Antitrust

Free The Market! by Gary Reback

by Lee Gesmer on March 19, 2009

Gary Reback, famed antitrust/IP lawyer and long-time thorn in the side of Microsoft, has written a book entitled “Free The Market!”.  The book will be released in mid-April and is available on preorder at Amazon now.

Based on a few excerpts on Reback’s web site it looks like this will be an anecdotal, “in-the-trenches” book (as opposed to theoretical/academic) that should be well worth reading for those interested in the antitrust/IP wars of the last two decades. Reback was truly in the center of most of the big cases during these years, and I hope his book captures the legal issues, strategies and behind-the-scenes events that he witnessed.

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U.S. District Court Judge Richard Stearns has issued a summary judgment decision dismissing AVX Corp.’s claims of an an antitrust violation by Cabot Corporation, based on allegations of illegal tying by Cabot.

A tying arrangement is where a seller says, “I’ll sell you product A, but only if you also buy product B.”  Product B is said to be “tied” to product A, the “tying product.”  A little thought and common sense would cause even an economist to conclude that if the seller doesn’t have market power in product A, rather than be forced to buy product B a rationale buyer will look around for another seller, who can sell it product A without the “tie.”  In fact, this is just the conclusion the Supreme Court reached in the Illinois Tool case in 2006.

In the AVX v. Cabot case Judge Stearns noted that “AVX offers no evidence that Cabot had a sufficiently dominant market position to ‘force’ it into a multi-year purchase agreement for a product that it did not want.”  The fact that AVX was unable to satisfy this element of an illegal tying arrangement doomed its antitrust claim.… Read the full article

[Update: the FTC did file a reply brief. Link here]

All the briefs are in on the FTC petition for cert in its antitrust case against Rambus, (unless the FTC decides to file a reply brief, which is unlikely to change things much). I’ve added the Rambus opposition to the Rambus Group page on scribd.com, here. Now its time for the antitrust community to hold its breath and see whether the Court takes the case. Some knowledgeable commentators have opined that FTC/Rambus case has the best chance of any antitrust case obtaining review this year, but that plus a dime will get you …. well, nothing I guess. If the petition is allowed, it will be very exciting times for antitrust and standards setting law and policy wonks.

In federal court in Boston the Gatehouse Media v. New York Times case (described in these two (1, 2) earlier posts) has settled, as I suspected it would.… Read the full article

Ninth Circuit: Refusal to Allow Embedded Videos and Links in MySpace Not a Sherman Act Violation

You would think that in a capitalist economy the right of one business to to say to another “I don’t want to deal with you” would be close to sacrosanct.  And, you would be right, with qualified exceptions in cases where the party refusing to deal has monopoly power.  Even then, the Supreme Court has narrowed the “duty to deal” to  fact situations so limited that antitrust liability can be avoided with careful planning.

The two leading Supreme Court cases in this area of the law are Aspen Skiing Co. v. Aspen Highlands Skiing Corp., 472 U. S. 585, 601 (1985) and Verizon Communications Inc. v. Law Offices of Curtis V. Trinko, LLP, 540 U.S. 398 (2004).  Post-Trinko, the consensus of the courts is that “refusal to deal” claims are viable only where there was no voluntary prior course of dealing between the parties, where the monopolist’s  conduct increased its short term profits, or where the refusal to deal is used to monopolize an adjacent market.… Read the full article