by Mike Masnick
Thu, Dec 13th 2012 8:03pm
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Dec 3rd 2012 12:57pm
from the let's-do-this-slowly dept
First off, you have to understand that the amounts that satellite and internet radio pay for a "performance right" for broadcasting songs is not (generally) an individually negotiated rate, but rather is set by the Copyright Royalty Board, using a variety of questionable standards. As we've noted in the past, the CRB is notoriously bad at setting reasonable rates -- and part of that is because part of its very charter is to block disruptive innovation if it has an impact on "generally prevailing industry practices." Thus, it tends to set rates super high. This is exceptionally bad for innovation, competition and for artists in the long run, though I'll get to that in another post. One thing that it more or less ensures is that these industries will be dominated by a very small number of super large players, because no one else will be able to afford the rates -- and this effectively locks in the top guys. That's what's happened, as you have Sirius dominating satellite radio and Pandora dominating internet radio. But the rates are so crazy that it's difficult to impossible for these companies to ever be profitable.
We'll get back to that in a moment. But, now, go ahead and read the full text of the bill if you'd like. For this discussion, jump over to Section 5, entitled "Promotion of a Competitive Marketplace." The section is relatively short.
SEC. 5. PROMOTION OF A COMPETITIVE MARKETPLACE.The important thing to understand here is that there's currently an antitrust exemption for SoundExchange, the organization that collects money from internet and satellite radio offerings (and sometimes has difficulty finding artists to pay them). SoundExchange basically needs an antitrust exemption because it is, by definition, a monopoly. What the bill is doing is something simple which is actually beneficial for artists. It's saying that SoundExchange can't use that antitrust exemption to try to stop artists from having the option, if they want to go do direct deals with internet or satellite radio providers. The second part is similar, but not referencing an antitrust exemption. It's just saying that any group that is representing multiple artists can't seek to block other artists from choosing to do a direct deal.
(a) Limitation of Antitrust Exemptions-
(1) EPHEMERAL RECORDINGS- Section 112(e)(2) of title 17, United States Code, is amended--
(A) by inserting ‘, on a nonexclusive basis,’ after ‘common agents’; and
(B) by adding at the end the following: ‘Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed to permit any copyright owners of sound recordings acting jointly, or any common agent or collective representing such copyright owners, to take any action that would prohibit, interfere with, or impede direct licensing by copyright owners of sound recordings in competition with licensing by any common agent or collective, and any such action that affects interstate commerce shall be deemed a contract, combination or conspiracy in restraint of trade in violation of section 1 of the Sherman Act (15 U.S.C. 1).’.
(2) DIGITAL SOUND RECORDING PERFORMANCES- Section 114(e) of title 17, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
‘(3) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to permit any copyright owners of sound recordings acting jointly, or any common agent or collective representing such copyright owners, to take any action that would prohibit, interfere with, or impede direct licensing by copyright owners of sound recordings in competition with licensing by any common agent or collective, and any such action that affects interstate commerce shall be deemed a contract, combination or conspiracy in restraint of trade in violation of section 1 of the Sherman Act (15 U.S.C. 1).
‘(4) In order to obtain the benefits of paragraph (1), a common agent or collective representing copyright owners of sound recordings must make available at no charge through publicly accessible computer access through the Internet the most current available list of sound recording copyright owners represented by the organization and the most current list of sound recordings licensed by the organization.’.
Sirius XM, in particular, has been trying to negotiate direct deals that route around SoundExchange. Now, why would artists ever want to negotiate directly with a Sirius or Pandora when they've already got the Copyright Royalty Board forcing ridiculous high rates on those providers? It's not as if those sites will choose to pay more directly. However, what they can do is offer better service than SoundExchange. That is: they can pay faster, they can provide more data and details, better access to users, etc. And that's what both companies are attempting to do. Also, for artists who actually act as their own label, they can actually make more money because they're cutting out a lot of middlemen who take their cut (it's convoluted, but click that link to see the details).
So, short version: it's certainly not for everyone, but some artists might find it beneficial to go direct. If they choose not to, they can still have SoundExchange collect and distribute their money and that's fine as well.
