antitrust scrutiny under both the statutory and non-statutory labor exemptions to the Sherman Act.
Generic Drug Manufacturer Barred From Bringing “Sham” Litigation Claim By Previous Settlement
On July 21, 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit unanimously affirmed a district court judge’s conclusion that a prior settlement released a claim by plaintiff, a generic pharmaceutical manufacturer (the “Company”), that defendants engaged in “sham” patent litigation to block it from launching a generic version of defendants’ brand-name drug. Perrigo Co, et al. v. AbbVie Inc, et al., No. 21-3026 (3d Cir. Jul. 21, 2022).
Seventh Circuit Affirms Dismissal Of Antitrust Claims Against Hospital And Insurance Provider
On July 15, 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed a magistrate judge’s conclusion that a health clinic, located within an Illinois hospital, did not suffer a cognizable antitrust injury by a hospital and insurance provider for agreeing to in-network status. Marion HealthCare, LLC v. Illinois Hosp. Servs., No. 20-1581, 2022 WL 2763502 (7th Cir. July 15, 2022).
No “Sham,” No Foul: Mattress Companies’ Agency Petitions Immune From Antitrust Liability, Finds District Of Utah
On May 23, 2022, Judge David Barlow of the District of Utah dismissed claims against a group of mattress manufacturers who had filed antidumping petitions with federal regulators. CVB, Inc. v. Corsicana Mattress Company, et al., No. 1:20-cv-00144 (D. Utah 2022). Plaintiff alleged that defendants engaged in anticompetitive conduct including price fixing and interference with plaintiff’s business relationships in violation of the Sherman Act and the Utah Antitrust Act, in addition to Lanham Act and state common law claims. The Court dismissed all claims, and in particular dismissed with prejudice those claims relating to defendants’ antidumping petitions, which it found protected under the Noerr-Pennington doctrine.
Ninth Circuit Reverses Certification Of A Nationwide Indirect Purchaser Class Due To State Law Differences And Its Prior Decision In FTC v. Qualcomm
On September 29, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a district court’s order certifying a nationwide class of up to 250 million people. The Ninth Circuit concluded that a common issue of law does not predominate because the laws of other several states apply, not just California’s Cartwright Act and Unfair Competition Law. In re Qualcomm Antitrust Litig., No. 19-15159, 2021 WL 4448713 (9th Cir. Sept. 29, 2021). The indirect purchaser plaintiffs are consumers who allege that Qualcomm Incorporated (“Qualcomm”) violated federal antitrust laws and California’s Cartwright Act and Unfair Competition Law by engaging in certain corporate policies regarding their licensing of standard essential patents (“SEPs”) and related sales of modem chips. The Ninth Circuit held that California’s choice of law rules precluded class certification because states without an Illinois Brick repealer statute, which often authorize indirect purchasers to bring antitrust damages suits, “have a clear interest in applying their laws to class members” and to apply only California law would “allow California to set antitrust enforcement policy for the entire country.”
Dual Facebook Enforcement Actions Dismissed In District Of Columbia
On June 28, 2021, Judge James E. Boasberg of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed dual enforcement actions brought by the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and the attorneys general of 46 states and the District of Columbia (the “state enforcers”) against Facebook, Inc. (“Facebook”). See FTC v. Facebook, Inc., No. 1:20-cv-03590-JEB (D.D.C. June 28, 2021), ECF 73 (the “FTC Action”); State of New York et al. v. Facebook, Inc., No. 1:20-cv-03589-JEB (D.D.C. June 28, 2021), ECF 137 (the “States’ Action”).
Fifth Circuit Finds Sherman Act Conspiracy Claims Survive Statute Of Limitations Challenge
On May 18, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed a district court’s dismissal of claims by the Academy of Allergy & Asthma in Primary Care and United Allergy Services (“plaintiffs”) that Quest Diagnostics (“Quest”) violated §§ 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. Acad. of Allergy & Asthma in Primary Care v. Quest Diagnostics, Inc., No. 20-50179, 2021 WL 1976666 (5th Cir. May 18, 2021). The district court originally dismissed the claims because Quest did not commit any overt acts within the four-year statute of limitations period. On appeal, the Court found that an email from Quest’s co-conspirator referencing a meeting with a Quest employee provided sufficient evidence of an overt act to extend the statute of limitations period.
