Articles Posted in Antitrust & Trade Regulation

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Organik and Dow both manufacture opaque polymers, hollow spheres used as additives to increase paint’s opacity. Dow has maintained its worldwide market-leader position through a combination of patent and trade-secret protections. Dow filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission requesting an investigation into whether Organik’s opaque polymer products infringed four Dow patents. The Commission granted Dow’s request, and the parties began discovery. During the proceedings, Dow amended its complaint to add allegations of trade secret misappropriation when it discovered that Organik may have coordinated the production of its opaque polymers with the assistance of former Dow employees. As Dow attempted to obtain discovery relating to the activities of those employees, Dow discovered spoliation of evidence “on a staggering scale.” The Federal Circuit affirmed the Commission’s imposition of default judgment and entry of a limited exclusion order against Organik as sanctions for the spoliation of evidence. Organik’s “willful, bad faith misconduct” deprived Dow of its ability to pursue its trade secret misappropriation claim effectively. The record supports the limited exclusion order of 25 years with the opportunity for Organik to bypass that order at any time if it can show that it has developed its opaque polymers without using Dow’s misappropriated trade secrets. View "Organik Kimya v. International Trade Commission" on Justia Law

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Lexmark makes and sells printer toner cartridges, for which it holds patents. Lexmark buyers may purchase a “Regular Cartridge” at full price, not subject to any terms restricting reuse or resale of the cartridge, or may purchase a “Return Program Cartridge” at a discount, subject to a single-use/no-resale restriction. Impression acquired restricted cartridges for resale in the U.S. after a third party physically modified them to enable re-use. Impression’s actions infringe under 35 U.S.C. 271, unless Lexmark’s initial sale of the cartridges constitutes the grant of authority that makes later resale and importation non-infringing under the doctrine of exhaustion. The Federal Circuit, en banc, held that a patentee, when selling a patented article subject to a single-use/no-resale restriction that is lawful and clearly communicated to the purchaser, does not thereby give the buyer, or downstream buyers, the resale/reuse authority that has been expressly denied. Such resale or reuse, when contrary to known, lawful limits on the authority conferred at the original sale, remains unauthorized, infringing conduct under section 271. Under Supreme Court precedent, a patentee may preserve its 271 rights through such restrictions when licensing others to make and sell patented articles; there is no basis for denying the same ability to the patentee that sells the articles itself. View "Lexmark Int'l, Inc. v. Impression Prods., Inc." on Justia Law

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3M and TransWeb manufacture respirator filters, consisting of “nonwoven fibrous webs.” 3M sued Transweb for infringement of several patents. TransWeb sought a declaratory judgment of invalidity and non-infringement. A jury found the patents to be invalid based on TransWeb’s prior public use of the patented method. In accordance with an advisory verdict from the jury, the district court found the patents unenforceable due to inequitable conduct. An inventor for the patents and a 3M in-house attorney acted with specific intent to deceive the patent office as to the TransWeb materials. The district court awarded approximately $26 million to TransWeb, including trebled attorney fees as antitrust damages. The Federal Circuit affirmed, finding sufficient corroborating evidence to support the finding of prior public use by TransWeb, and that attorney fees are an appropriate basis for damages under the antitrust laws in this context. TransWeb’s attorney fees appropriately flow from the unlawful aspect of 3M’s antitrust violation and are an antitrust injury that can properly serve as the basis for antitrust damages. View "Transweb, LLC v. 3M Innovative Props. Co." on Justia Law

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Between 2001 and 2004, Nitek Electronics, Inc. entered thirty-six shipments of pipe fitting components used for gas meters into the United States from China. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“Customs”) claimed that the merchandise was misclassified and issued Nitek a final penalty claim stating that the tentative culpability was gross negligence. Customs then referred the matter to the United States Department of Justice (“Government”) to bring a claim against Nitek in the Court of International Trade to enforce the penalty. The Government brought suit against Nitek to recover lost duties, antidumping duties, and a penalty based on negligence under 19 U.S.C. 1592. Nitek moved to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim. The court denied dismissal of the claims to recover lost duties and antidumping duties but did dismiss the Government’s claim for a penalty based on negligence, concluding that the Government had failed to exhaust all administrative remedies under 19 U.S.C. 1592 by not having Customs demand a penalty based on negligence, instead of gross negligence. The Federal Circuit affirmed, holding that the statutory framework of section 1592 does not allow the Government to bring a penalty claim based on negligence in court because such a claim did not exist at the administrative level. View "United States v. Nitek Elecs., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Department of Commerce determined that utility scale wind towers from the People’s Republic of China and utility scale wind towers from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (together, the subject merchandise) were sold in the United States at less than fair value and that it received countervailable subsidies. The International Trade Commission made a final affirmative determination of material injury to the domestic industry. The determination was by divided vote of the six-member Commission. The Court of International Trade upheld the Commission’s affirmative injury determination. Siemens Energy, Inc., an importer of utility scale wind towers, challenged the determination. The issues on appeal concerned the interpretation and effect of the divided vote. The Federal Circuit affirmed, holding that the Court of International Trade properly upheld the Commission’s affirmative injury determination. View "Simens Energy, Inc. v. United States, Wind Tower Trade Coalition" on Justia Law

