Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion Summaries
In re: Automotive Parts Antitrust Litigation
A class of end-payor purchasers sued (Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 26; Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1) manufacturers and suppliers, alleging that they conspired to fix prices of automotive anti-vibration rubber parts. The district court certified a nationwide settlement class comprising persons and entities who indirectly purchased anti-vibration rubber parts that were manufactured or sold by the defendants, excluding persons or entities who purchased parts directly or for resale.Before the court entered final judgments approving the "indirect purchaser" settlement, Plaintiffs filed a separate suit against the same defendants, in the same court, seeking damages under the Clayton Act on behalf of a putative class of “direct purchasers” of anti-vibration rubber parts. They alleged that they purchased parts “from an entity (Firestone retail shop) of which one of the Defendants (Bridgestone) is the ultimate parent”; Firestone is not a defendant in either lawsuit. Bridgestone is a defendant in both. The court entered final judgments in the end-payor lawsuit, enjoining all settlement class members from “commencing, prosecuting, or continuing . . . any and all claims” arising out of or relating to the released claims.Defendants moved to enjoin Plaintiffs from litigating their direct-purchaser lawsuit. The district court denied the motion, citing “Illinois Brick.” Under federal antitrust law, a private plaintiff generally must be a “direct purchaser” to have suffered injury and have standing to sue a manufacturer or supplier. In Illinois Brick, the Supreme Court recognized an exception, holding that an “indirect purchaser” might have standing if it purchased from an intermediary that was “owned or controlled” by the ultimate seller.The Sixth Circuit reversed. Regardless of whether Illinois Brick applies to plaintiffs’ underlying claims, plaintiffs fit within the class definition under the plain meaning of the settlement agreements. Their suit is therefore barred. View "In re: Automotive Parts Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law
Underwood v. Bank of America Corporation
Plaintiffs Erik Underwood and My24HourNews.Com, Inc. owned two putative service marks: “E.R.I.C.A.” and “my24erica.com.” Underwood claimed to have used these marks in his business, which offered internet-based search engine and personal assistant services. Bank of America Corporation (“BofA”) owned a registered federal trademark for a mobile banking application known as “ERICA.” Underwood sued BofA for infringing his marks. BofA counterclaimed to cancel Underwood’s Georgia registration of his E.R.I.C.A. mark. The district court granted BofA’s motions for summary judgment on its cancellation counterclaim and on Underwood’s infringement claims. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. On BofA’s cancellation counterclaim, the Court affirmed summary judgment against Underwood. On Underwood’s infringement claims, the Court: (1) vacated summary judgment for BofA on the E.R.I.C.A. mark and remanded for the district court to apply the correct actual use standard; and (2) affirmed summary judgment for BofA on the my24erica.com mark. View "Underwood v. Bank of America Corporation" on Justia Law
Monteglongo v. Abrea
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
HouseCanary, Inc. v. Title Source, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the portion of the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court granting a motion to reconsider the court's denial of a motion to seal brought under Tex. R. Civ. P. 76a, holding that the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act (TUTSA), Tex. Civ. Proc. & Rem. Code 134A.006a, does not provide an independent, self-contained pathway for sealing court records.Plaintiff sued Defendant for breach of contract, and Defendant asserted counterclaims, including misappropriation of trade secrets. The jury found in favor of Defendant. Defendant subsequently filed a Rule 76a motion to seal thirty trial exhibits. The trial court denied the motion to seal but then granted Defendant's motion to reconsider that relied exclusively on section 134A.006a of TUTSA. The Supreme Court remanded this case to the trial court to exercise its discretion under the applicable provisions of both TUTSA and Rule 76a, holding that the trial court erred by failing to apply the non-displaced provisions of Rule 76a in ruling on the motion to reconsider. View "HouseCanary, Inc. v. Title Source, Inc." on Justia Law
Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Actelion Pharmaceuticals Ltd.
