Posts in Antitrust

FTC Requires Honeywell to License Key Scanner Patents

The Federal Trade Commission will require Honeywell International Inc. to license patents critical to the manufacture of two-dimensional (2D) bar code scanners, under a settlement resolving FTC charges that Honeywell’s acquisition of rival scan engine manufacturer Intermec Inc. would be anticompetitive. The proposed FTC consent order preserves competition in the market for 2D scan engines by requiring Honeywell to license its and Intermec’s patents for 2D scan engines to Datalogic IPTECH s.r.l for the next 12 years.

In re Effexor XR Antitrust Litigation: FTC Amicus Argues for No-Authorized-Generic in Patent Settlements

The Federal Trade Commission has asked the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey to accept an amicus brief that addresses the application of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in FTC v. Actavis to a patent settlement containing a “no-authorized-generic” commitment. The FTC’s amicus brief states that the Effexor XR case presents “an issue with significant implications for American consumers”: whether pharmaceutical patent settlements are “immune from antitrust scrutiny so long as the brand-name drug manufacturer pays for delayed entry with something other than cash.” The brief explains why “[t]he allegations here raise the same type of antitrust concern that the Supreme Court identified in Actavis,” and thus should be treated in the same fashion.

The Supreme Court’s Actavis Decision, Or Why Pay-for-Delay Litigation Just Got More Active

In this case, the Supreme Court considered an arrangement by which brand firm Solvay paid generics Watson (now Actavis) and Paddock roughly $30 to $40 million to delay entering the market with generic versions of testosterone gel. The Eleventh Circuit upheld the activity, concluding that “absent sham litigation or fraud in obtaining the patent, a reverse payment settlement is immune from antitrust attack so long as its anticompetitive effects fall within the scope of the exclusionary potential of the patent.” The court explained that “[p]atent holders have a ‘lawful right to exclude others from the market’” and that a patent “conveys the right to cripple competition.”

The Supreme Court reversed the Eleventh Circuit, concluding that, while a valid patent allows a patentee to charge “higher-than-competitive” prices, “an invalidated patent carries with it no such right.” The Court recognized the policy encouraging settlements. But for five reasons, it found that that policy did not dictate immunity for pay-for-delay settlements.

Supremes Say Reverse Payments May Be Antitrust Violation

On Monday, June 17, 2013, the United States Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated decision on so-called “reverse payments.” This decision will impact how brand name drug companies and generics enter into patent settlements to resolve pending patent litigation. In a nutshell, speaking for the majority, Justice Breyer wrote that there is no valid reason for the FTC to be denied the opportunity to pursue reverse payments as an antitrust violation. Breyer, who was joined by Justices Kennedy, Ginsberg, Kagan, and Sotomayor, determined that reviewing courts should apply the rule of reason when determining whether reverse payments violate antitrust law.

DOJ Says IP Exchange Licensing Model is Pro-Innovation

IPXI is the first financial exchange that facilitates non-exclusive licensing and trading of intellectual property rights with market-based pricing and standardized terms. Earlier this week word came from the Intellectual Property Exchange International Inc. (IPXI) that the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division issued its Business Review Letter (BRL) upon the culmination of its eight-month review. The DOJ believes that the IP Exchange business model proposed by IPXI is capable of producing market efficiencies in the patent licensing arena and is likely to be pro-innovation. Although no permission is required of the DOJ before IPXI opens its exchange, having this review of the DOJ Antitrust Division complete has to make IPXI and Exchange participants much more at ease as the move closer toward their attempt to revolutionize IP licensing.

Google Agrees to Change Its Business Practices to Resolve FTC Competition Concerns on Standard Essential Patents

Under a settlement reached with the FTC, Google will meet its prior commitments to allow competitors access – on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms – to patents on critical standardized technologies needed to make popular devices such as smart phones, laptop and tablet computers, and gaming consoles. In a separate letter of commitment to the Commission, Google has agreed to give online advertisers more flexibility to simultaneously manage ad campaigns on Google’s AdWords platform and on rival ad platforms; and to refrain from misappropriating online content from so-called “vertical” websites that focus on specific categories such as shopping or travel for use in its own vertical offerings.

The Role of Territoriality in Patent Exhaustion

Patent exhaustion is one of the most fundamental restrictions on patent rights. Under this doctrine, an authorized sale of a patented article moves it outside the scope of the U.S. patent monopoly. With respect to the vended article, the patent right is extinguished and the patentee can no longer sue for infringement. One question that remains unsettled, however, is the role of territoriality. That is, where must the authorized sale take place? For well over a century courts have struggled to answer whether extraterritorial sales qualify for purposes of patent exhaustion.

