Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion Summaries

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The Intellectual Ventures (IV) patents are directed to tracking and storing information relating to a user’s purchases and expenses; methods and systems for providing customized Internet content to a user as a function of user-specific information and the user’s navigation history; and methods of scanning hardcopy images onto a computer. IV unsuccessfully sued Capital One for infringement in the Eastern District of Virginia and in the District of Maryland. Capital filed antitrust counterclaims, alleging monopolization and attempted monopolization (Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 2) and unlawful acquisition of assets (Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18), claiming that IV is principally engaged in the business of acquiring patents and asserting them in litigation. IV acquired approximately 3,500 patents relating to commercial banking and attempted to obtain large licensing fees from banks by threatening infringement suits. Capital alleged that IV concealed the identity of its patents and insisted that banks license IV’s entire portfolio of financial services patents, knowing that many were invalid, unenforceable, and not infringed. The Virginia court dismissed the antitrust counterclaims for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The Maryland district court granted summary judgment against Capital on all the antitrust claims. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Maryland holding, citing collateral estoppel. The Virginia decision that Capital failed to plausibly allege a proper relevant antitrust market and failed to plausibly allege that IV wields monopoly power within that market was conclusive in the Maryland action. View "Intellectual Ventures I LLC v. Capital One Financial Corp." on Justia Law

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Mountain Crest filed suit alleging that Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors had conspired to damage Mountain Crest's beer exports in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Mountain Crest also alleged that defendants were enriched unjustly in violation of Wisconsin law. At issue was an agreement in 2000 between two Canadian entities, BRI and LCBO, and another agreement in 2015 between defendants, BRI, LCBO, and the government of Ontario. The district court ruled that the act of state doctrine required dismissal of the federal claims and granted defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Seventh Circuit held that the first prong of the act of state doctrine analysis was met because the agreements establishing the six-pack rule were acts of state for the purposes of the doctrine. The court also held that to the extent Mountain Crest attacks the six-pack rule under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, the act of state doctrine was applicable. Furthermore, to the extent Mountain Crest seeks relief under Section 2 of the Sherman Act predicated solely on the six-pack rule, the act of state doctrine clearly precludes the action. However, the Second Amended Complaint also sets out allegations that Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors, acting through their officers and employees, violated the same provisions of the Sherman Act by conspiring to bring about the Ontario government's approval of the six-pack rule. The court held that these allegations did not implicate the act of state doctrine. The court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for the district court to further consider issues it has not addressed. View "Mountain Crest SRL, LLC v. Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting summary judgment for Respondents - Nevada Auto Dealership and its surety company, Corepointe Insurance Company - on Appellant's lawsuit brought under the Nevada Deceptive Trade Practices Act (NDTPA) and Nev. Rev. Stat. 41.600, holding that Appellant presented sufficient evidence to raise genuine issues of material fact under each of his claims. In his complaint, Appellant alleged that Nevada Auto knowingly failed to disclose material facts about a truck that it sold to him and misrepresented the truck's condition. The district court granted summary judgment for Respondents, concluding that Appellant's deceptive trade practices claims and equitable claims all failed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that genuine issues of material fact existed as to each of Appellant's statutory claims. View "Poole v. Nevada Auto Dealership Investments, LLC" on Justia Law

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After a creditor in a closed Chapter 7 bankruptcy case tried for a third time to bring a price-fixing claim against BMS, the district court granted BMS's motion to dismiss. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the creditor did not participate in the market for bankruptcy software services in any way that would make it a proper plaintiff to bring an antitrust claim against a firm that provides those services to bankruptcy trustees. Therefore, the creditor's injury was entirely derivative of the estate's injury and merely derivative injuries sustained by creditors of an injured company did not constitute antitrust injury sufficient to confer antitrust standing. View "McGarry & McGarry, LLC v. Bankruptcy Management Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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Affliction Holdings, LLC (“Affliction”) sued Utah Vap or Smoke, LLC (“Utah Vap”) alleging trademark infringement. The district court granted Utah Vap’s motion for summary judgment, holding there was no likelihood of confusion between the parties’ marks. The Tenth Circuit concluded after review of the marks that Utah Vap did not meet its burden of showing that "no reasonable juror could find [a] likelihood of confusion." Because a genuine issue of material fact exists as to the likelihood of initial interest and post-sale confusion between the marks, the Court reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. View "Affliction Holdings v. Utah Vap Or Smoke" on Justia Law

