Articles Posted in Antitrust & Trade Regulation

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LifeWatch is one of the two largest sellers of telemetry monitors, a type of outpatient cardiac monitoring devices used to diagnose and treat heart arrhythmias, which may signal or lead to more serious medical complications. An arrhythmia can be without noticeable symptoms. Other outpatient cardiac monitors also record the electrical activity of a patient’s heart to catch any instance of an arrhythmia but they vary in price, method of data capture, and mechanism by which the data are transmitted for diagnosis. LifeWatch sued the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and five of its member insurance plan administrators under the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, claiming they impermissibly conspired to deny coverage of telemetry monitors as “not medically necessary” or “investigational,” although the medical community, other insurers, and independent arbiters viewed it as befitting the standard of care. The Third Circuit reversed the dismissal of the complaint. LifeWatch plausibly stated a claim and has antitrust standing. That so many sophisticated third parties allegedly view telemetry monitors as medically necessary or meeting the standard of care undercuts Blue Cross’s theory that nearly three dozen Plans independently made the opposite determination for 10 consecutive years. Read in the light most favorable to LifeWatch, the complaint alleges competition among all outpatient cardiac monitors such that they are plausibly within the same product market. LifeWatch has alleged actual anticompetitive effects in the relevant market. View "Lifewatch Services Inc. v. Highmark, Inc." on Justia Law

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Philadelphia taxicabs were required to have a medallion and a certificate of public convenience, which required that vehicles be insured and in proper condition, and mandated that drivers be paid the prevailing minimum wage, be proficient in English, and have appropriate drivers’ licenses. In 2014, 1610 medallions were each worth about $545,000. Uber began operating in Philadelphia without securing medallions or certificates, providing an app to schedule and pay for a ride. Uber does not own or assume responsibility for the vehicles, nor does it hire drivers. A 2016 Pennsylvania law approved Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) using digital apps. TNCs must obtain licenses and comply with insurance and safety standards but set their own fares. Medallion taxicab companies comply with established rates, minimum wages, and have a limited number of vehicles. Nearly 1200 Philadelphia medallion taxicab drivers left their companies to drive for Uber. Medallion taxi rides reduced by about 30 percent. The value of each medallion dropped to approximately $80,000. Taxicab drivers sued under the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 2. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. Inundating the market with Uber vehicles, even if it eliminated competitors, was not anticompetitive; it bolstered competition by offering customers lower prices, more availability, and a high-tech alternative to customary practices. Uber’s ability to operate at a lower cost is not anticompetitive. Uber’s business model does not reflect specific intent to monopolize. Plaintiffs also failed to allege antitrust standing. View "Philadelphia Taxi Association, Inc. v. Uber Technologies Inc" on Justia Law

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Purchasers of egg products accused suppliers of conspiring to reduce the supply of eggs and increase the price for egg products in violation of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1. Plaintiffs alleged that the producers conspired to reduce the population of egg-laying hens, resulting in a reduced supply of eggs and, given the inelasticity of demand, supra-competitive prices. A trade association coordinated a certification program under which participants had to increase their cage sizes and not replace hens that died. Plaintiffs alleged that the proffered animal welfare rationale was a pretext to reduce supply. The district court, citing a bar on indirect purchaser actions, concluded that the purchaser-plaintiffs lacked standing. The Third Circuit reversed. As a matter of first impression, a direct purchaser of a product that includes a price-fixed input has antitrust standing to pursue a claim against the party that sold the product to the purchaser, where the seller is a participant in the price-fixing conspiracy, but the product also includes some price-fixed input supplied by a third-party non-conspirator. The direct relationship between the purchasers and their suppliers and the fact that the suppliers are alleged price-fixing conspirators, not merely competitors of those conspirators, are key factors. Regardless of who collected the overcharge, the purchasers’ econometric analysis purports to show the “difference between the actual [supracompetitive] price and the presumed competitive price” of the egg products they purchased. This purported difference, and the purchasers’ resulting injury, was allegedly a direct and intended result of the suppliers’ conspiracy. View "In Re: Processed Egg Products Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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Titanium dioxide is a commodity-like product with no substitutes, the market is dominated by a few firms, and there are substantial barriers to entry. Valspar, a large-scale titanium dioxide purchaser, alleges that suppliers conspired to increase prices, beginning when DuPont—the largest American supplier—joined the Titanium Dioxide Manufacturers Association (TDMA) in 2002. DuPont then announced a price increase. Within two weeks, DuPont’s price increase was matched by other suppliers. During the next 12 years, the alleged conspirators announced price increases 31 times. Because Valspar claims it was overcharged by $176 million. In 2010, a class of titanium dioxide purchasers filed a price-fixing action. Valspar opted out of that class action, which settled. Valspar then filed its own claim and settled except against DuPont. The Third Circuit affirmed the summary judgment in favor of DuPont. Valspar’s characterization of the suppliers’ price announcements “neglects the theory of conscious parallelism” and is contrary to the doctrine that in an oligopoly “any rational decision must take into account the anticipated reaction of the other . . . firms.” Price movement in an oligopoly is interdependent and frequently will lead to successive price increases, because oligopolists may “conclude that the industry as a whole would be better off by raising prices.” Valspar did not show that the suppliers’ parallel pricing went “beyond mere interdependence [and was] so unusual that in the absence of advance agreement, no reasonable firm would have engaged in it.” View "Valspar Corp v. E I Du Pont De Nemours & Co" on Justia Law