Now, jump to March of this year... when Sirius sued SoundExchange and A2IM (the RIAA of indie labels) claiming antitrust violations. Sirius argues in its lawsuit that SoundExchange and A2IM conspired and colluded to effectively forbid artists from going direct. Because proving direct collusion is difficult, Sirius' lawsuit is filled with circumstantial evidence, which doesn't prove an antitrust violation, but infers that there might be fire behind the smoke. The goal, there, is to get to discovery to try to suss out some smoking guns of collusion. So, the lawsuit includes various bits of circumstantial evidence, including a number of artists and indie labels that Sirius reached out to who flat out told them that A2IM prevents direct licenses, or that they'd have to first ask A2IM for permission. As part of the circumstantial evidence, Sirius also points to this blog post from A2IM that argues against doing direct licenses.
That lawsuit is still crawling along, so it's unclear if it's going anywhere. Honestly, proving collusion is crazy difficult, and I doubt Sirius will succeed, but some of that circumstantial evidence is eye-opening.
And that leads us to Section 5 of IRFA. As you can read above, what it makes clear is that the existing antitrust exemption cannot be used to "prohibit, interfere with, or impede direct licensing" and similarly that any group acting for some artists could violate antitrust laws by blocking the free will of other artists to negotiate their own deals. In other words, the bill makes it clear that if A2IM or SoundExchange really are colluding to impede artists from choosing to do direct deals, that could be seen as an antitrust violation. This, then, is about protecting artists and indie labels from large organizations like SoundExchange or A2IM, should they try to block those artists and labels from voluntarily doing direct deals.
So you would think that self-declared, if often confused, "defender of artists rights," David Lowery, would like that. But he doesn't for reasons that suggest a serious misreading of the bill or misunderstanding of this background. He points to the language, and then at the text of the Sirius lawsuit, apparently not understanding the nature of circumstantial evidence, and argues that "This is the type of explanatory speech — not conduct — that Sirius XM thinks is illegal and IRFA definitely would outlaw." The only problem with this statement is, well, everything. It's wrong. Nothing in the bill would outlaw that kind of speech. At all. Nor does Sirius' lawsuit claim that such explanatory speech is illegal. Instead, it is arguing that that blog post, along with a host of other circumstantial evidence, is enough to suggest there's a fire somewhere providing all that smoke. Under IRFA, such blog posts would still be perfectly legal, so long as A2IM didn't also use those blog posts to collude and directly hinder copyright holders from doing direct deals.
All that Section 5 of the bill is saying is that the A2IMs and SoundExchanges of the world can't try to hide behind antitrust exemptions to argue that such coercion to block artists from doing direct deals is free from antitrust scrutiny. And, outside of the exemption, they also cannot restrict artists from doing direct deals.
And yet, Lowery (and some of his followers) have taken up the banner claiming that this is a First Amendment violation and that it censors free speech. What he seems to be missing is that the only speech it blocks is speech that is used to collude or to block artists from voluntarily making a deal. Under Lowery's interpretation of the bill, collusion by large companies to force independent artists and labels to do business their way only is legal... because it's free speech to collude..
That's kinda nutty. His argument is, basically: legalize collusion!
A few weeks ago, Lowery gleefully confronted supporters of the bill with this argument at the Future of Music Coalition Conference, which led bill sponsor, Senator Ron Wyden, to hit back and claim that, as one of the strongest defenders of the First Amendment, he'd never support a bill that took away free speech rights. He promised Lowery that he'd review the specific language of the bill, and if there were any interpretations that impacted free speech rights, he'd fix them.
And he followed through with that, asking the Congressional Research Service to look into the matter, which it did. In a note published last week, they make it quite clear that it is extremely unlikely that there would be a First Amendment issue raised by the bill:
... it seems unlikely that, in practice, Section 5 would impinge upon First Amendment rights for a few reasons.They then go on to detail those reasons -- which can be summed up as, Congress has the right under its authority to regulate interstate commerce, to create antitrust law that blocks collusion (as it applies to interstate commerce). Basically, since antitrust law is Constitutional, so is Section 5:
The antitrust laws are generally considered to comport with the First Amendment, because though the Sherman Act may restrain speech on occasion, the restraint is incidental to Congress's legitimate goal of maintaining a free market. In the case of Section 5, Congress would arguably be creating a similar prohibition, particularly since the bill specifically references the antitrust laws. As noted above, Section 5 would generally prohibit copyright owners acting jointly from taking any action to interfere with direct licensing negotiations. This provision appears to be intended to further the government's interest in preserving the rights of individual copyright owners to negotiate directly with potential licensees without interference from entities like member-based royalty collection organizations. It could be argued that this is similar to Congress's intent to preserve a free market by enacting the antitrust laws. Under Section 5 an individual copyright owner would have the option, as she always has, of negotiating royalty rates individually or collectively, but with an added protection from interference on the part of groups of copyright owners that might seek to prevent her from exercising her individual rights. If the provision is read to prohibit activity and speech similar to, and not broader than those prohibited by the Sherman Act, Section 5 likely would not violate the First Amendment for similar reasons that the antitrust laws do not violate the First Amendment. The restrictions on speech may be interpreted to be incidental to a valid exercise of Congressional authority to regulate interstate commerce.In other words, exactly what we were saying: unless you're arguing that collusion is legal because it's free speech, the argument that Section 5 violates free speech is quite unlikely.