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In three consolidated actions, plaintiffs challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants and dismissal of their complaints alleging violations of Section 1 of the Sherman Act through a conspiracy to inflate prices in the primary aluminum market. The Second Circuit held that the district court erred by determining that plaintiffs failed to establish antitrust standing under In re Aluminum Warehousing Antitrust Litig. (Aluminum III), 833 F.3d 151 (2d Cir. 2016). The court held that the circumstances of these plaintiffs differed materially from those involved in Aluminum III, and the rationale of Aluminum III did not apply to their complaints. In this case, the evidence adduced by plaintiffs supported their contention that defendants' conspiratorial acts inflated a component of the price of primary aluminum. View "Eastman Kodak, Co. v. Henry Bath LLC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an antitrust action brought by a putative class of residential and commercial subscribers to DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket. NFL Sunday Ticket is a bundled package of all NFL games available exclusively to subscribers of DirecTV's satellite television service. Plaintiffs claimed that DirecTV's arrangement harms NFL fans because it eliminates competition in the market for live telecasts of NFL games. The panel held that, at this preliminary stage, plaintiffs have stated a cause of action for a violation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act that survives a motion to dismiss. In this case, the complaint adequately alleged that DirecTV conspired with the NFL and the NFL Teams to limit the production of telecasts to one per game, and that plaintiffs suffered antitrust injury due to this conspiracy to limit output. The complaint also alleged that defendants conspired to monopolize the market for professional football telecasts and have monopolized it. View "Ninth Inning, Inc. v. DirecTV" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellants' claims of defamation and product disparagement under Nebraska's Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act (UDTPA), Neb. Rev. Stat. 87-301 to 87-306, holding that the district court did not err in finding that Appellees were entitled to summary judgment on Appellants' claims. Appellants were tanning salons that, from 2015 to 2017, allegedly accounted for up to seventy-one percent of the known tanning salons in the Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska markets. Appellees engaged in activities related to cancer education and prevention, focusing in 2014 on the dangers of indoor tanning. In 2015, Appellants filed a complaint alleging violations of the UDTPA for deceptive trade practices and product disparagement and defamation. The district court granted Appellees' motion for summary judgment and dismissed Appellants' claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding that there were no genuine disputes as to any material facts and that Appellees were entitled to summary judgment on Appellants' defamation and product disparagement claims. View "JB & Associates, Inc. v. Nebraska Cancer Coalition" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the Commission's enforcement action against Monex for alleged fraud in precious metals sales. The panel held that the actual delivery exception to the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) was an affirmative defense on which the commodities trader bears the burden of proof. Furthermore, "actual deliver" unambiguously requires the transfer of some degree of possession or control. Furthermore, it was possible for this exception to be satisfied when the commodity sits in a third-party depository, but not when, as here, metals are in the broker's chosen depository, never exchange hands, and are subject to the broker's exclusive control, and customers have no substantial, non-contingent interests. Therefore, because this affirmative defense did not, on the face of the complaint bar the Commission from relief on Counts I, II, and IV, the district court erred in dismissing those claims. The panel also held that, by its terms, section 6(c)(1) of the CEA applies broadly to commodities in interstate commerce, and the Commission may sue for fraudulently deceptive activity, regardless of whether it was also manipulative. Furthermore, when someone violates section 6(c)(1), the Commission can bring an enforcement action. The panel accepted as true the Commission's well-pleaded complaint and held that its claims were plausible, remanding for further proceedings. View "U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission v. Monex Credit Co." on Justia Law

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In 2005 Paramount leased a parcel of highway-adjacent property in Bellwood, Illinois, planning to erect a billboard. Paramount never applied for a local permit. When Bellwood enacted a ban on new billboard permits in 2009, Paramount lost the opportunity to build its sign. Paramount later sought to take advantage of an exception to the ban for village-owned property, offering to lease a different parcel of highway-adjacent property directly from Bellwood. Bellwood accepted an offer from Image, one of Paramount’s competitors. Paramount sued Bellwood and Image, alleging First Amendment, equal-protection, due-process, Sherman Act, and state-law violations. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Paramount lost its lease while the suit was pending, which mooted its claim for injunctive relief from the sign ban. The claim for damages was time-barred, except for an alleged equal-protection violation. That claim failed because Paramount was not similarly situated to Image; Paramount offered Bellwood $1,140,000 in increasing installments over 40 years while Image offered a lump sum of $800,000. Bellwood and Image are immune from Paramount’s antitrust claims. The court did not consider whether a market-participant exception to that immunity exists because Paramount failed to support its antitrust claims. View "Paramount Media Group, Inc. v. Village of Bellwood" on Justia Law