Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing this complaint alleging that certain patents related to the medicine Humira and the settlement of litigation about them violated sections one and two of the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 1 & 2, holding that dismissal was proper.At the end of 2016, the basic U.S. patient for Humira, a monoclonal antibody, expired. AbbVie, Humira's owner, obtained 132 additional patents related to the medicine for issues such as manufacturing or administering the drug, the last of which expires in 2034. Plaintiffs, welfare-benefit plans that paid for Humira on behalf of covered beneficiaries, brought this complaint alleging that AbbVie violated the Sherman Act by obtaining the 132 patents. The district court dismissed the complaint. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs failed to state a claim under the Sherman Act. View "Mayor & City Council of Baltimore v. AbbVie Inc." on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to Defendants on all claims asserted against them, including misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of an implied contractual obligation to assign patent rights but vacated the judgment awarding attorneys' fees, holding that a reduction in fees was warranted.REXA, Inc. sued Mark Chester and MEA, Inc. for misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of an implied contractual obligation to assign patent rights, alleging that Chester and MEA incorporated and disclosed confidential designs. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding that the district court (1) properly granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants; but (2) abused its discretion in awarding Chester and MEA approximately $2.357 million in attorneys' fees, which they requested as a sanction for REXA's litigation conduct, where the court did not make specific findings about each of REXA's objections to the fee petition. View "REXA, Inc. v. Chester" on Justia Law

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A southern Illinois outpatient surgery clinic accused the area’s largest hospital system and its largest health insurer (Blue Cross) of violating federal and state antitrust laws by entering into contracts that designate the hospital but not the clinic as a Blue Cross preferred provider (in-network provider). A district judge granted judgment in favor of Blue Cross, reasoning that insurers are customers and cannot be liable for the practices of sellers with market power. The clinic and the hospital agreed that a magistrate judge could handle the rest of the case and enter a final judgment, 28 U.S.C. 636(c). Discovery followed. After reviewing a special master’s report, a magistrate granted the hospital summary judgment on the ground that the clinic had not been injured.The Seventh Circuit affirmed, first noting that Blue Cross had not consented to a magistrate having final authority. However, Blue Cross received a district judge's decision and impliedly consented to the magistrate by submitting documentation. Neither federal nor state law prohibits preferred provider agreements; the agreements are not exclusive dealing or tie-in arrangements. The clinic "scarcely tries to show that it has been injured by reduced output or higher prices," nor does it allege that there is any historical link between the hospital’s insurance-contracting practices and either prices or output. View "Marion HealthCare, LLC. v. Southern Illinois Healthcare Services" on Justia Law

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Bloomington, Indiana (population 90,000) is in a metropolitan statistical area with a population near 200,000. From Bloomington, one can drive an hour and ten minutes to Indianapolis (population 865,000); two hours to Evansville (population 120,000); two hours to Louisville (population 620,000); or two and a half hours to Cincinnati, (population 300,000). Dr. Vasquez arrived in Bloomington in 2006, opened an independent vascular‐surgery practice, and obtained admitting privileges at Bloomington Hospital, Monroe Hospital, and the Indiana Specialty Surgery Center. He performed more than 95% of his inpatient procedures at Bloomington Hospital. In 2010, IU Health acquired Bloomington Hospital. In 2017, IU Health acquired Premier Healthcare, an independent physician group based in Bloomington. Vasquez alleges that, because of the acquisition, IU Health employs 97% of primary care providers (PCPs) in Bloomington and over 80% of PCPs in the region. Vasquez’s alleged that IU Health launched “a systematic and targeted scheme” to ruin his reputation and practice because of Vasquez’s commitment to independent practice. IU Health's employees cast aspersions on his reputation. IU Health revoked Vasquez’s Bloomington admitting privileges.Vasquez brought claims under Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 2, and Clayton Act, section 18. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of his suit. Vasquez’s accounts of how a hypothetical monopolist could dominate Bloomington’s vascular‐ surgery market suffice for the pleading stage; the complaint presents a plausible account under which his suit is timely. View "Vasquez v. Indiana University Health, Inc" on Justia Law

