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China to Consolidate Antitrust Law Enforcement Power

The Chinese government announced on March 13, 2018, that it will consolidate the duties of three competition agencies into a new government agency to handle all antitrust matters. While it is too early to tell how this reorganization will impact China’s review of transactions and conduct cases, we believe that this change could lead to greater consistency and potentially more experienced attorneys reviewing competition matters.

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Resale Price Maintenance in China: Enforcement Authorities Imposing Large Fines for Anti-Monopoly Law Violations

by Henry L.T. Chen, Frank Schoneveld, Alex An and Jared Nelson

Recently Shanghai High People’s Court reached a decision in the first lawsuit involving resale price maintenance (RPM) since China’s Anti-Monopoly Law (AML) came into effect five years ago.  Shortly thereafter, a key enforcement agency announced RPM-related fines against six milk powder companies, five of which are non-Chinese.  Both cases clearly show that RPM can be a violation of the AML, and that RPM is currently under much greater scrutiny by enforcement authorities.  It would be prudent for all foreign corporations active in China’s consumer markets to take heed of these changes in China and conduct an immediate review of any potential RPM violations.

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Abuse of IP Rights Under China’s Antitrust Rules: Recent Cases Have a Potentially Serious Impact

by Frank Schoneveld

Corporations doing business in China, based on their intellectual property (IP) rights, need to be aware of the potentially serious impact of China’s Anti-Monopoly Law and other antitrust rules.  China’s Anti-Monopoly Law prohibits the holder of IP rights from abusing those rights when it has a dominant market position.  Such dominance can be achieved under Chinese law with a market share as low as 10 percent.  Two recent cases demonstrate the greater reliance of Chinese companies on the antitrust rules, particularly when bargaining for lower royalties and license fees.

Interdigital v. Huawei

The Shenzhen Intermediate Court recently decided that Interdigital abused its patent rights by requiring Huawei to pay “excessive” royalties for essential patents for mobile telephone technology.  The license terms proposed by Interdigital to Huawei reportedly complied with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute’s policy as Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms.  However, the court found that the terms of the proposed license were not a FRAND complaint, and even if the offered licenses were a FRAND compliant, the royalties to be paid by Huawei should not exceed 0.019 percent of the sale price of each Huawei product using the patents.  This was significantly less than what Interdigital was prepared to accept (and reportedly less than that agreed upon in Europe for the same license).  In effect, Interdigital must now give Huawei a compulsory license at the lower royalty rate as fixed by the Chinese Court.  Interdigital has indicated it will appeal the decision. 

While the judgment has not been published, it is reported that other findings of the Shenzhen Intermediate Court include that Interdigital had also abused its IP rights by:

  • Tying the licensing of essential patents to the licensing of non-essential patents
  • requiring that Huawei provide a grant-back of certain patent rights

Microsoft v. Guangzhou Kam Hing

Another recent IP abuse case involves Microsoft, who reported Guangzhou Kam Hing to the Chinese local authorities in 2010 for using pirated Microsoft software.  This resulted in Guangzhou Kam Hing being fined by the Chinese authorities.  Subsequently, Microsoft filed a complaint to a local (Nansha) court claiming damages of RMB 4.7 million and requiring that Guangzhou Kam Hing purchase a specified quantity of genuine Microsoft software at a certain price.  Guangzhou Kam Hing has now brought proceedings in the Guangzhou Intermediate Court accusing Microsoft of abusing its IP rights by allegedly:

  • Applying quantity restrictions to reinforce its dominant position
  • Charging excessive prices thereby gaining “monopoly” profits

There was also a claim of discrimination in its pricing of software licenses based on differential pricing in Hong Kong and Mainland China for the same product.  It is unclear whether the claim of discriminatory pricing is being pursued.  The decision in this case is still pending.

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China’s Ministry of Commerce Announces Investigations into Failures to Notify a Concentration, Introduces New Transparency Measures

by Henry L.T. Chen, Frank Schoneveld, Jared Nelson and Sean Pan

China’s Ministry of Commerce recently announced that it opened four investigations during 2012 into suspected non-compliance with China’s merger control notification procedures.  The outcomes of the investigations are still uncertain, but the actions clearly show increased efforts to ensure compliance through enforcement of the law.  Although the number of investigations was fairly low in 2012, the four cases are part of a new, larger trend of enforcement that began with a 2011 announcement to prioritize these investigations and was reinforced by new interim measures aimed at specifying compliance obligations and enforcement procedures.  Multinational companies with operations in China are encouraged to increase compliance efforts in this area in order to avoid becoming targets of this new enforcement priority.