FTC Says Brand Name Drug Redesign Violates Antitrust Law

Not only is the FTC arguing that product changes to patented drugs violate U.S. antitrust laws, but the FTC and Department of Justice (DOJ) are going to look into whether patent enforcement activities that seek redress for infringement violate U.S. antitrust laws. See FTC, DOJ to Hold Workshop on Patent Assertion Entities. This does not bode well for a second Obama term, and I have to wonder whether those in the patent community that decided to vote for President Obama due to his perceived friendliness to patents and smooth running of the Patent Office are going to start to have regrets, particularly now that David Kappos is leaving the USPTO.

Companies Agree to Sell Rights to 18 Drugs to Satisfy FTC

The Federal Trade Commission will require Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Actavis Inc. to sell the rights and assets to 18 drugs to Sandoz International GmbH and Par Pharmaceuticals, Inc, and relinquish the manufacturing and marketing rights to three others, to settle charges that Watson’s proposed $5.9 billion acquisition of Actavis would otherwise be anticompetitive.

FTC Submits Amicus Brief Explaining that Drug Companies Use “No-Authorized Generic” Agreements to Delay Generic Competition

In a “no-AG” agreement, the branded firm, as part of the patent litigation settlement, agrees that it will not launch its own generic alternative when the first generic begins to compete. Since the introduction of the branded AG would cut into the revenues of a competing generic product, a no-AG commitment can induce the generic firm to delay entry of its product to the market. Thus, the Commission concludes, a no-AG commitment is legally sufficient to trigger a rebuttable presumption of illegality under the law of the Third Circuit.

FTC Seeks SCOTUS Review in AndroGel “Pay-for-Delay” Case

At the request of the Federal Trade Commission, the Solicitor General of the United States petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review a recent federal appeals court ruling concerning the FTC’s case against a “pay-for-delay” agreement. The petition for certiorari, the mechanism for asking for the Supreme Court to review a case, argues that the agreement that postponed generic competition for the testosterone-replacement drug AndroGel is anti-competitive and should not be legal. But thanks to the byzantine legal rules created by the Hatch-Waxman Act, the brand name owner was doing nothing more than what seems to explicitly be authorized by the law.

Reverse Payment Home Run for Pharma Antitrust Enforcement

One of the most complex issues in antitrust and patent law today involves agreements by which brand-name drug companies pay generics to delay entering the market. In the past decade, with the Supreme Court showing no interest in wading into the area, the Federal, Second, and Eleventh Circuits have upheld these agreements. And, with each court relying on its sister court, a momentum had developed that made it nearly impossible to discern a role for antitrust scrutiny. The Third Circuit just found that a reverse payment was “prima facie evidence of an unreasonable restraint of trade.”

Bobbing for Antitrust Apples: E-book Price Fixing Challenge

So what did Apple and the other publishers do that put them on Uncle Sam’s Radar? Allegedly, they agreed among themselves to sell their e-books at the same price. This is also known as “Price Fixing” and it’s a big no-no. When companies who sell the same product agree among themselves to set the same price for that product, they could (not necessarily will) set that price as high as they wish, because there will be no place cheaper to get it. The type of price fixing alleged here – ‘horizontal’ price fixing – is considered violative of the Sherman Act regardless of the effect on the market. This means that even if the agreement didn’t actually harm the market whatsoever, it would still be considered anti-competitive.

Patent Misuse, Exploring the Basics

The term “patent misuse” refers to specific types of prohibited behavior engaged in by the owner of the patent rights. Patent misuse is an affirmative defense that recognizes that it is possible for a patent owner to abuse the exclusive right enjoyed as a result of the issuance of a patent. As an affirmative defense, patent misuse cannot be used as a sword, but can only be used by an alleged infringer if and when the patent owner seeks to enforce the exclusive right of the patent in a patent infringement suit. Once a patent infringement suit is initiated, the alleged infringer, in order to successfully rely upon the patent misuse defense, must “show that the patentee has impermissibly broadened the ‘physical or temporal scope’ of the patent grant with anticompetitive effect.” If the alleged infringer can demonstrate that the patent owner did engaged in prohibited behavior, the patent will be unenforceable despite the fact that it is valid. In this respect, patent misuse is similar to the doctrine of inequitable conduct, which also works to make an entire patent unenforceable.

Antitrust Law Basics: A Primer on Patent and Copyright Misuse

With copyright misuse having recently been successful in a rather high profile case I thought it would be worthwhile to revisit patent misuse and misuse concepts generally. To do that in a way that allows the casually interested reader to follow along probably requires first taking a step back away from the intellectual property centric theories to discuss some basic antitrust law concepts. This seems particularly appropriate since many of the misuse cases have a distinct antitrust flavor.