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Consolidated appeals involve allegations that the patent-holders for Lipitor and Effexor XR delayed entry into the market by generic versions of those drugs by engaging in a monopolistic scheme that involved fraudulently procuring and enforcing the underlying patents, then entering into a reverse-payment settlement agreement with a generic manufacturer. In 2013, the Supreme Court recognized that reverse payment schemes can violate antitrust laws and that it is normally not necessary to litigate patent validity to answer the antitrust question. The district judge dismissed several claims. The Third Circuit remanded after rejecting an argument that plaintiffs’ allegations required transfer of the appeals to the Federal Circuit, which has exclusive jurisdiction over appeals from civil actions “arising under” patent law, 28 U.S.C. 1295(a)(1). Not all cases presenting questions of patent law necessarily arise under patent law; here, patent law neither creates plaintiffs’ cause of action nor is a necessary element to any of plaintiffs’ claims. Plaintiffs plausibly allege the existence of agreements between the patent holders and the generic manufacturers. The court remanded one of the Lipitor appeals, brought by California pharmacists, and involving claims solely under California law, for determination of whether remand to state court was appropriate. The Lipitor plaintiffs made plausible allegations of fraudulent patent procurement and enforcement, and other related misconduct. View "In re: Lipitor Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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Direct purchasers of Wellbutrin XL, a drug for treating depression, sued, alleging that GSK violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by entering into an unlawful conspiracy with Biovail, GSK’s partner in the development of Wellbutrin XL, to delay the launch of generic versions of the drug. Indirect-purchasers asserted similar theories under state law. The purchasers claim that GSK delayed the launch of generic versions by supporting baseless patent infringement suits and a baseless FDA Citizen Petition aimed at generic drug companies and by entering into an unlawful reverse payment settlement agreement with potential competitors. The district court granted GSK summary judgment, finding insufficient evidence that GSK’s patent litigation was a sham or that the settlement delayed the launch of generic Wellbutrin XL. The court granted GSK’s Daubert motion to exclude the testimony of the purchasers’ economic expert; decertified the indirect-purchaser class for lack of ascertainability; dismissed the indirect-purchaser claims brought under the laws of states that were not the home of a named class representative; and denied Aetna’s motion to intervene. The Third Circuit affirmed. After considering the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision, FTC v. Actavis, the court concluded that the purchasers failed to establish a genuine dispute of fact either as to whether GSK engaged in sham litigation or whether GSK’s actions delayed the launch of generic Wellbutrin XL. View "In re: Wellbutrin XL Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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The consolidated appeals involve allegations that the companies holding the patents for Lipitor and Effexor XR delayed entry into the market by generic versions of those drugs by engaging in an overarching monopolistic scheme that involved fraudulently procuring and enforcing the underlying patents and then entering into a reverse-payment settlement agreement with a generic manufacturer. In 2013, the Supreme Court recognized that reverse payment schemes can violate antitrust laws and that it is normally not necessary to litigate patent validity to answer the antitrust question. The district judge dismissed most of plaintiffs’ claims. The Third Circuit remanded after rejecting an argument that plaintiffs’ allegations required transfer of the appeals to the Federal Circuit, which has exclusive jurisdiction over appeals from civil actions “arising under” patent law, 28 U.S.C. 1295(a)(1). Not all cases presenting questions of patent law necessarily arise under patent law; here, patent law neither creates plaintiffs’ cause of action nor is a necessary element to any of plaintiffs’ well-pleaded claims. The court remanded one of the Lipitor appeals, brought by a group of California pharmacists and involving claims solely under California law, for jurisdictional discovery and determination of whether remand to state court was