Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiffs and counterclaim-defendants Mrs. Fields Famous Brands, LLC (Famous Brands) and Mrs. Fields Franchising, LLC (Fields Franchising) appealed a district court order granting a preliminary injunction in favor of defendant and counterclaim-plaintiff MFGPC Inc. (MFGPC). The sole member of Famous Brands is Mrs. Fields Original Cookies, Inc. (MFOC). MFOC entered into a Trademark License Agreement (License Agreement) with LHF, Inc. (LHF), an affiliate of MFGPC. In 2003, LHF assigned all rights under the License Agreement to MFGPC, and MFGPC agreed to be bound by and perform in accordance with the License Agreement. The License Agreement granted MFGPC a license to develop, manufacture, package, distribute and sell prepackaged popcorn products bearing the “Mrs. Fields” trademark through all areas of general retail distribution. A dispute arose after Fields Franchising allowed MFGPC to be late with a royalty payment because of a fire that destroyed some of MFGPC’s operations. The franchisor sought to terminate the licensing agreement and collect the royalties owed. Fields Franchising filed suit against MFGPC. In August 2018, the district court entered partial summary judgment in favor of MFGPC on its counterclaim for breach of a trademark license agreement that afforded MFGPC the exclusive use of the “Mrs. Fields” trademark on popcorn products. The district court’s summary judgment order left only the question of remedy to be decided at trial. MFGPC then moved for a preliminary injunction, arguing that there was a substantial likelihood that it would prevail at trial on the remedy of specific performance. After conducting a hearing, the district court granted MFGPC’s motion and ordered Fields Franchising to terminate any licenses it had entered into with other companies for the use of the Mrs. Fields trademark on popcorn products, and to instead comply with the terms of the licensing agreement it had previously entered into with MFGPC. Famous Brands and Fields Franchising argued in this appeal that the district court erred in a number of respects in granting MFGPC’s motion for preliminary injunction. The Tenth Circuit agreed with appellants, and consequently reversed the district court’s grant of a preliminary injunction in favor of MFGPC. View "Mrs. Fields Famous Brands v. MFGPC" on Justia Law

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King Mountain appealed the district court's judgment granting partial summary judgment for the State on its claims that King Mountain violated state laws on cigarette sales, and enjoining future violations. The State cross-appealed from the district court's dismissal of its claims under the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act (CCTA) and the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT Act). The Second Circuit reversed with respect to the district court's grant of summary judgment for King Mountain and the denial of summary judgment for the State on the PACT Act claim. The court agreed with the State that Congress's decision to separately define "Indian country" and "State" in the PACT Act evidenced Congressional intent to expand the traditional understanding of "interstate commerce" rather than narrow it. The court held that the definition of "commerce between a State and any place outside the State," encompassed King Mountain's sales from the Yakama reservation in Washington State to Indian reservations in New York. The court agreed with the district court's holding that King Mountain, which was organized under the laws of the Yakama Nation, wholly owned by a member of the Yakama Nation, and located on the Yakama reservation, qualified as an "Indian in Indian Country," and thus was exempt from the CCTA. The court held that King Mountain failed to establish a violation of the dormant Commerce Clause; there was no error in the district court's determination that the State's third claim for relief was not barred by res judicata; the district court correctly granted summary judgment for the State on its third claim for relief; and, to the extent King Mountain's argument related to trade, there was no right to trade in the Yakama Treaty. Therefore, the court affirmed in all other respects. View "New York v. Mountain Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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The State and City of New York filed suit charging UPS with violating the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act (CCTA), the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT Act), and New York Public Health Law 1399-ll (PHL 1399-ll), as well as breaching its settlement agreement, the Assurance of Discontinuance (AOD), with the New York State Attorney General. The court held that UPS did not honor the AOD and was therefore subject to liability under the PACT Act and PHL 139-ll; UPS was liable for violations of the AOD's audit requirement; and UPS violated the CCTA by knowingly transporting more than 10,000 unstamped cigarettes. In regard to damages and penalties awards, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in allowing plaintiffs to present their damages case nor did it clearly err in making factual findings based on record evidence; the district court erred in awarding plaintiffs only half of the unpaid taxes on cigarettes UPS unlawfully shipped; and the district court abused its discretion in awarding per-violation penalties under both the PACT Act and PHL 1399-ll. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of liability and attendant penalties under PHL 1399-ll; affirmed the judgment of liability, but vacated the imposition of the penalties under the PACT Act; affirmed the judgment of liability, but modified the award of damages under the CCTA; affirmed the judgment of liability, but modified the award of penalties under the AOD; and affirmed the judgment as modified. View "New York v. United Parcel Service, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case against two for-profit universities (the Schools) alleging that the Schools violated the Minnesota Consumer Fraud Act (MCFA), Minn. Stat. 325F.69, and the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA), Minn. Stat. 325D.44, the Supreme Court held that the Attorney General proved that a causal nexus was established between the Schools' fraudulent statements and the harm suffered by students. At issue was whether the Attorney General established a causal nexus between the Schools' statements misleading prospective students about the value of criminal justice degrees offered by the Schools and the harm suffered by students who entered the Schools' criminal justice program. During trial, fifteen students who had enrolled in the criminal justice program testified. The district court ultimately issued an injunction and ordered equitable restitution requiring the Schools to disgorge the tuition collected from the criminal justice program students. The court of appeals upheld the restitution order for the students who testified at trial but reversed the order as to nontestifying students. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the Attorney General established a causal nexus between the Schools' misleading statements and the harm suffered by the non testifying students; and (2) the equitable restitution process ordered by the district court was proper. View "State v. Minnesota School of Business, Inc." on Justia Law

