Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Business Law
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In 2019, Mallet learned that Bundy was its newest competitor in the sale of baking release agents, the lubricants that allow baked goods to readily separate from the containers in which they are made. Bundy was well-known for other commercial baking products when it launched a new subsidiary, Synova, to sell baking release agents. Synova hired two Mallet employees, both of whom had substantial access to Mallet’s proprietary information. That information from Mallet helped Synova rapidly develop, market, and sell release agents to Mallet’s customers.Mallet sued, asserting the misappropriation of its trade secrets. The district court issued a preliminary injunction. restraining Bundy, Synova, and those employees from competing with Mallet. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded for further consideration of what, if any, equitable relief is warranted and what sum Mallet should be required to post in a bond as “security … proper to pay the costs and damages sustained by any party found to have been wrongfully enjoined or restrained.” A preliminary injunction predicated on trade secret misappropriation must adequately identify the allegedly misappropriated trade secrets. If the district court decides that preliminary injunctive relief is warranted, the injunction must be sufficiently specific in its terms and narrowly tailored in its scope. View "Mallet & Co., Inc. v. Lacayo" on Justia Law

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Hetronic International, Inc., a U.S. company, manufactured radio remote controls, the kind used to remotely operate heavy-duty construction equipment. Defendants, none of whom were U.S. citizens, distributed Hetronic’s products, mostly in Europe. After about a ten-year relationship, one of Defendants’ employees stumbled across an old research-and-development agreement between the parties. Embracing a “creative legal interpretation” of the agreement endorsed by Defendants’ lawyers, Defendants concluded that they owned the rights to Hetronic’s trademarks and other intellectual property. Defendants then began manufacturing their own products—identical to Hetronic’s—and selling them under the Hetronic brand, mostly in Europe. Hetronic terminated the parties’ distribution agreements, but that didn’t stop Defendants from making tens of millions of dollars selling their copycat products. Hetronic asserted numerous claims against Defendants, but the issue presented on appeal to the Tenth Circuit centered on its trademark claims under the Lanham Act. A jury awarded Hetronic over $100 million in damages, most of which related to Defendants’ trademark infringement. Then on Hetronic’s motion, the district court entered a worldwide injunction barring Defendants from selling their infringing products. Defendants ignored the injunction. In the district court and before the Tenth Circuit, Defendants focused on one defense in particular: Though they accepted that the Lanham Act could sometimes apply extraterritorially, they insisted the Act’s reach didn’t extend to their conduct, which generally involved foreign defendants making sales to foreign consumers. Reviewing this matter as one of first impression in the Tenth Circuit, and after considering the Supreme Court’s lone decision on the issue and persuasive authority from other circuits, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court properly applied the Lanham Act to Defendants’ conduct. But the Court narrowed the district court’s expansive injunction. Affirming in part, and reversing in part, the Court remanded the case for further consideration. View "Hetronic International v. Hetronic Germany GmbH, et al." on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit previously affirmed the Federal Trade Commission’s decision to block a merger of ProMedica and St. Luke’s Hospital in Lucas County, Ohio. As part of the unwinding of the merger, ProMedica and St. Luke’s signed an agreement in which ProMedica’s insurance subsidiary, Paramount, agreed to maintain St. Luke’s as a within-network provider; Paramount could drop St. Luke’s if ownership of the hospital changed. A large healthcare company based in Michigan, McLaren, subsequently merged with St. Luke’s. Paramount ended its relationship with St. Luke’s, removing the hospital from its provider network. St. Luke’s then alleged that ProMedica’s refusal to do business with it violated the antitrust laws. The district court preliminarily enjoined ProMedica from ending the agreement. The Sixth Circuit vacated. Because ProMedica had a legitimate business explanation for ending the relationship, St. Luke’s is unlikely to show that ProMedica unlawfully refused to continue doing business with it. St. Luke’s has little likelihood of establishing an irreparable injury given the option of money damages. View "St. Luke's Hospital v. ProMedica Health System, Inc." on Justia Law

