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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for CES in a class action alleging that natural gas companies colluded to fix retail natural gas prices in Wisconsin. CES, a wholly owned subsidiary of Reliant, asserted that it acted innocently and without knowledge of its parent company's price-fixing scheme. The panel held that Supreme Court precedent established that a parent and a wholly owned subsidiary always have a unity of purpose and thus act as a single enterprise whenever they engage in coordinated activity. Copperweld Corp. v. Indep. Tube Corp., 467 U.S. 752 (1984). In this case, plaintiffs raised a triable issue of CES's anticompetitive intent; plaintiffs' evidence was sufficient to raise a triable issue of whether CES knowingly acted to further the alleged price-fixing scheme; any knowledge of the alleged price-fixing scheme that CES's directors and officers acquired while concurrently acting as directors or officers of the other Reliant companies was imputable to CES as a matter of Wisconsin law; and plaintiffs submitted sufficient evidence to raise a genuine issue under the Sherman Act – and Wisconsin Statute 133.03(1) – as to whether CES participated in coordinated activity in furtherance of the alleged inter-enterprise price-fixing conspiracy. View "Arandell Corp. v. CenterPoint Energy Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in an action alleging that defendants conspired to boycott Anderson and drive it out of business, in violation of section 1 of the Sherman Act. The court reviewed the evidence in light of the totality of the circumstances and under the "tends to exclude" standard under Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 588 (1986), and held that the district court correctly ruled that Anderson failed to offer sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could infer that defendants entered into such an unlawful agreement. In this case, defendants refused to pay Anderson's proposed delivery surcharge and found other wholesalers to deliver their magazines. The court also held that the district court correctly ruled that defendants did not suffer an antitrust injury and thus lacked antitrust standing to pursue counterclaims. View "Anderson News, LLC v. American Media, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of Respondents on Appellants’ claim that Respondents conspired with a third party to obtain exclusive franchise agreements with the City of Reno for the collection of waste and recyclable materials, holding that Appellants lacked standing to assert their claim under the Nevada Unfair Trade Practice Act (UTPA) because they were unable to show that they suffered any injuries. Appellants claimed that Respondents’ conspiracy with the third party precluded them from receiving a franchise agreement with the City. The district court concluded that, in terms of damages, Appellants lacked standing to assert a UTPA claim because they were not qualified to service a franchise zone, they never sought to be considered for a franchise zone, and the City determined that they were not qualified waste haulers. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellants lacked antitrust standing because they did not make any showing that they suffered any injuries from Respondents’ alleged conspiracy. View "Nevada Recycling & Salvage, Ltd. v. Reno Disposal Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Professional golf caddies filed suit against the PGA Tour after it required them to wear bibs containing advertisements at professional golfing events. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of all claims with prejudice, holding that the caddies consented to wearing the bibs and that they did not do so under economic duress. Therefore, the caddies failed to state claims for breach of contract and quasi-contract relief, California state law publicity claims, a Lanham Act false endorsement claim, or a plausible economic duress claim. The panel also held that the caddies failed to allege plausibly that the Tour secured their consent through economic duress, and thus the district court properly dismissed the antitrust claims for failure to state a relevant market and the California unfair competition claims for failure to plead that any of the Tour's conduct was unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent. The panel remanded to allow the district court to reconsider whether to grant the caddies leave to amend their federal antitrust and California unfair competition claims. View "Hicks v. PGA Tour, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in this dispute between Associated Management Services, Inc. (AMS) and Daniel R. Ruff and Ruff Software, Inc. (collectively, Ruff) over the parties’ relative rights regarding the web-based payroll processing software, TimeTracker, developed by Ruff and licensed to AMS. The district court granted summary judgment to Ruff on AMS’s claims and granted summary judgment to AMS on Ruff’s counterclaims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in ruling that the 2008 licensing agreement was valid and enforceable and that AMS had no right to TimeTracker other than as provided under the terms of the agreement; (2) correctly granted summary judgment on the Ruff counterclaims for breach of the licensing agreement, tortious conversion, contract and tortious misappropriation of intellectual property, violation of the Montana Uniform Trade Secrets Act, tortious interference with business relations or prospective economic advantage, and unjust enrichment; and (3) did not abuse its discretion in denying Ruff’s second motion to compel or claim for attorney fees. View "Associated Management Services, Inc. v. Ruff" on Justia Law

