Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
FTC v. Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc.
In this case, the Federal Trade Commission appeals the district court’s dismissal of claims against pharmaceutical manufacturers for violations of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. The district court dismissed the action against Appellees Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Endo), its parent, Endo International plc (Endo International), Impax Laboratories, LLC (Impax), and its parent, Amneal Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Amneal) (collectively Appellees) for failure to state a claim because a single patentee granting an exclusive license is conduct protected and allowed under the Patent Act. 35 U.S.C. 261;The D.C. Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the Commission’s claims. The court concluded that the resolution of the case came down to the following question: Does a valid patent holder’s grant of a nearly exclusive license to a single potential competitor in exchange for royalty payments violate antitrust law when that nearly exclusive license restrains trade only to an extent traditionally recognized by patent law as reasonable? The court answered the question in the negative, holding that under FTC v. Actavis, Inc., when a complaint alleges that a patent holder has violated the antitrust laws, courts must strike a balance “between the lawful restraint on trade of the patent monopoly and the illegal restraint prohibited broadly by the Sherman Act.” The Court must defer to Congress’ judgment, as outlined in the Patent Act. View "FTC v. Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc." on Justia Law
Chase Manufacturing v. Johns Manville Corporation
For decades, Johns Manville Corp. ("JM") was the sole domestic manufacturer and supplier of calcium silicate (or “calsil”), a substance used to make thermal pipe insulation. In March 2018, Chase Manufacturing, Inc. (doing business as Thermal Pipe Shields, Inc., or "TPS") challenged JM’s monopoly status by entering the calsil market with a superior and less expensive product. JM responded by threatening distributors that it would not sell to them if they bought TPS’s competing calsil. By August 2021, more than three years after TPS’s market entry, JM retained over 97% of the domestic calsil market. TPS sued under the Sherman Act, alleging that JM had unlawfully: (1) maintained its monopoly; and (2) tied the availability of its insulation products to distributors’ not buying TPS’s calsil. The district court granted summary judgment for JM. Though the Tenth Circuit affirmed some of the district court’s rulings, it held that the district court erred in finding no genuine issues of material fact on whether JM unlawfully maintained its monopoly after TPS’s market entry. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Chase Manufacturing v. Johns Manville Corporation" on Justia Law
Barber Group, Inc. v. New Motor Vehicle Bd.
Barber Group, Inc., doing business as Barber Honda (Barber)—a car dealer in Bakersfield, California—brought an establishment protest to the California New Motor Vehicle Board (Board), challenging a decision by American Honda Motor Co., Inc. (Honda) to open a new dealership about nine miles away. The Board overruled Barber’s protest, and the trial court denied Barber’s petition for administrative mandate challenging the Board’s decision. On appeal, Barber argued the Board prejudicially erred when it: (1) relied on Honda’s dealer performance standards at the protest hearing without first deciding whether those standards were reasonable; (2) permitted the proposed new dealership to exercise a peremptory challenge to an administrative law judge initially assigned to the protest hearing, contrary to notions of fairness and the Board’s own order in the matter; and (3) denied Barber’s request that it take official notice of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Barber Group, Inc. v. New Motor Vehicle Bd." on Justia Law
Ahn v. Stewart Title Guaranty Co.