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Companies that tow or recycle used cars alleged that Milwaukee and its subcontractor, engaged in anticompetitive behavior to self-allocate towing services and abandoned vehicles, a primary input in the scrap metal recycling business. They alleged that an exclusive contract the city entered into with one of the area’s largest recycling providers, Miller Compressing, violated the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, and that the contract provided direct evidence of an agreement to restrain trade. They cited laws that require a city-issued license to tow vehicles from certain areas, that obligate towing companies to provide various notices, and that cap maximum charges imposed on vehicle owners who have illegally parked or abandoned their vehicles, as having been enacted to squeeze them out of the market.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The arrangement between the city and Miller is not per se unreasonable on the basis of horizontal price-fixing. The court also rejected a claim of “bid-rigging.” View "Always Towing & Recovery Inc. v. City of Milwaukee" on Justia Law

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In 2005, Appellee Reorganized FLI, Inc.1 (“Farmland”) brought an action against Appellants alleging violations of the Kansas Restraint of Trade Act (“KRTA”). Farmland sought, amongst other things, full consideration damages pursuant to Kan. Stat. Ann. section 50-115. In 2019, Appellants moved for summary judgment on Farmland’s claims, arguing the repeal of section 50-115 operated retroactively to preclude Farmland from obtaining any relief. The Kansas District Court denied the motion for summary judgment but granted Appellants’ motion for leave to file an interlocutory appeal with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Appellants sought reversal of the district court’s denial of summary judgment and a ruling ordering the district court to enter judgment in their favor. After review, for reasons different from the district court, the Tenth Circuit concluded 50-115 applied retroactively to foreclose Farmland from recovering full consideration damages, Farmland was entitled to other relief if it prevailed on the merits of its claims. Thus, the repeal of 50-115 did not leave Farmland without a remedy and Appellants were not entitled to summary judgment. View "Reorganized FLI v. Williams Companies" on Justia Law

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Beginning in the 1980s and 1990s, two Idaho businesses did roofing work under substantially similar names: one, Gem State Roofing, Inc., performed work primarily in Blaine County (Gem State-Blaine); the other was a corporation operating under the name Gem State Roofing and Asphalt Maintenance, which also did business as Gem State Roofing. The latter was based in Boise, Idaho, and performed work in a significantly larger area. In 2011, Gem State Roofing and Asphalt Maintenance was succeeded in interest by United Components, Inc. (UCI.) Notwithstanding its change of name, it continued to do business as Gem State Roofing. In 2005, prior to UCI’s name change, the two businesses with similar names entered into a Trademark Settlement Agreement (TSA), prohibiting UCI from advertising, soliciting, or performing business in Blaine County, with exceptions for certain services (i.e., warranty, maintenance work, or work performed for previous customers). In addition, UCI agreed that if it received a request for work it was contractually unable to fulfil because of the TSA, it would refer the work to Gem State-Blaine. In 2018, Gem State-Blaine sued UCI, alleging it had breached the TSA when it advertised, solicited, bid on, and performed roofing work in Blaine County, and had failed to refer requests for work as required under the TSA. After a bench trial, the district court concluded that, despite UCI’s breach of the TSA and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, Gem State-Blaine had failed to prove damages or that it was entitled to a permanent injunction. The district court further found that Gem State-Blaine had no protectable common-law trademark. Finally, the district court concluded that there was no prevailing party and declined to award attorney fees and costs. Gem State-Blaine timely appealed. UCI timely cross-appealed the district court’s denial of its request for attorney fees and costs. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed in part, affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. The district court’s refusal to enter a permanent injunction was reversed, and the court directed to enter a permanent injunction to enjoin UCI from any further breach of the TSA. The district court’s refusal to award attorney fees and costs as a sanction for UCI’s discovery violations, and the district court’s conclusion that Gem State-Blaine did not have a protectable common-law trademark against UCI were also reversed. The Supreme Court vacated the district court’s determination that neither party prevailed. The matter was remanded for the district court to determine whether there was a prevailing party, and to determine if attorney fees and costs should be awarded. The district court’s decision denying damages was affirmed. View "Gem State Roofing, Incorp. v. United Components, Inc." on Justia Law