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Biocad, a private pharmaceutical company based in Russia, filed suit seeking damages and other relief for anticompetitive conduct by foreign entities in a foreign country that purportedly has delayed or prevented its entry into the United States market for cancer treatment drugs. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Biocad's claims, holding that Biocad's Sherman Act claims were barred by the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act (FTAIA), because the foreign nature of Biocad's alleged injuries placed its claims beyond the reach of United States antitrust laws. Based on the language, structure, and purpose of the FTAIA, the court held that the import exclusion applies when a defendantʹs actions immediately impact the United States import market and not merely when a defendant subjectively intends to affect the United States import market in the future. Declining to consider Biocad's theory of injury under the domestic effects exception of the FTAIA, the court held that Biocad failed to plausibly allege that defendants' purportedly anticompetitive conduct in Russia fell within the exception for conduct involving import commerce under the FTAIA. Furthermore, because Biocad has not stated a plausible claim for relief under the Sherman Act, its claim under the Donnelly Act also failed. View "Biocad JSC v. F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd." on Justia Law

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For nearly 30 years, Chicago Studio operated the only film studio in Chicago. In 2010, Cinespace opened a new studio. Cinespace rapidly expanded its studio to include 26 more stages and 24 times more floor space than Chicago Studio’s facility. Chicago Studio subsequently failed to attract business and stopped making a profit. Chicago Studio sued the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Illinois Film Office, and Steinberg (state actors responsible for promoting the Illinois film industry), alleging that the Defendants unlawfully steered state incentives and business to Cinespace in violation of the Sherman Act and equal protection and due process protections. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of those claims. The Sherman Act claim was properly dismissed because Chicago Studio failed to adequately plead an antitrust injury but merely alleged injuries to Chicago Studio, not to competition. The complaint does not plausibly allege that Defendants conspired to monopolize or attempted to monopolize the Chicago market for operating film studios. The district court properly granted summary judgment on the equal protection claim. Chicago Studio and Cinespace are not similarly situated, and there was a rational basis for Steinberg’s conduct. Cinespace consistently reached out to Steinberg for marketing support; Chicago Studio rarely did and it was rational for Steinberg to promote the studios based on production needs. View "Chicago Studio Rental, Inc. v. Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment dismissing Plaintiffs' claims that Defendants' conduct violated section 2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 2, and various state antitrust and consumer protection laws, holding that the claims were barred by the filed-rate doctrine. Defendants were two large energy companies that purchased natural gas from producers, resold it to retail natural gas consumers throughout New England, and transported the natural gas along the interstate Algonquin Gas pipeline. Plaintiffs, a putative class of retail electricity customers in New England, brought this action alleging that Defendants strategically reserved excess capacity along the pipeline without using or reselling it, which ultimately resulted in higher retail electricity rates paid by New England electricity consumers. The district court dismissed the claims, concluding that they were barred by the filed-rate doctrine and, alternatively, for lack of antitrust standing and Plaintiffs' failure to plausibly allege a monopolization claim under the Sherman Act. The First Circuit affirmed without reaching the district court's alternative grounds for dismissal, holding that all of Plaintiffs' claims were barred by application of the filed-rate doctrine. View "Breiding v. Eversource Energy" on Justia Law