Because the CRS is quite thorough, it also does work through some scenarios under which the bill might possibly have Free Speech implications. But the only thing it can come up with is that a court would have to somehow interpret Section 5 to restrict speech beyond what's in antitrust laws (i.e., beyond activity designed to restrain trade). Considering how vocal bill supporters have been about this clause not being intended to go beyond the law, it would be somewhat incredible for a court to have that interpretation.
Of course, to make things even more amusing, Lowery himself posted about this CRS destruction of his key argument... and declared victory. Why? Because the CRS report, in its typically even-handed manner, discusses Lowery's scenario, of a blog post potentially violating Section 5, and notes that "though this hypothetical presents a broad interpretation of the language of Section 5, it is not an implausible one." Lowery cuts off the text at that point and declares victory... conveniently leaving out the detailed explanation of why this isn't a First Amendment violation (as explained above).
The confusion, it appears, stems from yet another misreading by Lowery of the CRS report. He interprets the "not implausible" claim to refer to his overall argument that the bill restricts free speech rights. But that is not what it is saying. It is saying that he is right that if a blog post somehow interfered with someone else doing a direct licensing deal -- i.e., restricted interstate trade under existing laws -- then it could violate the Act... but as such would not likely violate the First Amendment. So, the conditions here are that the blog posts themselves would have to actually impede trade, which the CRS report itself notes would require a very broad interpretation of the bill, one that is quite unlikely.
In the end, this appears to be much ado about nothing. The original complaint was a misread, which the CRS report clearly corrects, and Lowery doubles down by then misunderstanding the report itself. Still, from this vantage point, it's been rather amusing to watch a somewhat confused David Lowery thinking that he's "protecting artists," while he's been arguing against a provision in the bill that is actually 100% designed to protect artists against collusion to block them from doing their own deals -- deals which (especially for truly independent artists) could be more lucrative. It would be almost comical, if it weren't that a bunch of artists who haven't understood all this have been parroting Lowery's claims, believing that they're arguing for their own self-interest, when the reality is that they're literally arguing that organizations like SoundExchange and A2IM should be able to collude and block their ability to negotiate favorable deals.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Nov 26th 2012 3:22am
from the that-would-be-something dept
"There's a possibility of competitive harm here," said Joseph Wayland, who served as the Justice Department's acting antitrust chief until last week, when he stepped down to return to private practice. Mr. Wayland said officials are devoting "huge energy, particularly at a senior level" to this and other antitrust issues surrounding patents.This seems like a much more reasonable use of antitrust resources than some other recent activity.
Of course, the real irony here is the idea that the government may need to use its antitrust rules to crack down on patent abuse, when the whole reason that there's a "trust" problem in the first place is that patents are a government granted monopoly. So no one should be shocked to then see it lead to antitrust problems. Want to not have monopolistic activity? Don't hand out monopolies.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Nov 21st 2012 7:49am
from the if-you-don't-have-a-case... dept
Also, for all the talk of Google hurting others, I just don't see it. I'm constantly surprised at how rarely it seems that Google-related results top the list of searches on relevant things. Every time we bring this up, we see people claim that Google should be taken down for favoring its own services when people do searches, but we so rarely see that. Just as an example, I just did a Google search on "browser" and this is what I see:
How about airplane travel, since that's a key one (Expedia is one of the companies driving the case against Google):
So too, it appears, are some folks at the FTC. Despite all the bluster, there are growing indications that the FTC may blink, as it's realizing that perhaps it really doesn't have enough evidence to make the case.