Northern District Of California Shuts Down App Developers’ Antitrust Suit
On April 26, 2021, Judge Beth Labson Freeman of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a complaint alleging that Facebook violated Section 2 of the Sherman Act by removing certain application interfaces that plaintiffs relied on for their mobile applications. Reveal Chat Holdco LLC, et al. v. Facebook, 5:20-cv-00363 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 26, 2021). Plaintiffs alleged that the application programming interfaces (“APIs”) were central to their ability to function and that the removal of these APIs by Facebook in 2015 was part of a scheme to harm applications that were competitive or potentially competitive with Facebook. In dismissing the complaint for a second time and with prejudice, the Court concluded that plaintiffs’ “entire theory of liability is based on completed acts by Facebook beyond the limitations period” and that their claims were therefore time-barred.
Central District Of California Forecloses Realtors’ Antitrust Suit
On February 3, 2021, Judge John W. Holcomb of the United States District Court for the Central District of California dismissed a complaint alleging that real estate listing services conspired with a national realtors association to exclude a competitor from the market. The PLS.com, LLC v. The National Association of Realtors, et al., 2:20-cv-04790 (C.D. Ca. Feb. 3, 2021). Plaintiff, a listing service for off-market properties, alleged that three real estate listing services—Bright MLS, Inc. (“BrightMLS”), Midwest Real Estate Data, LLC (“Midwest RED”), and California Regional Multiple Listing Service, Inc. (“Cal Regional MLS”)—conspired with The National Association of Realtors (“NAR”) to eliminate them from the market in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act and California’s Cartwright Act.
California District Court Cuts Cord On Subcontractor’s Antitrust Claims Against Cable Provider
On November 17, 2020, Judge Troy Nunley of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California granted summary judgment for Comcast, dismissing claims brought by a cable installation subcontractor alleging that Comcast engaged in unlawful anticompetitive activity in violation of state antitrust laws. Clear Connection Corp. v. Comcast Cable Commc’ns. Mgmt., LLC, No. 2:12-cv-02910-TLN-DB (E.D. Cal. Nov. 17, 2020).
Anti-Competitive Effects Suit Against Tyson Chicken To Proceed To Trial
On October 27, 2020, Judge Joseph McKinley Jr. of the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky granted in part and denied in part Tyson’s motion for summary judgment. Charles Morris, et al v. Tyson Chicken Inc., et al., 4:15-cv-00077 (W.D. Ky. Oct. 27, 2020). Plaintiffs, growers of chicken broilers who contract with Tyson for the supply of chicken, sued alleging a number of violations under the Packers and Stockyards Act (“PSA”), as well as numerous contract claims.
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).
FTC And State Regulators Bring Enforcement Action In Southern District Of New York Against “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli
On Monday, January 27, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC” or “the Commission”) and the New York Attorney General filed suit in federal court in the Southern District of New York against Martin Shkreli and Vyera Pharmaceuticals based on allegations of market monopolization. FTC v. Vyera Pharmaceuticals, LLC, No. 1:20-cv-00706 (S.D.N.Y. filed Jan. 27, 2020). The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote. Shkreli, commonly referred to in the media as “pharma bro,” gained notoriety for behavior that led to his federal incarceration for securities fraud in 2017. The Complaint alleges that Shkreli and others engaged in an unlawful scheme to block low-cost generic competition and maintain a monopoly on Daraprim, an essential drug used to treat the potentially fatal parasitic infection toxoplasmosis, in violation of the Sherman Act and New York state law. The case is a notable example of close collaboration between federal antitrust enforcers and a state attorney general’s office.
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.
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.
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).
Northern District Of California Holds That Commitments Made In Industry Standard Setting Required Chipmaker To License Standard-Essential Patents To “All Comers,” Including Competitors
On November 6, 2018, Judge Lucy H. Koh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California sided with the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and granted a motion for partial summary judgment, holding that contractual commitments it agreed to in the standards-setting process required the defendant chipmaker to license certain essential patents to competing modem chip suppliers. Federal Trade Comm’n v. Qualcomm Inc., No. 17-CV-00220 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 6, 2018).
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”).
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.
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.