Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion Summaries

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The FTC alleged that Qualcomm violated the Sherman Act by unreasonably restraining trade in, and unlawfully monopolizing, the code division multiple access (CDMA) and premium long-term evolution (LTE) cellular modem chip markets.The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment, and reversed the district court's permanent, worldwide injunction prohibiting several of Qualcomm's core business practices. The panel noted that anticompetitive behavior is illegal under federal antitrust law, but that hypercompetitive behavior is not. The panel explained that its role was to assess whether the FTC has met its burden under the rule of reason to show that Qualcomm's practices have crossed the line to "conduct which unfairly tends to destroy competition itself." The panel concluded that the FTC has not met its burden.The panel held that Qualcomm's practice of licensing its standard essential patents (SEPs) exclusively at the original equipment manufacturers (OEM) level does not amount to anticompetitive conduct in violation of section 2 of the Sherman Act, as Qualcomm is under no antitrust duty to license rival chip suppliers; Qualcomm's patent-licensing royalties and "no license, no chips" policy do not impose an anticompetitive surcharge on rivals' modem chip sales; rather, these aspects of Qualcomm's business model are "chip-supplier neutral" and do not undermine competition in the relevant antitrust markets; Qualcomm's 2011 and 2013 agreements with Apple have not had the actual or practical effect of substantially foreclosing competition in the CDMA modem chip market; and because these agreements were terminated years ago by Apple itself, there is nothing to be enjoined. View "Federal Trade Commission v. Qualcomm Inc." on Justia Law

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Since 2007, EC Design, LLC, sold its popular personal organizer, the LifePlanner. In 2015, Craft Smith, Inc., wanting to enter the personal-organizer market, reached out to EC Design about a possible collaboration. EC Design and Craft Smith couldn't agree to a collaboration. Craft Smith, with input from Michaels Stores, Inc., designed and developed a personal organizer to sell in Michaels stores, leading to this action in Utah federal district court. EC Design claims the Craft Smith and Michaels product infringed on the LifePlanner’s registered compilation copyright and unregistered trade dress. The district court disagreed, granting summary judgment in favor of Craft Smith and Michaels (collectively, the Appellees) on both issues. On the copyright issue, the district court concluded that EC Design did not own a valid copyright in its asserted LifePlanner compilation. On trade dress, the district court held that EC Design had failed to create a genuine issue of material fact over whether the LifePlanner’s trade dress had acquired secondary meaning. Though the Tenth Circuit disagreed with how the district court framed the copyright issue, the Tenth Circuit affirmed because no reasonable juror could conclude that the allegedly infringing aspects of Appellees’ organizer were substantially similar to the protected expression in the LifePlanner compilation. With respect to the trade dress issue, the Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court: EC Design had failed to create a genuine issue of material fact over whether the LifePlanner’s trade dress had acquired secondary meaning. Summary judgment as to both claims was affirmed. View "Craft Smith v. EC Design" on Justia Law

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SmileDirect filed suit against the Georgia Board of Dentistry, including the Board’s members in their individual capacities, alleging inter alia, antitrust, Equal Protection, and Due Process violations related to the amendment of Ga. Bd. of Dentistry R. 150-9-.02. On appeal, the Board members challenged the denial of their motion to dismiss the complaint with respect to the alleged antitrust violations.After determining that it does have appellate jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that, based on the facts alleged in SmileDirect's complaint, the Board members are not entitled to state-action immunity under Parker v. Brown, 317 U.S. 341 (1943), at this point in the litigation, and the district court properly denied their motion to dismiss. In this case, the Board members have failed to satisfy the Midcal test by failing to meet the "active supervision" prong of the test and both prongs are necessary to satisfy the test. Furthermore, the court rejected the Board members' argument that ipso facto state-action immunity is available merely because of the Governor's power and duty, and without regard to his actual exercise thereof. The court explained that the Board members have established no more than the mere potential for active supervision on the part of the Governor, and thus they have fallen far short of establishing that the amended rule was "in reality" the action of the Governor. View "SmileDirectClub, LLC v. Battle" on Justia Law