Plaintiffs filed an antitrust class action against Actelion, alleging that Actelion extended its patent monopoly for its branded drug Tracleer — a drug to treat pulmonary artery hypertension — beyond the patent's expiration date. Plaintiffs claimed that Actelion did so "through illegitimate means" with the intent of precluding competition from generic drug manufacturers and charging supracompetitive prices for Tracleer, in violation of federal and state antitrust laws. Plaintiffs further claimed that, as a result of Actelion's illegal monopolization, they were injured by having to pay supracompetitive prices for Tracleer for some three years after Actelion's patent for Tracleer expired.The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's limitations ruling and concluded that plaintiffs' antitrust claims did not accrue until they were injured by paying supracompetitive prices for Tracleer after the patent expired in November 2015. Therefore, plaintiffs action commenced in November 2018 was timely. The court also concluded that, even if the February 2014 date, when Actelion entered into agreements settling the generic manufacturers' antitrust claims, marked the last anticompetitive act, damages could not then have been recovered by plaintiffs because their claims would not have been ripe for judicial resolution in view of the speculative nature of future conduct that might have thereafter occurred. Therefore, limitations would not begin to run until the claims became ripe. In any event, the court explained that because plaintiffs alleged that Actelion continued with anticompetitive acts after November 2015 in selling Tracleer at supracompetitive prices, new limitations periods began to run from each sale that caused plaintiffs damages. The court largely agreed with the district court's standing, but concluded that the allegations asserting violations of the laws in states where plaintiffs did not purchase Tracleer may yet be considered when determining whether plaintiffs can, based on a Rule 23 analysis, represent class members who purchased Tracleer in those States, and if they can, then whether plaintiffs can include those claims. View "Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Actelion Pharmaceuticals Ltd." on Justia Law
Impax Laboratories, Inc. v. Federal Trade Commission
The Commission charged Impax Laboratories with antitrust violations for accepting payments ultimately worth more than $100 million to delay the entry of its generic drug for more than two years. The Commission conducted a rule-of-reason analysis and unanimously concluded that Impax violated antitrust law.The Fifth Circuit denied the petition for review, concluding that substantial evidence supports the Commission's finding that the reverse payment settlement threatened competition. In this case, Endo agreed to make large payments to the company that was allegedly infringing its patents; in exchange, Impax agreed to delay entry of its generic drug until two-and-a-half years after the FDA approved the drug; and neither the saved costs of forgoing a trial nor any services Endo received justified these payments. Furthermore, substantial evidence supports the Commission's conclusion that a less restrictive, no-payment settlement, alternative was feasible. Therefore, Impax agreed to an unreasonable restraint of trade because the reverse payment settlement was an agreement to preserve and split monopoly profits that was not necessary to allow generic competition before the expiration of Endo's patent. View "Impax Laboratories, Inc. v. Federal Trade Commission" on Justia Law
Muddy Waters v. Superior Court
In 2017, plaintiff Perfectus Aluminum, Inc. filed a civil complaint alleging causes of action for: (1) violation of California Unfair Competition Law; (2) trade libel; and (3) intentional interference with prospective economic advantage. Plaintiff named “Dupré Analytics” as the sole defendant in the complaint and alleged liability based upon the publication of two reports that suggested plaintiff was part of a conspiracy to artificially inflate the sales of a large Chinese aluminum company. Muddy Waters, LLC, doing business as Dupré Analytics (Muddy Waters) responded to the complaint by filing a special motion to strike pursuant to California’s anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute found in Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16. The trial court denied Muddy Waters’s motion on the ground that Muddy Waters failed to show plaintiff’s causes of action arose out of protected activity under section 425.16 and that alternatively, the commercial speech exception found in section 425.17 (c), precluded granting the motion. Muddy Waters petitioned the Court of Appeal for mandamus relief. The Court concluded the trial court erred in denying Muddy Waters’s special motion to strike. Accordingly, the Court ordered a writ of mandate issue directing the superior court to vacate its order denying Muddy Waters’s special motion to strike and to enter a new order granting the motion. View "Muddy Waters v. Superior Court" on Justia Law
Chisum v. Campagna
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
American Contractors Supply, LLC v. HD Supply Construction Supply, Ltd.
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
Area 55 v. Nicholas & Tomasevic
Appellants Area 55, LLC, and SAB Holdings, LLC appealed a trial court order granting the special motion to strike their first amended complaint for malicious prosecution and the related judgment of dismissal in favor of Respondents Nicholas & Tomasevic, LLP (N&T), Craig Nicholas, and Alex Tomasevic. Appellants included the successors to Vinturi, Inc. (Vinturi), which developed and sold the “ ‘Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator’ for wine-lovers who want to enhance their experience of drinking wine.” Vinturi started selling the Vinturi Aerator in 2006. As sold to the public, the box contained the Vinturi body with a decorative black silicone band, a rubber stand, and a filter screen -- parts all made in China, transported to the United States, and assembled in the United States. From 2006 until 2010, Vinturi sold its aerator in the United States with the statement “ ‘VINTURI IS MANUFACTURED IN THE USA’ ” printed on the bottom panel of the box. Attorney Nicholas filed various consumer fraud claims, challenging Appellants claim the aerator was made in the U.S. when the components were made in China. Appellants were successful in getting two class action cases dismissed. In 2018, Appellants filed the present case for malicious prosecution, resulting in the grant of Respondents' "SLAPP" motion on appeal. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred in ruling that Appellants could not establish the prior action was not terminated on its merits. "Thus, for purposes of the anti-SLAPP statute, the court erred in ruling that Appellants did not demonstrate a probability of prevailing on the merits of their malicious prosecution claim." In addition, in its de novo review, the Court exercised discretion to reach the additional issues raised by the parties in the motion and opposition: Appellants made a sufficient prima facie showing of the remaining elements of their claim, and Respondents did not defeat Appellants’ claim as a matter of law. Accordingly, the order granting Respondents’ special motion to strike the complaint was vacated and reversed. On remand, the trial court was directed to enter a new and different order denying Respondents’ special motion. View "Area 55 v. Nicholas & Tomasevic" on Justia Law