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AAAPC and UAS filed suit against Quest for conspiring to force them out of the market of providing allergy and asthma testing. The district court dismissed plaintiffs' claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).The Fifth Circuit concluded that plaintiffs' claims alleging that Quest violated sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act and the Texas antitrust law are not time-barred. The court explained that plaintiffs' allegations about Phadia and Quest's continued meetings with providers and payors do not restart the statute of limitations; plaintiffs' allegations regarding the June 2015 policy change does not suffice to restart the statute of limitations; but plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that Phadia and Quest were involved in the alleged conspiracy and that the allegation regarding Phadia's May 2014 email reset the statute of limitations. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's dismissal as to the state and federal antitrust claims. The court also reversed the dismissal of plaintiffs' misappropriation of trade secrets claim, concluding that plaintiffs have sufficiently pled they could not have discovered their misappropriation injury using reasonable diligence. Moreover, nothing in the complaint forecloses their potential rejoinder to the statute of limitations defense. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the civil conspiracy and tortious interference claims. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' request for leave to amend their complaint. View "Academy of Allergy & Asthma in Primary Care v. Quest Diagnostics, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals denying Defendants' motion to dismiss under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA), Tex. Civ. Proc. & Rem. Code 27.001-.011, as untimely, holding that because Plaintiff's amended petition in this case asserted new legal claims, Defendants' motion to dismiss those claims was timely.In his original petition, Plaintiff asserted claims for deceptive trade practice, negligence, and negligent misrepresentation. Plaintiff subsequently filed an amended petition reasserting the same claims, adding new claims for fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, fraudulent concealment, and breach of contract, and alleging the same essential facts alleged in the original petition and requesting the same relief. The trial court denied Defendants' TCPA dismissal motion, concluding that the motion was untimely. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in holding that Defendant's motion to dismiss the new claims was untimely because the amended petition asserted new legal actions and thus triggered new sixty-day period for Defendants to file a motion to dismiss those new claims. View "Monteglongo v. Abrea" on Justia Law

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In this appeal arising from a dispute concerning the parties' respective membership interests in three related LLCs the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the trial court, holding that none of Defendants' challenges to the trial court's judgment and related orders had merit and that, with one exception, the same was true of Plaintiff's challenges to the judgment and orders.Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging claims for conversion, unfair and deceptive trade practices, unjust enrichment, a declaration that he continued to own interests in each of the LLCs and a claim seeking judicial dissolution of the LLCs. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff as to certain claims and in favor of Defendants as to other claims. The parties cross-appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court erred in deciding to direct a verdict in favor of Defendants with respect to Plaintiff's claims related to Carolina Coast Holdings, LLC; and (2) the remaining claims on appeal were without merit. View "Chisum v. Campagna" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against ACS and in favor of its competing distributor, White Cap, on ACS's Sherman Antitrust Act and Georgia state law claims. ACS argues that summary judgment was erroneously granted because the evidence demonstrates that White Cap agreed with Meadow Burke to have Meadow Burke stop supplying ACS projects in Florida.The court held that the evidence is at least equally consistent with Meadow Burke having made an independent decision to terminate ACS as it is with an inference of concerted action. Furthermore, the evidence is at least equally consistent with White Cap having made an independent decision to continue distributing the Meadow Burke product as it is with it having engaged in concerted action. Therefore, the court cannot conclude that White Cap acted in a manner rising to the level of anticompetitive conduct necessary for a claim under section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The court also held that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment on ACS's monopolization and attempted monopolization claims pursuant to section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Finally, the court held that the district court properly granted summary judgment on the tortious interference claim. View "American Contractors Supply, LLC v. HD Supply Construction Supply, Ltd." on Justia Law