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Reckitt developed Suboxone tablets, a prescription drug used to treat opioid addiction. Toward the end of its seven-year period of exclusivity in which other manufacturers could not introduce generic versions, Reckitt developed an under-the-tongue film version of Suboxone, which would enjoy its own exclusivity period. Generic versions of Suboxone tablets would not be rated as equivalent to the name-brand Suboxone film, so state substitution laws would not require pharmacists to substitute generic Suboxone tablets if a patient were prescribed Suboxone film.Purchasers filed suit, alleging that Reckitt’s transition to Suboxone film was coupled with efforts to eliminate the demand for Suboxone tablets and to coerce prescribers to prefer film in order to maintain monopoly power, in violation of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 2. The Purchasers submitted an expert report indicating that, due to Reckitt’s allegedly-anticompetitive conduct, the proposed class paid more for brand Suboxone products. The district court certified a class of “[a]ll persons or entities . . . who purchased branded Suboxone tablets directly from Reckitt” during a specified period. The Third Circuit affirmed. Common evidence exists to prove the Purchasers’ antitrust theory and the resulting injury. Although allocating the damages among class members may be necessary after judgment, such individual questions do not ordinarily preclude the use of the class action device; the court correctly found that common issues predominate. View "In re: Suboxone Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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The Tennessee Department of Health allowed two healthcare companies to merge into Ballad Health. Some of the board members of the resulting entity also had ties to another area healthcare organization, MEAC. The plaintiffs filed suit, alleging that Ballad, MEAC, and individual defendants had created an interlocking directorate in violation of the Clayton Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 19. The defendants moved to dismiss the case for lack of standing. The plaintiffs sought to amend their complaint. Their proposed 29-page complaint included “allegations” that amounted to “colorful insults,” such as that MEAC “surrendered to [Ballad] much in the manner Marshal Petain surrendered France" to Hitler.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case. Plaintiffs must allege the elements of standing as they would any other element of their suit. The plaintiffs failed to alleged injury in fact by showing that they suffered “an invasion of a legally protected interest” that is “concrete and particularized” and “actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.” The plaintiffs alleged legal conclusions, speculative risks, and the interests of the general public, saying nothing about what medical services they have sought in the past, what services they will seek in the future, or how the dissolution of MEAC would affect their access to these services. Nothing in the Clayton Act purports to create a novel injury in fact or an exception to the case-or-controversy requirement. View "Bearden v. Ballad Health" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to TLS Management and Marketing Services, LLC (TLS) on its breach of contract claims against Ricky Rodriguez-Toledo, ASG Accounting Solutions Group, Inc. (ASG), and Global Outsourcing Services, LLC (GOS) and the court's finding that Rodriguez and ASG were liable for misappropriation of trade secrets, holding that TLS failed to prove its trade secret claims, and the nondisclosure agreements were unenforceable.Rodriguez was the founder of ASG, a company that, like TLS, offered services in tax planning. ASG signed a subcontractor agreement with TLS that included a nondisclosure provision. Rodriguez later began working for TLS and signed a nondisclosure agreement. After his departure from TLS Rodriguez provided tax services in competition with TLS through ASG and GOS. TLS alleged that Rodriguez and ASG misappropriated TLS's trade secrets and that Rodriguez, ASG, and GOS breached their nondisclosure agreements. The district court granted summary judgment to TLS on the breach of contract claims. After a non-jury trial on the trade secret claims, the district court found in favor of TLS. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) TLS failed to satisfy its burden to prove the existence of trade secrets; and (2) the nondisclosure agreements were so broad as to be unenforceable. View "TLS Management & Marketing Services, LLC v. Rodriguez-Toledo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgments of the Appellate Court determining that it was required to apply State v. Hossan-Maxwell, Inc., 436 A.2d 284 (Conn. 1980), to this case, holding that Hossan-Maxwell, Inc. is overruled.Plaintiffs and Defendants entered into agreements for the sale of property. Defendants included list-back provisions in their purchase and sale agreements for two parcels. Plaintiffs later filed suit alleging breach of contract and anticipatory breach. Defendants raised several defenses, arguing, as relevant to this appeal, that the list-back provisions in the parties' purchase and sale agreements were illegal tying arrangements. The trial court ruled for Defendants. The Appellate Court affirmed on the basis of the antitrust defense. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the trial court should not have found the list-back agreements unenforceable without first engaging in a full market analysis, as a per se ban on list-back agreements, as applied in Hossan-Maxwell, Inc. is inconsistent with federal antitrust law as it has evolved over the decades; and (2) the trial court's judgments cannot be affirmed under the proper legal standard. View "Reserve Realty, LLC v. Windemere Reserve, LLC" on Justia Law