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Xlear, Inc. and Focus Nutrition, LLC were both in the business of selling sweeteners that used the sugar alcohol xylitol. Xlear filed a complaint raising a trade dress infringement claim under the Lanham Act, a claim under the Utah Truth in Advertising Act (UTIAA), and a claim under the common law for unfair competition. The claims all alleged that Focus Nutrition copied the packaging Xlear used for one of its sweetener products. Focus Nutrition moved to dismiss Xlear’s Lanham Act claim. At a hearing on Focus Nutrition’s motion to dismiss, the district court judge made several comments questioning the validity of Xlear’s Lanham Act claim but, ultimately, denied the motion. Following the hearing, the parties, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(ii), stipulated to the dismissal of all claims with prejudice. Under the stipulation, the parties reserved the right to seek attorneys’ fees and Focus Nutrition exercised its right by filing a motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54 to recover its fees under the Lanham Act and the UTIAA. The district court concluded that Focus Nutrition was a prevailing party under both the Lanham Act and the UTIAA, and that Focus Nutrition was entitled to all of its requested fees. On appeal, Xlear raised five challenges to the district court’s order. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s award of attorneys’ fees under the Lanham Act because Focus Nutrition was not a prevailing party under federal law. As to the UTIAA, the Court vacated the district court’s award of attorneys’ fees and remanded for further proceedings to permit the district court to analyze the factors governing prevailing party status under Utah law and, if the court concluded Focus Nutrition was a prevailing party under the UTIAA, to determine what portion of the requested fees Focus Nutrition incurred in defense of the UTIAA claim and the reasonableness of the requested fees. View "Xlear v. Focus Nutrition" on Justia Law

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Deppe, a punter, enrolled at Northern Illinois University (NIU), a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I school, in 2014 without an athletic scholarship. Deppe decided to “red shirt” his first year; he practiced with the team but did not compete, so the clock did not run on his four years of NCAA athletic eligibility. In 2015 NIU signed another punter, so he looked for a new program. Coaches at the University of Iowa, another Division I school, told Deppe they wanted him if he would be eligible to compete during the 2016–2017 season. The NCAA indicated that under its year-in-residence rule, Deppe would be ineligible to compete for one year following his transfer. An exception permitting a one-time transfer with immediate athletic eligibility in limited circumstances was unavailable to Deppe. A player who transfers under extenuating circumstances may obtain a waiver of the NCAA’s requirement that a student’s four years of playing time be completed in five calendar years; the school to which he transfers must initiate the process. Iowa's football staff notified Deppe that the team had decided to pursue another punter who had immediate eligibility and would not initiate the process for him. Deppe sued the NCAA on behalf of himself and a proposed class alleging violations of the Sherman Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. The year-in-residence requirement is an eligibility rule clearly meant to preserve the amateur character of college athletics, is therefore presumptively procompetitive, and need not be tested for anticompetitive effect under a full rule-of-reason analysis. View "Deppe v. National Collegiate Athletic Association" on Justia Law