Talking to a number of folks in DC concerning this, I keep hearing the same story over and over again. They're all variations on the following: FTC boss Jon Leibowitz is getting set to leave the job (and go into the private sector, of course), but would like a "defining moment." Somewhere in the last year or two, he decided that going after Google for anti-trust violations would be such a crowning moment. As such, he brought on a number of folks to help him do that, including Tim Wu, who had just written an entire book basically saying that big companies are bad. While I respect Tim, and agree with him on lots of things, I've never understood his argument here. It just makes no sense. Earlier this year, the FTC also brought on outside litigator Beth Wilkinson, which seemed like a clear statement of plans to sue.
And ever since then they've been trying to come up with something. And, from the sound of things, generally turning up nothing. So, if you're Liebowitz and have effectively made a big bet on going after Google, what do you do? One strategy might be to leak a bunch of stories about how the FTC is all set to sue Google... and then tell Google that it better "settle."
Yes, the FTC may have taken the patent troll technique: threaten to sue, but agree to "settle" at a price that is less than it would cost Google to defend, such that the FTC can claim a "victory." Over the last month or so, it's appeared that the FTC was really just hoping Google would play its assigned role and cough up some cash and Liebowitz could claim victory and ride off into the sunset (or cushy corporate job, whichever pays more). In fact, I'd guess there are still decent odds that this happens. Google may well decide that it's cheaper to just pay up and get this behind it. But, from the articles coming out this week, it appears that (1) Google may be willing to call the FTC's bluff and (2) the FTC may be realizing that Google knows it doesn't have the goods to bring a successful anti-trust case to completion.
Either way, it's pretty sad that we're reduced to this. If there was a clear case of consumer harm via unassailable market control, then antitrust activity could make sense. But there seems to be no evidence that we've seen to support that. Consumers, for the most part, seem pretty happy with Google. If they didn't like Google Maps popping up when they searched on an address, they could use any number of other search engines. Personally, I'd find it a lot more annoying if I was forced to see other mapping offerings. Google Maps works for me, and when I search on an address, it's what I want.
So, really, who is the FTC protecting? Consumers? Doesn't seem like it. Google competitors? Is that really the FTC's job? Jon Liebowitz's legacy? Is that what's become of the FTC these days? Really?
Tue, Oct 16th 2012 12:55pm
from the waste-of-government-resources dept
At a time when the national economy continues to stagnate, it's not clear to me why the FTC should be focusing on a product that consumers seem very happy with, search engines. While Google is surely a big company and an important service in peoples' lives, my constituents also use a variety of competing services, including Amazon.com for shopping, iTunes for music and movies, Facebook for social networking and recommendations, and mobile apps like Yelp for finding local businesses. Competition is only a click away and there are no barriers to competition; if I create a better search algorithm I could set up a server in my garage and compete globally with Google. To even discuss applying anti-trust in this kind of hyper-competitive environment defies all logic and the very underpinnigns of anti-trust law itself.His admission, that Google is indeed a massive entity, likely is designed to push back against the FTC for targeting Google specifically in the search space, despite the relatively high level of competitive search engines on the market. Antitrust violations are not designed to punish really successful companies, and they're not supposed to just go after companies for being "big." Rather, they're designed to prevent anti-competitive practices for the benefit of a healthy marketplace and, most importantly, for the benefit of consumers. While the country is still waiting for the official charges against Google by the FTC over any kind of anti-competitive behavior, there can be little doubt that there is indeed a swath of competition and that the public is pleased with Google's product. It's not like Bing and Yahoo (or Blekko or DuckDuckGo) don't exist, after all, it's just that more people trust Google for their search results. None of this seems worth pursuing an antitrust suit over. As Polis notes:
I have never heard one of my constituents say that they don't feel like they have enough choices online, or that they feel locked in to using any one of these services. Competition among these services is leading to lots of great services for consumers -- and consumers aren't asking Congress or the FTC to protect them.Indeed, it only seems to be Google competitors who are asking for help here. And that's not the purpose of antitrust law.
Having said all that, Polis went further in his letter, issuing a warning to the FTC that if screws this up, it risks being downsized.
