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…

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…

Zygimantas Juska ‘The Effectiveness of Antitrust Collective Litigation in the European Union’ (2018) International Review of Intellectual Property and Competition Law 49(1) 633

The article, which can be found here, seeks to assess whether European efforts to promote compensation for anticompetitive harm have been successful. These efforts have focused on promoting compensation, treating deterrence as a goal best promoted through public enforcement. It finds that collective enforcement has not been successful in the EU, particularly by comparison to the US, where the main objective of private enforcement is deterrence. By granting standing to both direct and indirect purchasers without also creating appropriate collective redress mechanisms, the EU system merely ensures that neither direct purchasers nor indirect purchasers can effectively exercise their right to compensation. The paper argues that Europe should adopt a deterrence-enhancing approach to private enforcement that borrows from the US. The paper is structured as follows: Section 2 provides an overview of competition enforcement models in the EU, with an emphasis on private enforcement. It begins by describing how public enforcement prevails in EU competition law, which broadly assumes that fines and…

Eckart Bueren, Kai Hüschelrath, and Tobias Veith ‘Time is Money–How Much Money is Time? Interest and Inflation in Competition Law Actions for Damages’ (2016) Antitrust Law Journal 81(1) 271

One aspect that is often overlooked, but is of enormous practical importance in competition damages cases, is the way a legal system deals with costs associated with the passage of time, as expressed through interest and inflation. Cartel damages generally are spread over a cartel’s lifespan, which can be long; furthermore, a considerable amount of time often elapses between the incidence of loss and the award of damages. This paper – which can be found here – seeks to address a gap in the literature by describing how major legal systems deal with interest and inflation in the context of antitrust damage claims, what the consequences are of adopting certain approaches to interest and inflation for recoverable damage amounts, and whether these approaches are economically sound. The paper is structured as follows: The first section describes the main economic approaches to address the passage of time on damages awards and for selecting an appropriate interest rate. Four main measures are identified: the…

Jens-Uwe Franck and Martin Peitz ‘Toward a coherent policy on cartel damages’ (2018) University of Manheim Discussion Paper No. 007

In short, the argument of this paper – which can be found here – is that there is an undue focus on overcharges when talking about cartel damages. The authors argue that significant losses can be suffered as a result of volume effects as well, i.e. from reduced sales / purchases as a result of the higher price that results from a competition infringement. This has implications in terms of standing, since victims of volume effects may not be allowed to bring claims for damages. This is mistaken, and standing should be granted to victims of volume effects. The argument is developed as follows: Part II outlines the law on antitrust standing in the U.S. and the E.U., as well as the basic economics of cartel damages and optimal deterrence. In the US, only direct purchasers or sellers have standing to claim antitrust damages, alongside some victims of ‘umbrella pricing’ (i.e. when non-cartelists raise their prices as a consequence of a competition infringement)….

Margherita Colangelo ‘Reverse Payment Patent Settlements in the Pharmaceutical Sector Under EU and US Competition Laws: A Comparative Analysis’ (2017) World Competition 40(3) 47

As its name indicates, this paper – which can be found here – compares the European and American approaches to pay-for-delay agreements – i.e. those agreements between an originator and a generics manufacturer where the former pays the latter to settle a patent injunction and agrees conditions to delay generic entry into the market. This payment goes against the standard expectation that a defendant in a patent suit would pay an IP-holding plaintiff to settle, but it is nonetheless economically rational for both parties: ‘the profit that the generic entering the market anticipates selling at a significant discount to the price of the brand-name product will be much less than the profit the brand-name drug company loses from the same sales applying the monopolistic price’. Settling the dispute eliminates the potential for competition and allows the parties to share profits that would otherwise be eroded by lower prices. The argument is that, while the case-mix on each side of the…

Vincent Angwenyi ‘Hold-up, Hold-out and F/RAND: The quest for balance’ (2017) Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice 12 (12) 1012

This paper – which can be found here –  provides a good (and straightforward) overview of the various sides of the debate on how to deal with the standardisation of intellectual property rights, standard essential patents (SEPs) and their licensing. It covers a bit of the same ground as the paper just reviewed in the post below, but in a more detailed fashion. The relevance and recent prominence of SEPs derives from the fact that end-products in a number of economic sectors now require the incorporation of numerous patented technologies (resulting in a so-called multi-component product). The production of multi-component products requires manufacturers to manage patent thickets (i.e. networks of overlapping IP rights owned by multiple patent holders) and to obtain licences from multiple rights holders. The alleged patent thicket problem is linked to the hold-up problem because the threat of an injunction by a right holder against a patent implementer who has already invested heavily in the manufacture of…

Pierre Cremieux and Edward A. Snyder ‘Enforcement of Anticollusion Laws against Domestic and Foreign Firms’ (2016) The Journal of Law and Economics 59(4) 775

This paper – which can be found here – looks into whether cartel enforcement in the EU and the US is protectionist or neutral. With globalization, individual authorities decide with increasing frequency whether to proceed with actions against foreign firms, and what penalties to impose when they are found liable. In principle, individual authorities should exhibit a neutral approach to the origin of an investigated entity – i.e. the national identities of firms should not influence enforcement actions. This paper seeks to confirm whether this is indeed the case, and is structured as follows: Section 2 discusses three potential hypotheses con­cerning the behaviour of antitrust authorities in a global context. First, authorities may follow a neutral approach according to which the national identities of firms play no role in enforcement decisions to impose a fine or its amount. Second, they may treat foreign firms more harshly than domestic firms. Third, they may focus their enforcement efforts on domestic firms and…

Rachel Brandenburger, Logan Breed and Falk Schöning ‘The Role of Innovation in Merger Control’ (2016) CPI July (1)

This paper argues that role of innovation in merger control is a hot topic because “recent statements and enforcement actions on both sides of the Atlantic reflect the agencies’ growing emphasis on innovation in their merger investigations and decisions”. The paper provides an overview of these developments. The paper begins by providing an overview of the context in which this increased focus on innovation is taking place. First, because technological development is now fundamental to business success in so many industries, assessing the impact of mergers on innovation now plays a key role in merger control. Second, innovation is at the heart of wider policies, such as the “Europe 2020 strategy” and the US’ “Strategy for American Innovation”. The paper then moves to the more interesting topic of how innovation has been taken into account in practice by enforcement agencies. In Europe, the European Commission has focused on the effects of a merger on innovation in a number of decisions…