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The Board, a private, nonprofit provider of medical certifications to radiologists, is dominant in the market for radiology certifications. All states permit physicians who are not Board-certified to practice medicine, provided they possess a valid state medical license. Siva, a Board-certified radiologist, says that most insurers will not grant in-network status to physicians who are not Board-certified; uncertified physicians are often shut out from meaningful employment opportunities. When the Board began selling certifications in 1934, radiologists who passed the examination would remain certified for life. The Board later shifted to “initial certification” and “maintenance of certification” (MOC). Radiologists who wish to remain Board-certified must participate in and pay for the MOC program annually, which requires continuing education credits from third parties, completing “practice improvement” activities, and passing Board-administered examinations.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Siva’s antitrust suit. Siva argued that MOC should be thought of not as part of the Board’s certification product but as a unique product in its own right and that the Board’s decision to revoke the certification of radiologists who refuse to participate in the MOC program reflects not a benign product redesign but rather an illegal tying arrangement that violates the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1. Siva cannot identify a distinct product market in which it is efficient to offer MOC separately from certification. View "Siva v. American Board of Radiology" on Justia Law

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A putative class of medical providers sued, alleging a conspiracy to drive up the prices of syringes and safety IV catheters (Products). Their first complaint, alleging a hub‐and‐spokes conspiracy ( Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1) between manufacturer, BD, group purchasing organizations, and four distributors, was dismissed because the Providers failed to allege that the distributors coordinated with each other in furtherance of the conspiracy. In an amended complaint, the Providers abandoned their horizontal conspiracy allegations and alleged two vertical conspiracies, one between BD and McKesson and another between BD and Cardinal Health.The district court dismissed, noting that because the named plaintiffs do not purchase the Products directly from Cardinal, they lack “antitrust standing” to sue Cardinal. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. . The Providers cannot sue Cardinal under Article III because their injury is not fairly traceable to Cardinal’s conduct; precedent precludes the suit because they do not purchase the Products from either member of the BD‐Cardinal conspiracy. The Providers did not plausibly establish that vertical conspiracies involving just two distributors and BD could influence the prices that the Providers pay, regardless of which distributor they purchase from, and regardless of the fact that there are at least four major distributors. View "Marion Diagnostic Center, LLC v. Becton Dickinson & Co." on Justia Law

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The Association of American Physicians & Surgeons (AAPS), is a nonprofit organization of physicians and surgeons. The American Board of Medical Specialties, a nonprofit provider of medical certification services, is an umbrella organization for 24 member boards, each dedicated to a particular medical practice area. The Board deems physicians who meet its requirements to be “Board-certified.” To remain certified, physicians must comply with the Board’s Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program and continuing education requirements. All states permit physicians who are not Board-certified to practice medicine.According to AAPS, the Board conspired with its member boards, hospitals, and health insurers to condition the granting of staff privileges and in-network status on physicians’ continued participation in the MOC program so that physicians find themselves forced to participate in the program to practice medicine, at least if they wish to do so in hospitals or to accept certain forms of insurance. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of its suit under section 1 of the Sherman Act and claiming negligent misrepresentation on the Board’s website to “create the false impression that [the MOC program] is indicative of the medical skills of physicians.” The complaint does not plausibly allege an agreement between the Board, hospitals, and insurers. Mere legal conclusions are “not entitled to be assumed true.” View "Association of American Physicians & Surgeons, Inc. v. American Board of Medical Specialties" 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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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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USFE planned to offer an electronic-based futures trading platform that posed a competitive threat to exchanges using the more traditional floor-trading model, like CBOT. USFE targeted February 1, 2004, as its launch date to establish itself before several futures and options contracts expired, so that traders could transfer their business to USFE. In July 2003, USFE sought approval as a designated contract market by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The Commission solicited public comment. CBOT, another futures exchange (CME), and others raised objections. CBOT and CME successfully requested a postponement.USFE approached BOTCC to negotiate an agreement for clearing services that would have provided USFE with access to startup liquidity in the form of open interest created by market participants and held at BOTCC. CBOT also used BOTCC and proposed Rule 701.01. The Commission approved the rule, which compelled the transfer of CBOT’s open interest from BOTCC to its new, exclusive clearing partner. By draining its open contracts from BOTCC, CBOT deprived USFE of access to significant liquidity. The Commission approved USFE on February 4, 2004. USFE launched on February 8. The undertaking flopped. USFE sued under the Sherman Antitrust Act.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. The Noerr-Pennington doctrine shields the defendants’ petitioning from antitrust scrutiny and neither exception (fraud or sham lawsuit) applies. The Commission’s explicit approval of Rule 701.01 impliedly repeals the antitrust laws, immunizing defendants against USFE’s open interest claims. View "U.S. Futures Exchange, L.L.C. v. Board of Trade of the City of Chicago" on Justia Law