Plaintiff-appellant Steve Ahn was a sales executive for a title insurer who claimed his sales figures were adversely affected when his employer barred him from using a particular sales pitch to solicit customers from a competitor who was also a proposed corporate merger partner. Ahn’s pitch told prospective clients that after the proposed merger was finalized, they would have no choice but to comply with his company’s higher-cost, less flexible underwriting standards. He attempted to use this pitch to convince these clients to abandon the competitor before the merger. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeals' consideration was whether Ahn had standing under the California antitrust statute, known as the Cartwright Act, to assert a cause of action. To this, the Court found that Ahn did not claim injury from the alleged anticompetitive aspects of the proposed merging entities' agreement, but rather from conduct that emphasized their competitive differences. "A complaint that he could not lure customers with a pitch about their restricted postmerger options does not constitute an antitrust injury, meaning Ahn lacks standing to sue under the Cartwright Act." The Court's conclusion that Ahn could not demonstrate an antitrust violation affected his derivative economic relations tort claims, both of which required independently wrongful conduct. Concluding the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment, the appellate court therefore affirmed the judgment. View "Ahn v. Stewart Title Guaranty Co." on Justia Law
M Welles & Associates v. Edwell
Plaintiff-Appellant M Welles and Associates, Inc. (“Welles”) appealed a district court's decision concluding that Defendant-Appellee Edwell, Inc. was not liable for trademark infringement, thereby granting granted final judgment for Edwell. "The marks at issue are undoubtedly similar:" Welles used the mark "EDWEL," whereas Edwell uses the mark "EDWELL." Similarity notwithstanding, the magistrate judge found that consumers were unlikely to be confused by the marks because Edwell never intended to copy Welles’s mark, the parties operated in different markets, consumers were likely to exercise a high degree of care in selecting the parties’ services, and there was almost no evidence of actual confusion. On appeal, Welles argued the magistrate judge applied an erroneous legal standard in analyzing likelihood of confusion, urged the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to adopt a presumption of confusion for cases like this one, and contended that the magistrate judge clearly erred in finding no likelihood of confusion. The Tenth Circuit rejected each of Welles’s arguments and affirmed final judgment for Edwell. View "M Welles & Associates v. Edwell" on Justia Law
Federal Trade Commission v. Yu Lin
The appeal is another installment in a series of disputes involving an enforcement action by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against a group of fraudulent real estate developers (the Sanctuary Belize enforcement action). Appellants, a group of 14 individual investors and a family-owned corporation moved to intervene in an action brought by others and sought relief from the district court’s judgment. Appellants did not do so until after the district court had entered final judgment and that judgment had been appealed to the Fourth Circuit. Because the Sanctuary Belize enforcement action was already on appeal when Appellants filed their motions, the district court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain those motions. It held alternatively that the motions should be denied as meritless. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court held that a district court lacks jurisdiction over a motion to intervene while an appeal is pending, regardless of who noted the appeal. Further, the court explained that because the district court correctly determined it lacked jurisdiction on a matter that had been appealed to the Fourth Circuit, the court held that it only has jurisdiction to review that decision, not to entertain the underlying merits. View "Federal Trade Commission v. Yu Lin" on Justia Law
In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust
A putative class of over 12 million merchants brought this antitrust action under the Sherman Act against Visa U.S.A. Inc., MasterCard International Inc., and numerous banks that serve as payment-card issuers for those networks. Plaintiffs alleged that Visa and MasterCard adopted and enforced rules and practices relating to payment cards that had the combined effect of injuring merchants by allowing Visa and MasterCard to charge supracompetitive fees (known as “interchange fees”) on each payment card transaction. After nearly fifteen years of litigation, the parties agreed to a settlement of roughly $ 5.6 billion, which was approved by the district court over numerous objections. In so doing, $900,000 in service awards was granted to lead plaintiffs, and roughly $523 million was granted in attorneys’ fees. Appellants are various objectors who argue that the district court erred when it certified the class, approved the settlement, granted service awards and computed attorneys’ fees. The Second Circuit affirmed in all respects the district court’s orders to the extent they constituted a final judgment, with the exception that the court directed the district court to reduce the service award to class representatives to the extent that its size was increased by time spent in lobbying efforts that would not increase the recovery of damages. The court made no ruling as to how damages should be allocated between branded oil companies and their branded service station franchisees, the reasonableness of the special master’s ultimate findings, or the legality of releasing an as-of-yet hypothetical future claim. View "In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust" on Justia Law
PDVSA US Litigation Trust v. Lukoil Pan Americas LLC, et al.
