Harry First ‘Excessive Drug Pricing as an Antitrust Violation’ (forthcoming on the Antitrust Law Journal)

In the US, there have been antitrust enforcement efforts against various pharmaceutical practices that elevate price above the competitive level, such as reverse payments (or pay-for-delay), product hopping, and collusion among generic drug manufacturers. However, the conventional wisdom is that U.S. antitrust laws do not forbid high prices simpliciter. This paper argues that the conventional wisdom may be mistaken: Section 1 engages in a general discussion of the problem of high prices and provides two examples of a non-antitrust approach to this problem. The standard antitrust/welfare economics paradigm condemns high prices at least on the grounds of resource misallocation and deadweight welfare loss. Many scholars go beyond deadweight welfare loss concerns, condemning monopoly pricing because of the redistribution of the consumer surplus from consumers to producers, but some are indifferent to this redistribution. There is an additional argument that can be made against high prices, but it is one to which antitrust is often indifferent: high prices can be seen…

Peter Georg Picht  ‘FRAND determination in TCL v. Ericsson and Unwired Planet v. Huawei: Same same but different?’ Max Planck Institute for Innovation & Competition Research Paper No. 18-07

This paper, which can be found here,  compares Unwired Planet/Huawei – a UK case reviewed here, and which appeal was discussed last week – and TCL/Ericsson, a US case. TCL deals with Ericsson-owned SEPs and Ericsson-granted licences, while Unwired Planet focuses on SEPs acquired by Unwired Planet from Ericsson. While looking at similar sets of facts, the courts arrived at different conclusions regarding how to determine FRAND royalty rates. This paper argues that this difference arises from the courts’ take on two core approaches in FRAND royalty calculation – “top-down” and “comparable prior licences” (‘Comparables’). Unwired Planet can be said to have favoured a ‘Comparables’ approach, while TCL looks more favourably at the top-down approach. The paper contends that both methods are important in FRAND licensing, it is unlikely that either a top-down or Comparables approach will – or should – prevail as the obviously best approach to complex cases. The paper is structured as follows: Section II provides the…

Gunther Friedl and Christoph Ann ‘A cost-based approach for calculating royalties for standard-essential patents (SEPs)’(2018) The Journal of World Intellectual Property 21 369

This article, which can be found here, proposes a novel approach for calculating FRAND royalties, based upon average total cost per patent plus a reasonable return for the patent holder. Unlike the methods discussed in the paper above – which focus on the value of a patent – this method is cost-based. The paper is structured as follows: An introductory section explains why standards are important and why FRAND obligations are imposed. A significant increase in the relevance of standards can be predicted in the near future. Industry 4.0 will greatly increase the degree to which industrial processes will depend upon the exchange of information not only between people, but also between toolkits, that is, between “hardware.” The same holds true for a number of new technologies such as autonomous driving, data compression, or 3D printing. Standard-setting organizations (SSOs) are tasked with the development and creation of standards by identifying and selecting the most suitable technologies for the standard. It goes…

Is there a duty to license Standard Essential Patents to competitors? FTC v Qualcomm Case 5:17-cv-00220-LHK C. Nor

This post will discuss a summary judgment by a district court in California – the one responsible for most cases in Silicon Valley – on whether Qualcomm’s refusal to license its Standard Essential Patents (SEPs) to competitors infringed the non-discrimination limb of RAND commitments and, by extension, s. 5 of the FTC Act. The decision is available here. Background Cellular communications depend on widely distributed networks that implement cellular communications standards. These standards promote availability and interoperability of standardized products regardless of geographic boundaries. Standard-setting organizations (“SSOs”) – such as the Telecommunications Industry Association (“TIA”) and the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (“ATIS”) in the United States, and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (“ETSI”) in Europe – have emerged to develop and manage the relevant cellular standards. The cellular communications standards that SSOs develop and adopt may incorporate patented technology. In order to prevent the owner of a patent essential to complying with the standard—the “SEP holder”—from blocking implementation of…

When is a licence FRAND? The Court of Appeal judgment in Unwired Planet v Huawei

This judgment – which can be found here – is on appeal from Unwired Planet v Huawei judgment on the licensing of Standard Essential Patents (SEP) that I reviewed here. The Court of Appeal begins by explaining the link between the potential for anticompetitive abuse of SEPs and the imposition of FRAND licensing terms. After all: ‘the potential for anti-competitive behaviour is obvious. The owner of a SEP has the potential ability to “hold-up” users after the adoption and publication of the standard either by refusing to license the SEP or by extracting excessive royalty fees for its use, and in that way to prevent competitors from gaining effective access to the standard and the part of the telecommunications market to which it relates.’ It then moves on to review the factual background of the case and the High Court’s decision. In short, Unwired Planet acquired patents from Ericson that cover many of the foundational technologies that allow mobile devices…