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The Amex credit card companies use a two-sided transaction platform to serve cardholders and merchants. Unlike traditional markets, two-sided platforms exhibit “indirect network effects,” because the value of the platform to one group depends on how many members of another group participate. Two-sided platforms must take these effects into account before making a change in price on either side, or they risk creating a feedback loop of declining demand. Visa and MasterCard have structural advantages over Amex. Amex focuses on cardholder spending rather than cardholder lending. To encourage cardholder spending, Amex provides better rewards than the other credit-card companies. Amex continually invests in its cardholder rewards program and must charge merchants higher fees than its rivals. To avoid higher fees, merchants sometimes attempt to dissuade cardholders from using Amex cards (steering). Amex places anti-steering provisions in its contracts with merchants. The Supreme Court affirmed the Second Circuit in rejecting claims that Amex violated section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, which prohibits "unreasonable restraints” of trade. Applying the "rule of reason" three-step burden-shifting framework, the Court concluded the plaintiffs did not establish that Amex’s anti-steering provisions have a substantial anticompetitive effect that harms consumers in the relevant market. Evidence of a price increase on one side of a two-sided transaction platform cannot, by itself, demonstrate an anticompetitive exercise of market power; plaintiffs must prove that Amex’s anti-steering provisions increased the cost of credit-card transactions above a competitive level, reduced the number of credit-card transactions, or otherwise stifled competition. They offered no evidence that the price of credit-card transactions was higher than the price one would expect in a competitive market. Amex’s increased merchant fees reflect increases in the value of its services and the cost of its transactions, not an ability to charge above a competitive price. The Court noted that Visa and MasterCard’s merchant fees have continued to increase, even where Amex is not accepted. The market actually experienced expanding output and improved quality. View "Ohio v. American Express Co." on Justia Law

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Defendants are the nation’s largest distributors of pre-filled propane exchange tanks, which come in a standard size. Before 2008, Defendants filled the tanks with 17 pounds of propane. In 2008, due to rising prices, Defendants reduced the amount in each tato 15 pounds, maintaining the same price. Plaintiffs, indirect purchasers, who bought tanks from retailers, claimed this effectively raised the price. In 2009, plaintiffs filed a class action alleging conspiracy under the Sherman Act. Plaintiffs settled with both Defendants. In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission issued a complaint against Defendants, which settled in 2015 by consent orders, for conspiring to artificially inflate tank prices. In 2014, another group of indirect purchasers (Ortiz) brought a class action against Defendants, alleging: “Despite their settlements, Defendants continued to conspire, and ... maintained their illegally agreed-upon fill levels, preserving the unlawfully inflated prices." The Ortiz suit became part of a multidistrict proceeding that included similar allegations by direct purchasers (who bought tanks directly from Defendants for resale). The Eighth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the direct-purchaser suit as time-barred, holding that each sale in a price-fixing conspiracy starts the statutory period running again. The court subsequently held that the indirect purchasers inadequately pled an injury-in-fact and lack standing to pursue an injunction to increase the fill levels of the tanks and may not seek disgorgement of profits. View "Ortiz v. Ferrellgas Partners, L.P." on Justia Law

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Purchasers of vitamin C filed suit, alleging that Chinese exporters had agreed to fix the price and quantity of vitamin C exported to the U.S., in violation of the Sherman Act. The exporters unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the complaint and later sought summary judgment, arguing that Chinese law required them to fix the price and quantity of exports, shielding them from liability under U.S. antitrust law. China’s Ministry of Commerce, the authority authorized to regulate foreign trade, asserted that the alleged conspiracy was actually a pricing regime mandated by the Chinese Government. The purchasers countered that the Ministry had identified no law or regulation requiring the agreement; highlighted a publication announcing that the sellers had agreed to control the quantity and rate of exports without government intervention; and noted China’s statement to the World Trade Organization that it ended its export administration of vitamin C in 2002. The Second Circuit reversed a verdict for the purchasers, stating that federal courts are “bound to defer” to the foreign government’s construction of its own law, whenever that construction is “reasonable.” The Supreme Court vacated. A federal court determining foreign law under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 44.1 should accord respectful consideration to a foreign government’s submission, but is not bound to accord conclusive effect to such statements. Relevant considerations include the clarity, thoroughness, and support of the foreign government's statement; its context and purpose; the transparency of the foreign legal system; the role and authority of the entity or official offering the statement; and the statement’s consistency with the foreign government’s past positions. Determination of foreign law must be treated as a question of law; courts are not limited to materials submitted by the parties, but “may consider any relevant material or source.” View "Animal Science Products, Inc. v. Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co." on Justia Law