The FTC should tread carefully when reviewing Google, Facebook, Twitter or any other tech company, given the dynamism of our tech industry and the potential for making things worse through regulation. Today's giants can be tomorrow's failures without any government intervention; market forces drive obsolescence at a break neck pace which should only further abrogated the need for government intervention. I believe that application of anti-trust against Google would be a woefully misguided step that would threaten the integrity of our anti-trust system, and could ultimately lead to Congressional action resulting in a reduction in the ability of the FTC to enforce critical anti-trust protections in industries where markets are being distorted by monopolies and oligopolies.Critics of Google will point to this as some kind of hinted blackmail by Polis, but that isn't at all what he's saying. All he's saying in this instance is that if the FTC brings a poor case against Google and loses face over it, the representatives of the people (whom government is supposed to serve) will take action. It's a warning that the FTC had better have its ducks in a row when considering such a move against a huge member of the national business community.
In the end, we'll have to see if any actual anti-competitive practices by Google are really brought forth. Barring that, Google simply being really successful is no reason to bring an antitrust suit against them.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Oct 12th 2012 2:30pm
from the what-consumer-harm dept
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Oct 11th 2012 3:11am
Fight Over Real Estate Listings Escalates As NeighborCity Counters Copyright Claims With Antitrust Accusations
from the fight-picks-up dept
Given all that, it's not surprising to see that in AHRN's latest response to the original lawsuits, it's filed counterclaims arguing that the actions are antitrust violations. The fact that NAR offered to cover the legal expenses for the MLSs only makes the situation look worse for NAR -- and advances the suggestion that this is really about realtors being pissed off that someone is holding them accountable. NeighborCity highlights that soon after the original lawsuits were filed, NAR approved $161,667 in legal fees for these kinds of legal efforts, despite it not actually being a part of the lawsuit.
Defendants’ coordinated: (a) cease and desist letters to AHRN, (b) refusals to deal letters to AHRN; (c) repudiation letters to AHRN, (3) sham lawsuits against AHRN and (d) agreement or offer to pay for or contribute to the costs of litigation against AHRN by MLSs and real estate brokers, was intended to and did have anti-competitive effects on AHRN in the market for real estate brokerage services. Anti-competitive effects include the elimination of price competition and price maintenance on brokerage services above market levels nationwide, impeding and blocking market entry by AHRN and otherWe're quite used to seeing legacy players in an industry fight innovation and upstart competitors who change the nature of a market, but it's rare to see cases where it seems so incredibly blatant that they're doing this just because they don't like the service in question, rather than via any sort of legitimate copyright claim.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Sep 6th 2012 12:12pm
Judge Quickly Approves Ebook Pricing Settlement; Says It's In The Public Interest To Stop Price Fixing
from the will-prices-drop? dept
- They must terminate their Agency Agreements with Apple within seven days after entry of the proposed Final Judgment.
- They must terminate those contracts with e-book retailers that contain either a) a restriction on the e-book retailer’s ability to set the retail price of any e-book, or b) a “Price MFN,” as defined in the proposed Final Judgment, as soon as each contract permits starting thirty days after entry of the proposed Final Judgment.
- For at least two years, they may not agree to any new contract with an e-book retailer that restricts the retailer’s discretion over e-book pricing.
- For at least five years, they may not enter into an agreement with an e-book retailer that includes a Price MFN.
The Complaint and CIS provide a sufficient factual foundation as to the existence of a conspiracy to raise, fix, and stabilize the retail price for newly-released and bestselling trade e-books, to end retail price competition among trade e-books retailers, and to limit retail price competition among the Publisher Defendants. Although the Government did not submit any economic studies to support its allegations, such studies are unnecessary. The Complaint alleges a straightforward, horizontal price-fixing conspiracy, which is per se unlawful under the Sherman Act.... The Complaint also details the defendants’ public statements, conversations, and meetings as evidence of the existence of the conspiracy. The decree is directed narrowly towards undoing the price-fixing conspiracy, ensuring that price-fixing does not immediately reemerge, and ensuring compliance. Based on the factual allegations in the Complaint and CIS, it is reasonable to conclude that these remedies will result in a return to the pre-conspiracy status quo. In this straightforward price-fixing case, no further showing is required.Because of this, Cote rejects the idea of any evidentiary hearing and just approves the deal. She notes that due to tons and tons of public comments that were allowed in the case, she is quite well informed of the issues and sees no additional benefit from such a hearing:
It is not necessary to hold an evidentiary hearing before approving the decree. Given the voluminous submissions from the public and the non-settling parties, which describe and debate the nature of the alleged collusion and the wisdom and likely impact of settlement terms in great detail, as well as the detailed factual allegations in the Complaint, the Court is well-equipped to rule on these matters. A hearing would serve only to delay the proceedings unnecessarily.She does try to summarize the comments against the settlement into four broad categories: (1) that the settlement would harm third party players like indie book stores, indie ebook retailers, indie publishers and authors, (2) that the settlement is "unworkable," (3) that there weren't enough facts to support the price fixing claim, (4) that the impact of such price fixing was actually pro-competition, in that it broke up Amazon's market dominance. She then breaks down each of these arguments to show why none of them apply and the settlement should move forward.
