A Quarter Pounder tying with Cheese

I would like to refer you to a very interesting (i.e. entertaining) class action – which you can find here. In short, the claim is that McDonald’s Quarter Pounder and Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese constitutes an unlawful tying of Quarter Pounders and … cheese. While a customer may still obtain (single or double) Quarter Pounders without cheese, this is not a listed product in stores and a customer who enters into a physical store in the US will still be forced to pay the price of the (single or double) Quarter Pounder with cheese. This leads to an overcharge of 30 to 90 cents, reflecting the price McDonalds charges for the additional slices of cheese which customers ‘do not want, order, or receive’. I would point out that this requires evidence that McDonald has market power in the market for… fast food? Burgers? Fast-food burgers? Coronary-disease inducers? You may feel that this is a silly class action. But one…

Steven Salop  ‘An Enquiry Meet for the Case: Decision Theory, Presumptions, and Evidentiary Burdens in Formulating Antitrust Legal Standards’

Because legal decisions are adopted with imperfect information, decision-makers must strive to create a decision process and make decisions that are rational in light of the costs and benefits of information-gathering and the inevitable uncertainty under which they decide. Presumptions play an important role in this.  Antitrust law contains a number of important presumptions, which: ‘run the gamut along a continuum from irrebuttable (i.e. conclusive) anticompetitive presumptions to rebuttably anticompetitive to competitively neutral to conclusively procompetitive and finally to irrebuttable procompetitive presumptions. These presumptions are based on the effects inferred from the market conditions’ and most capture the central tendency of the category of conduct to increase or decrease competition and consumer welfare. This paper – which can be found here – seeks to understand, through the lens of economic decision theory, how the appropriate presumption for various categories of conduct should be established, and how rational presumptions and their associated post-rebuttal evidentiary burdens of production and persuasion can be better…

Herbert Hovenkamp ‘Antitrust Balancing’ (2016) NYU J. L. & Bus. 12 369

The basic argument of this paper, which can be found here, is that courts very rarely engage in any balancing even when cases fall under the rule of reason. Most people who are familiar with Hovenkamp’s work will not be particularly surprised by this argument. The interesting claim in this paper is that he thinks that there can be meaningful balancing in merger control – particularly when determining whether merger-induced efficiencies are sufficient to offset upward pricing pressures created by the merger. The paper is structured as follows: A first section looks at balancing under the Sherman Act. It points out that “aside from naked price fixing, market division, and a few boycotts, most agreements among competitors are addressed under the rule of reason”. It then explains (as he has done so many times before) that in practice: “the courts pursue rule of reason analyses through a verbal sequence something like this: first, the plaintiff has the burden to show…

Sven Gallasch ‘Activating Actavis in Europe – the proposal of a ‘structured effects-based’ analysis for pay for delay agreements’ (2016) Legal Studies 36(4) 683

This article – which can be found here – criticises the adoption of a ‘by-object’ approach in the EU for pay-for-delay agreements, and argues that Europe should instead adopt a test along the lines of the rule of reason approach delineated by the US Supreme Court’s decision in Actavis. This paper is structured as follows: Section 2 compares the EU and US regulatory frameworks. While broadly consistent with the papers above, this paper emphasises two points which merit attention. First, it is pointed out that the existence of a period of exclusivity for the first generic entry can, when coupled with the possibility of the generic supplier settling a patent validity claim with the branded drug originator, skew the incentives of the parties in favour of settlement to the disadvantage of final consumers. Instead of solving the patent dispute in court, the parties settle their dispute. The generic company is nonetheless granted the 180 days of generic exclusivity. The parties…

Herbert Hovenkamp ‘Reasonable Patent Exhaustion’ (2018) University of Pennsylvania Law School Faculty Scholarship. 1790