appropriate. View "In re: Lipitor Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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Edinboro, a Pennsylvania public university, collaborated with Edinboro University Foundation, a nonprofit entity, to construct new dormitories. In 2008, the Foundation amended its Articles of Incorporation to authorize borrowing funds “to acquire, lease, construct, develop and/or manage real or personal property.” The University leased property to the Foundation in a favorable location; the Foundation issued bonds to raise the funds and completed construction. Since 1989, the University required non-commuting first-year and transfer students to reside on-campus for two consecutive semesters. Two and one-half years after the first phase of the new dormitories opened, the University amended its policy to require certain students to reside on-campus for four consecutive semesters. Businesses that provide off-campus housing sued, asserting that the University and the Foundation conspired to monopolize the student housing market in violation of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 2. Plaintiffs did not sue the University, conceding that it is an arm of the state subject to Eleventh Amendment immunity. The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal. The University’s actions are not categorically “sovereign” for purposes of “Parker” immunity, so the court employed heightened scrutiny, citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Town of Hallie v. City of Eau Claire, (1985), which requires anticompetitive conduct to conform to a clearly articulated state policy. The University’s conduct withstands Hallie scrutiny. The Foundation’s actions were directed by the University, so the Foundation is also immune. View "Edinboro College Park Apartments v. Edinboro University Foundation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs used ocean common carriers to transport vehicles between foreign countries and the United States. Direct purchaser plaintiffs made arrangements with and received vehicles directly from the carriers, while indirect purchaser plaintiffs obtained the benefit of the carrier services by ultimately receiving vehicles transported from abroad. In 2012, law enforcement raided the offices of Defendants, ocean common carriers, in connection with antitrust investigations. Several Defendants pleaded pleaded guilty to antitrust violations based on price-fixing, allocating customers, and rigging bids for vehicle carrier services. Plaintiffs filed suit, alleging that Defendants entered into agreements to fix prices and reduce capacity in violation of federal antitrust laws and state laws. The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal of the case. Defendants allegedly engaged in acts prohibited by the Shipping Act of 1984, 46 U.S.C. 40101, which both precludes private plaintiffs from seeking relief under the federal antitrust laws for such conduct and preempts the state law claims under circumstances like those at issue. The Act responds to “the need to foster a regulatory environment in which U.S.-flag liner operators are not placed at a competitive disadvantage vis-a-vis their foreign-flag competitors.” The Federal Maritime Commission has regulatory authority displacing private suits. View "In re: Vehicle Carrier Services Antitrust Litigations" on Justia Law

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A large communications equipment manufacturer, Avaya, and its dealer and service provider, TLI had a falling out. Avaya subsequently aggressively acted to block TLI from providing independent maintenance services for Avaya equipment. Meanwhile, the newly-independent TLI took various “legally dubious actions” to gain access to Avaya communications systems used by clients the parties once shared. Avaya filed suit, alleging several business torts and breach of contract; TLI counter-sued for antitrust violations. After years of pre-trial litigation, and in the midst of a months-long trial, the district court granted TLI’s motion for judgment as a matter of law on all of Avaya’s affirmative claims. The court later instructed the jury that none of TLI’s actions could be considered unlawful. The jury found Avaya liable for two antitrust violations and awarded substantial damages. The Third Circuit vacated. Given how intertwined the two sides’ claims are, and given that Avaya’s antitrust defense relied in large part on justifying Avaya’s conduct as a response to TLI’s conduct, the erroneous Rule 50 judgment infected the jury’s verdict. View "Avaya Inc v. Telecom Labs Inc" on Justia Law