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Price-Fixing Cartels: China Crackdown Continues

by Henry L.T. Chen, Frank Schoneveld, Jared Nelson and Sean Pan

Several major actions taken against price-fixing cartels by China’s enforcement authorities in the last year have sent a clear message that this is not a temporary campaign.  It is a new reality.

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When Is Resale Price Maintenance Legal in China?

by Henry L.T. Chen, Frank Schoneveld and Alex An

A Shanghai court recently decided the first case involving vertical monopoly agreements (i.e., between supplier and distributor) since China’s Anti-Monopoly Law (AML) came into effect in 2008. Of note, the court found that resale price maintenance by itself does not constitute a monopoly agreement. However, given that other courts and AML enforcement authorities can impose fines for illegal resale price maintenance, market players should not assume the practice is legal in China.

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China’s Anti-Monopoly Law Makes it Easier to Sue in Cases of Anti-Competitive Conduct

by Henry L.T. Chen and Frank Schoneveld.   

Recently, the Supreme People’s Court of China issued final rules to build a working framework for civil anti-monopoly cases brought under the country’s Anti-Monopoly Law.  The rules will take effect on 1 June 2012.

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An RMB 150-Million Litigation in China for the Abuse of a Dominant Market Position

by Henry L.T. Chen and Frank Schoneveld

Recently, the High People’s Court of Guangdong held a public hearing for a high-profile lawsuit involving two software giants and alleged abuse of a dominant market position.  This is the first anti-monopoly case accepted by the court, and the claimed amount is RMB 150 million (approximately US$23.8 million).  With few judicial precedents in China, this case will be watched closely, and its outcome is expected to have far-reaching implications.

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China Law Alert: Focus on Competition – March 2012

by Henry L.T. Chen, Frank Schoneveld, Alex An, Brian Fu and Angel Wang

McDermott Will & Emery has released the latest China Law Alert: Focus on Competition, which provides insight on current issues surrounding cross-border antitrust and transactional issues. 

China’s New Merger Control Regime Makes Major Progress in Its First Three Years

It is now just more than three years since China’s Anti-Monopoly Law (AML) was introduced. Compared with the well-established practices of US antitrust and EU competition authorities, AML enforcement is still in its infancy. However, China’s AML regulators, especially the authority in charge of merger control, the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), has moved quickly to make its mark on international business. Now, most large, cross-border mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures must also successfully pass the rigors of review by MOFCOM as well as the European Commission and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and/or Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  Read the full article here.

NDRC and SAIC’s Actions in 2011 and Prospects in 2012

China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) are the two authorities in charge of investigation and supervision of “monopoly” agreements and abuses of dominant market position. NDRC focuses on price-related cases while SAIC takes care of non-price related violations of the law. Compared to MOFCOM, which is responsible for merger control, NDRC and SAIC have been relatively quite since China’s AML came into force on 1 August 2008.  Read the full article here.

Civil Litigation under China’s Anti-Monopoly Law

Since the introduction of the China AML in August 2008, Chinese courts have experimented with various methods of civil dispute adjudication based on breach of the AML. In general, China’s courts have very limited judicial experience with such cases. A number of civil cases have been brought before the courts, but very few, if any, have resulted in a successful judgment for breach of the AML.  Read the full article here.

Might the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) Become A New Enforcement Authority for China’s Competition Laws?

In addition to MOFCOM, SAIC and NDRC, the three major enforcement authorities for the anti-unfair competition and anti-monopoly laws, it seems the MIIT might also become a regulator of competition in the telecommunications sector. In addition to a Draft Regulation on Internet Information Services, published for consultation in January 2012, MIIT released an “Opinion on Regulating the Business Activities of Basic Telecommunications Carriers on Campuses” (the Opinion) on 30 June 2011.  Read the full article here.

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China NDRC Fines Two Pharmaceutical Distributors for Monopolistic Practice

by Henry L.T. Chen, Frank Schoneveld and Alex An

Recently,China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) imposed large fines on two pharmaceutical distributors.  This move indicates the enforcement agency, which supervises price-related monopolistic practices, is beginning to take a more active role in enforcing the country’s Anti-Monopoly Law.

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