Exhaustion is a typical figure of IP and competition law (and, in the EU, of free movement law as well). The principle is relatively straightforward: after a certain point, restrictions on use or sale of a product cannot be enforced by someone who would otherwise have the right to enforce such restrictions. Exhaustion is often also called the first sale doctrine, as the right to object to the use or sale of a product usually ends after the product is sold for the first time. For example, when someone grants a patent license to another person, the exhaustion rule says that the patentee may not by impose conditions on the patented product’s subsequent use or sale, nor enforce these conditions through a patent infringement suit. This paper – which can be found here –  provides an analysis of a recent US Supreme Court’s decision: Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc., 581 U.S. 1523 (2017). The case concerned a patent…

Mark Anderson and Max Huffman, ‘The Sharing Economy Meets the Sherman Act: Is Uber a Firm, a Cartel, or Something in Between?’ (2017) Columbia Business Law Review 859

This is a rather long piece – which you can find here – that tries to understand how antitrust should be applied in the context of the sharing economy. I think the spur for this piece is the recent price-fixing case brought against Uber in New York. Regardless of the incentives for writing the paper, it tries to identify the various approaches that antitrust can adopt regarding digital platforms and to determine which one is better suited. The paper also argues that: “Unique to sharing economy enterprises is a structure that approaches a single entity while remaining a set of agreements among individual actors. This structure results in a sharing of economic risks among the participants in a sharing economy enterprise which can incentivize efficiencies in operation that ordinarily are found in a single entity. The article concludes that those efficiencies can overcome anticompetitive concerns about coordination on competitively sensitive matters.” The paper begins by observing that: “antitrust law has…

Alison Jones ‘ Antitrust Appraisal of Vertical Agreements in the ASEAN Economic Community’ in Ong (ed.) The Regionalisation of Competition Law and Policy within the ASEAN Economic Community (2018, CUP)

This paper – which you can find here – looks at the different approaches to vertical agreements across ASEAN. The paper draws on practice and experience in the US and EU to consider whether, and if so how, the approach to vertical agreements under the competition law systems of ASEAN countries should be changed in order to ensure a more coherent policy across the region. Following an introduction, Section 2 examines how divergent national policies towards vertical agreements in ASEAN might be damaging competition, efficiency and market integration, and why greater convergence around a harmonised framework might be desirable. It begins by reviewing the outlines of the ASEAN single market and by assessing the role of competition law for its development. It devotes particular attention to the treatment of vertical agreements, which are subject to a spectrum of radically different approaches across the region – from only vertical agreements by dominant companies being subject to competition law in Singapore and…

Alison Jones and William E. Kovacic ‘Identifying Anticompetitive Agreements in the United States and the European Union – Developing a Coherent Antitrust Analytical Framework’ (2017) Antitrust Bulletin 62(2) 254

This is a very substantial paper on the appropriate analytical framework for identifying anticompetitive agreements . It can be found here. The paper focuses on how the debate on rules and standards, and on the balance of Type I and Type II errors, affects the analytical framework for identifying infringing agreements in the US and EU. From their standpoint, these debates have been influential in discussions about how to identify anticompetitive unilateral practices and mergers, but have not been relevant for similar discussions regarding horizontal agreements. Also, from their point of view: “the question of how agreements are to be analysed under both the US and the EU jurisprudence is also unduly opaque; it is frequently difficult to ascertain whether agreements, including joint venture and other horizontal collaboration and distribution agreements, are compatible with the law. In particular, confusion about the role and scope of per se rules, the role and scope of ancillary restraint doctrines, and how competing anti- and…

Thibault Schrepel ‘A New Structured Rule of Reason Approach For High-Tech Markets’

This paper attacks, the assumption that a number of practices in high tech markets should be presumed to be legal. It was published in the Suffolk University Law Review, and can be found here. It seeks to build on Easterbrook’s framework for designing efficient antitrust rules, and to develop a structured rule of reason framework that could apply to the new economy.  It does this by: (i)  distinguishing between per se rules and rule of reason standards; (ii)  reviewing the arguments for and against the adoption of per se rules, in order to explain why per se rules are not appropriate for high tech markets; (iii) lastly, developing an approach that replaces per se rules with an “administrable” structured rule of reason applicable in innovation and high tech markets whenever “the practice has not proven to be pro-competitive in every case”. The paper provides a decent overview of the discussion about rules and standards in antitrust. Further, it makes one…