Sophie Lawrance and Edwin Bond on ‘Reverse-payment’ patent settlement agreements: non-cash value transfers are not immune from competition law scrutiny’ (2018) Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice 13(7) 552

This article – which can be found here – argues that a non-cash value transfer – particularly commitments by the producer of a branded drug not to launch a generic version of its drug – is able to bring a pay-for-delay agreement within the scope of the antitrust prohibition of reverse-payment patent settlement agreements. It does so as follows: The paper first looks at the law in the US as regards non-cash value transfer settlements. In its landmark 2013 FTC v, Actavis decision, the US Supreme Court held that pharmaceutical patent settlements which involve ‘large’ and ‘unexplained’ reverse payments may breach the antitrust rules. However, and as a result of the Supreme Court’s lack of detailed guidance, the lower US courts have in the last few years found themselves considering a fairly basic question: what constitutes a ‘payment’? While a couple of US district courts concluded that patent settlements that do not involve a cash transfer could not constitute unlawful…

Ashish Bharadwaj ‘A note on the neglected issue of reverse patent holdup’. (2018) Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice 13(7) 555

The purpose of this article – which can be found here – is to provide a comparative analysis of EU, US and Indian case law on reverse patent holdup in the context of standard essential patent licensing. The piece is structured as follows: The paper begins with a discussion of patent holdup and reverse holdup in general terms. Technological standards have become ubiquitous. Such standards foster interoperability, avoid inefficient rivalry between competing systems and facilitate competition in downstream product markets. It has been held that firms that commit their patents to a standard – and thereby own standard essential patents (SEPs) for the purposes of that standard – often abuse their dominant position by demanding excessive royalties or by seeking injunctive relief against infringers of their essential patents. Owning a SEP provides its holder with a certain amount of market power, because users of the standard must reach a licensing agreement with the patent holder. Theoretically, a SEP holder can…

Jessica C. Lai and Vikas Kathuria on ‘Restrictive Conditions” in patent law and the competition law interface’ (2018) Journal of World Intellectual Property law 21 256

This paper – which can be found here – examines the IP-competition interface in New Zealand, and compares it with Australia, India and the UK. A first section provides an overview of the interaction of IP and competition law in New Zealand. Section 66(1) of the Patents Act 1953 makes void any contractual condition that could be said to amount to patent-tying or to a patentee attempting to control a purchaser, lessee, or licensee’s ability to trade with third parties (the ‘restrictive conditions’). This provision is substantively similar to historical provisions in the UK which sought to ‘prevent a patentee from abusing his monopoly by placing restrictions on the acquisition and use of products other than the patented products.’ Any prohibited contractual condition also acted as a defence to patent infringement. In its 1949 Patents Act, the UK introduced a provision that allowed a vendee, leasee or licensee to terminate a contract related to a patent or patented invention that was no…

Maria José Schmidt-Kessen ‘Selective Distribution Systems in EU Competition and EU Trademark Law: Resolving the Tension’ (2018) Journal of European Competition Law & Practice 9(5) 304

The basic argument of this paper – which can be found here – is that the ECJ in Coty reversed its earlier judgment in Pierre Fabre as regards luxury products, in order to ensure that the treatment of selective distribution systems under EU trademark and competition law was aligned. A first section provides an overview of the treatment of online selling restrictions under European competition law. Some luxury brands fear that retailers might damage their valuable brands’ reputation by offering branded goods in an inadequate online environment, e.g. without adequate costumer service; and that allowing online sales by retailers could lead to an increase in trade of counterfeited goods over the internet. As such, they have imposed on their retailers considerable restrictions on the possibility of using the internet as a selling channel, often in the context of selective distribution systems. These restrictions have led to competition law cases being brought against manufacturers who impose them. These cases build on…

David Bailey ‘The New Frontiers of Article 102 TFEU: antitrust imperialism or judicious intervention?’ (2018) Journal of Antitrust Enforcement 6(1) 25-53

This paper – which can be found here – addresses the way in which EU competition law cuts across and interferes with other legal regimes such as pharmaceutical regulations (Astra Zeneca and patent settlement cases), energy rules (Gazprom) and data protection (Facebook). This has led to a debate about whether EU competition law and policy should be able to trespass on turf that is properly subject to other areas of law, and whether it is appropriate for it to act as a “repair service” for other fields of economic law that lack sanctioning mechanisms. The article is structured as follows: The second section examines four situations in which Article 102 TFEU controversially overlapped with a different area of law. Competition law applies to unilateral business conduct whenever there is an act (or omission) of a dominant undertaking that distorts the competitive process or is directly exploitative of consumers. On the other hand, the application of competition law is usually precluded by…