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…

Frederick Abbott ‘Excessive Pharmaceutical Prices and Competition Law: Doctrinal Development to Protect Public Health’ (2016) UC Irvine Law Review 6 281

This paper can be found here. At the time it was written, competition law had rarely been used to address “excessive pricing” of pharmaceutical products. This was a worldwide phenomenon. In the United States, federal courts have refused to apply excessive pricing as an antitrust doctrine, either with respect to pharmaceutical products or more generally. Courts in some other countries have been more receptive to considering the doctrine, but application of the doctrine has been sporadic at best, including with respect to pharmaceuticals. Against this, the author argues that competition law and policy should develop robust doctrine to address excessive pricing in markets lacking adequate control mechanisms against exploitative behaviour. The article focuses specifically on the pharmaceutical sector because of its unique structure and social importance. This piece is divided into two parts. The first addresses competition policy and why it is appropriate to develop a doctrine of excessive pricing to address distortions in the pharmaceutical sector. The second part addresses…

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…

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…

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…

The OECD Report on International Private Enforcement

Officially known as ‘Individual and Collective Private Enforcement of Competition Law: Insights for Mexico in 2018’, this Report was prepared with a view to advise Mexico on how to reform its private enforcement regime. The Report can be found here. Advising Mexico in this regard required the pursuit of a comprehensive overview of international experiences with private competition enforcement – with a focus on Europe and North America, but also looking beyond these regions. This project also required the identification of the various elements that comprise private enforcement regimes around the world, the various forms that each of these elements may take, and how these elements relate to one another. I may of course be mistaken, but I think there is no other work like this in the market. As such, I circulate the Report here because I think it can provide a useful reference for anyone working or interested in private enforcement.

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…

Joshua P. Davis and Robert H. Lande on ‘Restoring the Legitimacy of Private Antitrust Enforcement’ in A Report to the 45th President of the United States (American Antitrust Institute’s Transition Report on Competition Policy), Chapter 6, page 219

This report, which can be found here, argues against the increasingly prevalent view that class actions are little more than legalised blackmail, and that class action lawyers are ambulance chasers rather than private attorneys general. The paper submits that there is no systematic empirical support for the view that frivolous antitrust litigation is a serious problem, and present a defence of the benefits of private antitrust enforcement. The paper is structured as follows: A first section argues that private antitrust cases are a critical component of effective antitrust enforcement. Government cannot be expected to do all or even most of the necessary competition enforcement. In addition to budgetary constraints, there are a number of reasons for this – including “undue fear of losing cases; lack of awareness of industry conditions; overly suspicious views about complaints by ‘losers’ that they were in fact victims of anticompetitive behavior; higher turnover among government attorneys; and the unfortunate, but undeniable, reality that government enforcement (or…

Maurice Stucke and Marshall Steinbaum ‘The Effective Competition Standard – A New Standard for Antitrust’ (2018) Report for the Roosevelt Institute

This is a report published for the Roosevelt Institute, and can be found here. It builds on the Neo-Brandeisian canon and tries to develop an applicable antitrust standard out of it. According to the authors, the consumer welfare standard is to blame for the role that competition has played in a number of social ills, including increased market concentration. To redress this, the authors advance an alternative standard: the effective competition standard. This framework would restore the primary aim of antitrust, namely to protect competition wherever it has been compromised. This new standard would: 1) protect individuals, purchasers, consumers, and producers; 2) preserve opportunities for competitors; 3) promote individual autonomy and well-being; and 4) disperse and de-concentrate private power. In particular, the effective competition standard would allow enforcement against vertical integration and the adoption of bright-line indicators for anticompetitive behaviour. The paper is structured as follows: It begins with an introduction that describes a number of economic trends, and explains that…