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RDC is a direct purchaser and wholesaler of Remicade, the brand name of infliximab, a “biologic infusion drug” manufactured by J&J and used to treat inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. For many years, Remicade was the only infliximab drug available. That position was threatened when the FDA began approving “biosimilars,” produced by other companies and deemed by the FDA to have no clinically meaningful differences from Remicade. RDC alleged that J&J sought to maintain Remicade’s monopoly by engaging in an anticompetitive “Biosimilar Readiness Plan,” which consisted of imposing biosimilar-exclusion contracts on insurers that either require insurers to deny coverage for biosimilars altogether or impose unreasonable preconditions governing coverage; multi-product bundling of J&J’s Remicade with other J&J drugs, biologics, and medical devices; and exclusionary agreements and bundling arrangements with healthcare providers. RDC’s own contractual relationship with J&J is limited to a 2015 Distribution Agreement, which is not alleged to be part of J&J’s Plan. The Agreement contains an arbitration clause, applicable to any claim “arising out of or relating to the Agreement. Reversing the district court, the Third Circuit held that RDC’s antitrust claims do “arise out of or relate to” the Agreement and must be referred to arbitration. View "In re: Remicade (Direct Purchaser) Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellee C5 Medical Werks sued Defendant-Appellant CeramTec, a German company that produces ceramics and ceramic components for medical prostheses, in Colorado for cancellation of CeramTec’s trademarks and a declaratory judgment of non-infringement. CeramTec moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court denied CeramTec’s motion and, after a bench trial, found in favor of C5. CeramTec appealed both the district court’s finding of personal jurisdiction and its determination on the merits. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court did not have personal jurisdiction over CeramTec: CeramTec’s attendance at various tradeshows was fortuitous and, as such, was insufficient to show purposeful availment of the forum state, Colorado. Further, to the extent CeramTec engaged in enforcement activity, it did so outside of Colorado. Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court’s denial of CeramTec’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and remand with instructions that the case be dismissed. View "C5 Medical Werks v. Ceramtec GMBH" on Justia Law

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US Airways filed suit against Sabre, alleging violations of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, with respect to travel technology platforms provided by Sabre that are used in connection with the purchase and sale of tickets for US Airways flights. Sabre appealed the district court's denial of its post‐trial motion for judgment as a matter of law, or in the alternative a new trial, on Count 1 based largely in part on a recent Supreme Court decision, Ohio v. American Express Co., 138 S. Ct. 2274 (2018) (Amex II). US Airways cross-appealed, contending that Counts 2 and 3 of its complaint were erroneously dismissed. The Second Circuit held that the district court did not—as Amex II now requires in cases involving two‐sided transaction platforms like Sabre—instruct the jury that the relevant market must include both sides of the platform as a matter of law. Therefore, the court could not affirm the judgment of the district court based on the pre‐Amex II verdict of the jury. However, the court held, based on the evidence that was before the jury at the time it rendered its verdict, that under instructions consistent with Amex II, the jury could have rendered (not would have been required to render) a proper verdict in favor of US Airways on Count 1. The court also concluded that the district court correctly limited US Airwaysʹs damages following Sabreʹs motion for summary judgment, but was incorrect in its judgment to dismiss Counts 2 and 3 of US Airwaysʹs complaint. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "US Airways, Inc. v. Sabre Holdings Corp." on Justia Law