March 26, 2010

Senate Judiciary Committee Votes To Overturn Supreme Court On Resale Price Maintenance

The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to overturn the Supreme Court decision that gave the green light to resale price maintenance.

The Committee has passed S. 148, the “Discount Pricing Consumer Protection Act.”  This bill would reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in Leegin Creative Leather Products, Inc. v. PSKS, Inc., 551 U.S. 887 (2007).  Leegin overruled a 1911 Supreme Court decision holding that resale price maintenance was per se illegal.

Under Leegin, resale price maintenance is judged under the rule of reason.  Under S. 148, resale price maintenance would again be treated as a per se violation.   

A link to the archived webcast of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s markup can be found here

On January 13, 2010, the House Judiciary Committee passed similar legislation, H.R. 3190, by voice vote.  

A link to the archived webcast of the House Judiciary Committee’s markup can be found here.  At this time neither the House nor the Senate has scheduled floor action on the respective bills. 

For further information on Leegin repeal legislation, see our earlier posts.

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Categories: Antitrust Legislation, Legislative Updates

    March 24, 2010

    DOJ Casts Deciding Ballot To Restore Competition In Voting Machine Market

    The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking to restore competition in the voting machine market by requiring Election Systems & Software, the country’s largest seller of computerized voting machines, to undo much of its recent merger with Diebold.  DOJ will allow this merger of the nation’s two largest sellers of such machines to survive only if the combined company divests itself of the product lines it acquired.

    Back in September, we wrote about a private antitrust suit filed challenging this merger.

    In the merger, Election Systems & Software, the country’s largest seller of voting machines, bought the voting machine unit of the country’s number-two biggest seller, Diebold.  Diebold, of course, made some news back in 2003, when its CEO announced that he would “deliver” Ohio for George W. Bush in the 2004 election.  Not surprisingly, this comment made people take a close look at the electronic voting machine systems that have become standard fare since the epic election courtroom battles that took place during the 2000 presidential election and culminated in the Supreme Court’s Bush v. Gore decision. 

    Last September, when privately held ESS took over Diebold’s voting equipment unit (called Premier), competitor Hart Intercivic Inc. cried foul, claiming that the merged company would control two thirds of the voting machine market in the country.

    DOJ is stating that it will permit the merger to continue only if ESS sells “all of the intellectual property associated with all versions – past, present and in development – of the [Diebold] voting equipment systems to another company,” according to the DOJ’s press release.  “ESS also must divest all Premier tolling and fixed assets, as well as inventory of parts and components.”  But that does not mean that the merger was pointless.  Justice’s press release states that the conditions affect only ESS’s ability “to produce” voting systems.  According to The Wall Street Journal, ESS may still have the right to service the machines. click here for more »

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement

      March 18, 2010

      Aerotec Alleges Honeywell Blocks It From Leaving For Jet Plane Repairs

      Aerotec International Inc. is alleging Honeywell International Inc. is using its market power to eliminate competition for jet airplane auxiliary power unit repairs in an antirust complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.

      The dispute involves small gas turbine engines called auxiliary power units, or “APUs,” that provide power for auxiliary functions on jet airplanes including power to start the engines and power for the flight and environmental control systems. 

      Honeywell is a manufacturer of APU original equipment and parts.  Aerotec is a provider of repair services for APUs. 

      Aerotec claims that Honeywell has denied it access to APU parts, repair data and technical information.  Aerotec also alleges that Honeywell has an 80 percent share of the market for the manufacture and sale of APUs and uses exclusive multi-year APU service agreements with customers who buy aircraft containing Honeywell equipment.  The agreements allegedly prohibit customers from using non-Honeywell replacement parts or obtaining repairs from anyone other than Honeywell.  Aerotec claims that these actions violate federal and state antitrust laws and is seeking treble damages and an injunction to prevent Honeywell from continuing the practices.

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      Categories: Antitrust Law and Monopolies

        March 10, 2010

        Federal Circuit Mulls Diving Into Patent Pool Case With Antitrust Analysis

        Will a federal court of appeals send modern antitrust analysis diving into the deep end of a patent pool case to determine whether a jointly-developed standard should be considered patent misuse?

        On March 3, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit sat en banc to consider how to apply the patent misuse doctrine to patent pooling arrangements for standardized technologies, including the significance of evidence of anticompetitive effects such as the blocking the development of new technologies.

        At issue in Princo v. U.S. International Trade Commission is whether it was patent misuse for a patent pool established by Philips, Sony and others to both include a potentially blocking patent that was not actually used in the standard and preclude that patent from being licensed outside the pool. 

        Philips and Sony agreed to jointly develop a standard for recordable and rewritable compact discs (known as the “Orange Book”).  In developing the standard, they did not jointly develop any technology.  Rather, they used technologies each independently had developed.  In one instance, they chose one of two competing methods.  The Sony patent not chosen was, by some accounts, not commercially feasible.  However, an independent patent analyst believed one claim of the Sony patent could read more generally on the standard and, thus, block Orange Book adopters from practicing the standard.  Therefore, Philips determined to include the Sony patent in the pool, and subjected Sony to the pool’s requirement not to license the patent for use outside the Orange Book standard. click here for more »

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Legislation

          March 5, 2010

          They Issue Second Requests For Horseracing Mergers, Don’t They?

          The U.S. Department of Justice is pulling hard on the reins to slow down a proposed merger between Churchill Downs, the famous racetrack home to the Kentucky Derby, and Youbet.com, an online horseracing gambling website.

          The DOJ has issued the companies a “second request” under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act for additional information on the proposed merger. 

          Second requests are rare, and dramatically increase the transaction costs associated with a merger.  Some merger agreements even contain provisions that terminate the merger in the event of a second request.

          That doesn’t appear to be the case in the Churchill Downs-Youbet.com merger, however.  Churchill Downs’s CEO recently stated he expects the deal to finish the second quarter of 2010.  Youbet.com has scheduled a special meeting of stockholders on April 6 to vote on the planned merger.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement

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