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Ben-E-Lect, a third-party insurance claim administrator, developed a medical expense reimbursement plan; employers could buy a group policy of medical insurance with a high deductible and self-fund to pay for the healthcare expenses employees incurred within the annual deductible or any copay requirement. The practice of employers’ using such plans in conjunction with a high-deductible health plan is called “wrapping.” Ben-E-Lect was the state’s largest third-party administrator for small group employers who wrapped their employee medical policies. Anthem provides fully insured health plans to the California small group employer market. Beginning in 2006, Anthem announced a series of policies that limited wrapping. In 2014, Anthem prohibited wrapping all Anthem plans. Employer groups who used Anthem plans certified they would not wrap Anthem policies, and agents certified they would not advise employers to enter into any employer-sponsored wrapping plan. Ben-E-Lect sued Anthem.The court of appeal affirmed that Anthem’s policy to prohibit wrapping its health insurance products violated the Cartwright Act (Bus. & Prof. Code, 16700); interfered with Ben-E-Lect’s prospective business relationships; and was an illegal, coercive, vertical group boycott under the antitrust rule of reason (Bus. & Prof. Code, 17200), because Anthem told its insurance agents that if they wrapped any Anthem policies they would be subject to termination loss of sales commissions. The court affirmed an award of $7.38 million and an injunction. The trial court considered sufficient evidence of market power and market injury. View "Ben-E-Lect v. Anthem Blue Cross Life and Health Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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U.S. organized amateur hockey leagues come under the purview of USA Hockey, Inc., which is subject to the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, 36 U.S.C. 220501–43. USA Hockey delegates most of its authority to state and regional affiliates. Since 1975, the Association has governed the sport in Illinois. Black Bear, which owns Illinois skating rinks, filed suit under the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 2, alleging that the Association is monopolizing the sport. Black Bear does not claim to have paid monopoly prices, nor does it seek an order dissolving the Association and allowing free competition. It asked the district judge to order the Association to admit it as a member and permit it to sponsor a club and to pay damages for business losses suffered until these things occur. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit for lack of jurisdiction. The Sherman Act cannot be used to regulate cartels’ membership and profit-sharing. Members and potential members can enforce (or contest) its rules as a matter of state law, though a private group receives considerable leeway in the interpretation and application of those rules. View "Black Bear Sports Group, Inc. v. Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois, Inc." on Justia Law

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In a purported class action, egg purchasers claimed that egg producers conspired to inflate prices by early slaughtering of hens and similar supply-reducing steps; creation of an animal welfare certification program that was actually designed to reduce the egg supply; and coordinated exports of eggs, all as part of a single overarching conspiracy that was anti-competitive per se and unlawful under the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1. The defendants countered that the court should look at each alleged stratagem of the conspiracy separately and determine whether to apply the per se standard for antitrust liability or the more commonly-applied rule of reason. In summary judgment briefing, the parties focused on the Certification Program, which the court evaluated under the rule of reason. The case proceeded to trial with all three stratagems being evaluated under that standard. Following the jury’s verdict, the court entered judgment for the defendants. The Third Circuit affirmed. Courts can consider the different components of an alleged conspiracy separately when determining which mode of antitrust analysis to apply. The Certification Program was not an express horizontal agreement to reduce the supply of eggs, much less to fix prices and it is not clear that the Program would “have manifestly anticompetitive effects and lack any redeeming virtue.” It was properly analyzed under the rule of reason. View "In re: Processed Egg Products Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law