I won't go through all four issues, but I would like to focus on the two that get the most attention, the first and the last. On the first issue, she points out that antitrust law is not designed to protect businesses from the working of the market, but to protect the public from the failure of the market. If the settlement causes some businesses to suffer, but it's in the public interest, there is no problem there.
If unfettered e-books retail competition will add substantially to the competitive pressures on physical bookstores, or if smaller e-book retailers are unable to compete with Amazon on price, these are not reasons to decline to enter the proposed Final Judgment.As for the last issue (breaking up Amazon's dominance), she notes that it was "perhaps the most forceful species of criticism" but still does not find it persuasive here. The court more or less notes that Amazon's market position isn't on trial, and its use of wholesale pricing does not equal price fixing, as some have alleged. Nor does it show "predatory" pricing, which was a key complaint. The problem there: the evidence showed that Amazon was "consistently profitable." And, to show predatory pricing, "one must prove more than simply pricing below an appropriate measure of cost" but also that the company will jack up prices down the road. And all of the comments failed to do that:
None of the comments demonstrate that either condition for predatory pricing by Amazon existed or will likely exist. Indeed, while the comments complain that Amazon’s $9.99 price for newly-released and bestselling e-books was “predatory,” none of them attempts to show that Amazon’s e-book prices as a whole were below its marginal costs.Oh, and finally, the court points out that swinging back the blame to Amazon is meaningless for the purpose of this case, anyway, because even if the court accepted that Amazon was price fixing too, that doesn't make it okay for the publishers to price fix themselves. Think of it as the "two wrongs don't make a right" rule.
Third, even if Amazon was engaged in predatory pricing, this is no excuse for unlawful price-fixing. Congress “has not permitted the age-old cry of ruinous competition and competitive evils to be a defense to price-fixing conspiracies.” ... The familiar mantra regarding “two wrongs” would seem to offer guidance in these circumstances.This probably does not bode well for the other publishers and Apple who are fighting the whole thing...
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jul 19th 2012 3:09am
from the good-for-them dept
Many people have believed that such deals are clear antitrust violations -- and a lawsuit against big pharma Schering-Plough (owned by Merck) tested this theory, only to be dismissed by the district court. That original ruling really twisted logic in a few knots to come to its conclusion -- and the good news is that, two years later, the 3rd Circuit appeals court has reversed the ruling. The ruling is long, but interesting. It starts out by noting that other court's ruling on this matter seem to take the concept of "patent validity" way too far. As we've discussed in other contexts, patent validity says that you have to assume a patent is valid -- but in these cases, the court notes that this unfairly biases the situation in which the bogus patent infringement lawsuits are filed to extract these "pay-for-delay" deals.
First, we take issue with the scope of the patent test’s almost unrebuttable presumption of patent validity. This presumption assumes away the question being litigated in the underlying patent suit, enforcing a presumption that the patent holder would have prevailed. We can identify no significant support for such a policy. While persons challenging the validity of a patent in litigation bear the burden of defeating a presumption of validity, this presumption is intended merely as a procedural device and is not a substantive right of the patent holder.... Moreover, the effectively conclusive presumption that a patent holder is entitled to exclude competitors is particularly misguided with respect to agreements – like those here – where the underlying suit concerned patent infringement rather than patent validity: In infringement cases it is the patent holder who bears the burden of showing infringement.The court then discusses the Hatch-Waxman Act, which is at the heart of these disputes, noting that its intent (to increase availability of generics) seems to be the exact opposite of what happens with these pay-for-delay deals. But where it gets interesting is that the court says that having one company pay another to delay market entrance should be seen "as prima facie evidence of an unreasonable restraint of trade." This is definitely a big ruling -- though its potential disagreement with other courts may get this issue over to the Supreme Court before too long.
It's nice to see the court get it right after the lower court seemed so confused by the issue.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 17th 2012 3:49pm