This appeal involves a nonjusticiable political question: who has the authority to litigate in the name of the Venezuelan state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. The underlying action, brought by a litigation trust on behalf of Petróleos de Venezuela, alleged conspiracy, antitrust, cybercrime, and fraud claims against various individuals and entities. After the district court dismissed the action for lack of standing and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed, an entity purporting to speak for Petróleos de Venezuela sought to substitute itself as the real party in interest. The entity’s board was appointed by Nicolás Maduro, who claims to be the president of Venezuela. But the United States Department of State has concluded that Maduro is not Venezuela’s legitimate political leader. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed because the district court could not grant the motion without addressing a nonjusticiable political question. The district court cannot question the validity of then-President Guaidó’s appointment of an alternative board of directors. So, under the political-question doctrine, it was powerless to grant the Maduro entity’s motion to substitute the entity as the real party in interest in contravention of the position taken by the United States Department of State. Further, the court wrote that the district court would not have jurisdiction to conduct the requested inquiry on remand. And even if the Department of State declared today that the Maduro entity is authorized to bring suit in Petróleos de Venezuela’s name, the court would still affirm because, under Article III, a justiciable case or controversy must exist “through all stages of the litigation,” including “at the time the complaint is filed.” View "PDVSA US Litigation Trust v. Lukoil Pan Americas LLC, et al." on Justia Law
Home Depot USA Inc v. Lafarge North America Inc
Direct purchasers of drywall—not including Home Depot—sued seven drywall suppliers for conspiring to fix prices. Those cases were centralized in multi-district litigation. Home Depot was a member of the putative class. Georgia-Pacific was not sued. Before class-certification or dispositive motions were filed, a settlement with defendants USG and TIN was certified. Home Depot did not opt-out. Lafarge settled. The court certified a new settlement class; Home Depot opted out. The court later certified a new settlement class with respect to the remaining defendants with terms similar to the USG/TIN settlement—preserving the right of class members to pursue claims against alleged co-conspirators other than the settling defendants. Home Depot remained in the settlement class. The court entered judgment.Home Depot then sued Lafarge. Home Depot never bought drywall from Lafarge, but argued that Lafarge was liable for the overcharges Home Depot paid its suppliers; its expert opined that the pricing behaviors of Lafarge and other suppliers, including USG, CertainTeed, and Georgia-Pacific, were indicative of a conspiracy to fix prices. The court struck the expert report, citing issue preclusion and the law of the case, noting the grant of summary judgment to CertainTeed, that Georgia-Pacific had not previously been sued, and that alleged conspirator USG settled early in the class action.The Third Circuit vacated. Issue preclusion applies only to matters which were actually litigated and decided between the parties or their privies. Home Depot was not a party (or privy) to any of the relevant events. Two of the three events to which it was “bound” were not judicial decisions. The law of the case doctrine applies only to prior decisions made in the same case. View "Home Depot USA Inc v. Lafarge North America Inc" on Justia Law
KJERSTI FLAA, ET AL V. HOLLYWOOD FOREIGN PRESS ASSOC., ET AL
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) is a California non-profit mutual benefit corporation whose members are involved in reporting for media outlets outside of the United States. The members are offered advantages such as access to Hollywood talent granted by movie studios. The HFPA strictly limits the admission of new members The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of an antitrust action brought by two entertainment journalists who challenged the membership policies of HFPA. The panel affirmed the dismissal of the journalists’ antitrust claims. The journalists alleged that the HFPA’s exclusionary membership practices violated section 1 (restraint of trade) and section 2 (monopolization) of the Sherman Act, as well as California’s Cartwright Act. The panel held that the journalists also failed to state a claim that the HFPA’s practices were unlawful under a rule of reason analysis. The panel held that the journalists did not state a claim of per se liability based on a horizontal market division agreement because this theory was inconsistent with statements in the complaint that the HFPA’s members do not participate in the same product market. The panel held that, under a rule of reason analysis, the journalists failed to allege that the HFPA had market power in any reasonably defined market. The panel also affirmed the dismissal of the journalists’ claim based on California’s right of fair procedure, which protects, in certain situations, against arbitrary decisions by private organizations. View "KJERSTI FLAA, ET AL V. HOLLYWOOD FOREIGN PRESS ASSOC., ET AL" on Justia Law