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In 1994, Sukumar began caring for his aging father and noticed that rehabilitation fitness machines used by his father did not adequately suit frail seniors. To learn more about rehabilitation for seniors, he attended trade shows where he met Nautilus representatives. In 1998-1999, Sukumar ordered Nautilus machines and asked for modifications to meet elderly users’ needs. When Nautilus delivered the custom fitness machines, Sukumar was dissatisfied and filed a breach of contract action. In 2004, Sukumar founded Southern California Stroke Rehabilitation Associates (SCSRA) to operate senior rehabilitation facilities in which Sukumar would use modified Nautilus fitness machines. SCSRA has acquired over 100 Nautilus fitness machines and, according to Sukumar, has twice attempted to negotiate a patent license from Nautilus. As of 2010, when Sukumar filed a false marking claim, 35 U.S.C. 292(b), SCSRA had no business plan, no employees, no office space, and no prototype designs. The district court found that many of the patents marked on six Nautilus machines did not cover the machines, but concluded that Sukumar had not suffered “competitive injury” necessary to have standing to assert a claim. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Sukumar had not taken sufficient action to enter the market for fitness machines. View "Sukumar v. Nautilus, Inc." on Justia Law

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Rapid-prototyping “additive technology” creates parts by building layer upon layer of plastics, metals, or ceramics. Subtractive technology starts with a block and cuts away layers. Additive technology include SL, fused deposition modeling, laser sintering, 3D printing, direct metal laser sintering, and digital light processing. 3DS is the sole U.S. supplier of SL machines, which use an ultraviolet laser to trace a cross section of an object on a vat of liquid polymer resin. The laser solidifies the resin it touches, while untouched, areas remain liquid. After one cross-section has solidified, the newly formed layer is lowered below the surface of the resin. The process is repeated until the object is completed. Users of SL machines often own many machines with varying sizes, speeds, and accuracy levels. 3DS began equipping some of its SL machines with wireless technology that allows a receiver to communicate with a transmitter on the cap of a resin bottle. A software-based lockout feature shuts the machine off upon detection of a resin not approved by 3DD. 3DS has approved two of Desotech’s resins and entered into negotiations for approval of additional resins. After negotiations broke down, Desotech sued, alleging tying, unreasonable restraint of trade, and attempted monopolization under the Sherman Act; tying under the Clayton Act; patent infringement; and violations of the Illinois Antitrust and Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Acts. The district court granted 3DS summary judgment on the antitrust claims and certain state-law claims. The parties stipulated to dismissal of the remaining claims. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "DSM Desotech Inc. v. 3D Sys. Corp." on Justia Law

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When merchandise is sold in the U.S. at less than fair value, the Commerce Department may impose antidumping duties, 19 U.S.C. 1673e(a)(1), 1677b(a)(1), 1677a(a). Commerce generally determines individual margins for each exporter or producer, but if that is not practicable, may investigate a reasonable number of respondents. Others are assigned a separate “all-others” rate. In proceedings involving non-market economy countries, including China, Commerce presumes that exporters and producers are state-controlled, and assigns them a state-wide rate. This presumption is rebuttable; a company that demonstrates sufficient independence from state control may apply for a separate rate. Commerce concluded that the Jiangsu Jianghai Chemical was entitled to a separate rate. The company subsequently challenged the rate calculation. The Court of International Trade held that Commerce did not exceed the scope of a remand order when it recalculated the U.S. price and that the explanation given for calculation of the separate rate was not unreasonable. The Federal Circuit reversed in part and remanded to Commerce to again reconsider its approach to calculating the separate rate. “Commerce must act non-arbitrarily and must explain why its approach is a ‘reasonable method,’” in light alternatives available and with recognition that the calculation will affect only cooperating respondents. View "Changzhou Wujin Fine Chem. Factory Co., Ltd. v. United States" on Justia Law

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IGT owns patents related to “wheel games,” casino gaming machines containing a secondary bonus game incorporating a spinning wheel. IGT sued Bally for infringement and Bally counterclaimed under state and federal antitrust laws. The district court denied motions for summary judgment on the antitrust issues, granted the motions that the patents were invalid and not infringed, and certified the patent issues for interlocutory appeal. The Federal Circuit affirmed. On remand, the district court granted summary judgment against Bally on its antitrust counterclaims. The Federal Circuit affirmed, stating that the undisputed facts were insufficient to establish the existence of a relevant antitrust market in wheel games. View "IGT v. Alliance Gaming Corp." on Justia Law

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Under 35 U.S.C. 292(a) it is unlawful to engage in specified acts of false patent marking, such as affixing a mark that falsely asserts that the item is patented, with intent to deceive the public. Prior to 2011, the statute authorized private parties (relators) to bring a qui tam or informer’s suit for violations, but did not specify procedures or authorize the government to file its own suit to collect the penalty. The 2011 AIA eliminated the qui tam provision, but authorized actions for damages by any person “who has suffered a competitive injury as a result of a violation.” The AIA provides that marking products with expired patents is not a violation and that it applies to all pending cases. In 2010, Brooks sued, alleging that Dunlop marked a guitar string winder with the number of a patent that was both expired and invalidated. The AIA was enacted while the case was stayed, pending the outcome in another case. The district court held that the application of the AIA to pending actions did not violate the Due Process Clause and that the legislation rationally furthered a legitimate legislative purpose. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "Brooks v. Dunlop Mfg., Inc." on Justia Law