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Intellectual Property and Antitrust: Italian Chapter

McDermott has authored the Italian chapter of the 2016 edition of “Intellectual Property & Antitrust” published by Getting the Deal Through, a valuable work tool for legal practitioners dealing with intellectual property and competition law.

This chapter addresses the statutes for granting IP rights, enforcement options and remedies, as well as the interplay between Italian IP and competition legislation, jurisdiction of competition and IP agencies, cartels, price maintenance, abuse of dominance and remedies.

Read the full article here.




Assistant Attorney General Addresses Antitrust Remedies in First Formal Remarks

On September 25, 2013, Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer gave his first formal remarks since becoming head of the Antitrust Division at the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) in January. Speaking at Georgetown Law’s Seventh Annual Global Antitrust Enforcement Symposium, Baer’s address was entitled “Remedies Matter: The Importance of Achieving Effective Antitrust Outcomes.”

Baer emphasized that achieving a remedy that preserves or restores competition is more important than the government winning a particular lawsuit.  He then addressed remedies in four contexts: merger remedies, civil non-merger remedies, civil disgorgement and criminal remedies.

Regarding mergers, Baer said that the DOJ “should only consider remedies that effectively resolve the competitive concerns and protect the competitive process.”  He indicated that some deals are nearly unfixable and noting that litigation is not DOJ’s preferred option, Baer warned that reaching a consent decree takes time and cautioned parties against waiting until late in an investigation to engage the DOJ in negotiations.  The proposed acquisition of Grupo Modelo by Anheuser-Busch InBev initially included a component addressing antitrust concerns, but the DOJ wanted more.  Baer used the consent decree in that matter to highlight important provisions in “an effective merger remedy:” structural relief, a fully-vetted up-front buyer, a monitoring trustee and a conveyance of intellectual property and know-how.

For civil non-merger remedies, Baer pointed to the e-books litigation involving Apple and five of the six largest publishers in the United States.  In prosecuting Apple for its role in the civil price-fixing conspiracy, DOJ was seeking a remedy “that would stamp out any lingering effects of the conspiracy,” prevent similar conduct in the future, and ensure Apple’s compliance, with “success … measured not by [DOJ’s] ability to prove the violation, but rather by the effectiveness of the remedies … obtained.”  Baer believes the final judgment accomplishes this through antitrust compliance requirements, including an external compliance monitor.

Baer said that civil disgorgement is appropriate where an offending party would have otherwise “retained the monetary benefits of its anticompetitive conduct.”  He also indicated that it would be a remedy considered in both merger and conduct cases.  Pointing to the “broader legal landscape” and what some observers see as hurdles in private antitrust cases, Baer said that the DOJ would take into account the likelihood of success in private actions when it fashions its public remedies.

For criminal remedies, Baer discussed DOJ’s prosecution of AU Optronics Corporation, its U.S. subsidiary and two top executives for a criminal price-fixing conspiracy.  The remedy included a $500 million fine, probation and an independent monitor to oversee an antitrust compliance program.

Baer appears open to developing creative remedies to achieve outcomes the agency finds most effective in “remedy[ing] anticompetitive conduct and guard[ing] against any recurrence.”  Throughout the speech he emphasized the use of external monitors (the costs of which are borne by the offending parties) and difficult remedies to “fix” past offenses, including disgorgement and unwinding consummated mergers.




Withdrawal of Clearance Decision and EUR 30 million Fine Against Canal Plus for Unfulfilled Merger Clearance Commitments

by Louise-Astrid Aberg and Lionel Lesur

The French Competition Authority has taken a hard stance by withdrawing its authorization of French broadcaster Canal Plus’ purchase of rival commercial television company TPS, formerly the two most powerful players on the pay TV market.  This decision reasserts the importance of respecting imposed remedies.  In this case, Canal Plus was sanctioned with a fine of EUR 30 million for failing to fulfill the 59 remedies imposed by the Authority in 2006, and has been given one month to re-notify the transaction to the Authority.

While Canal Plus had "only" failed with respect to 10 of the 59 remedies, the Authority did not consider this to be an attenuating circumstance because several of these remedies were "essential" and that the entire "package" of commitments should have been implemented due to the likely impact of the concentration on competition in the market.  In particular, Canal Plus was blamed for being too slow in providing downstream distribution companies (principally represented by internet access providers) access to channels and content. The downstream distributors needed this content to be able to offer competitive packages of pay TV. The Authority considered this obligation essential and at the heart of the commitments necessary for the maintenance of competition.

In France, the Competition Authority can act on its own to take action against companies that fail to respect commitments entered into in the context of an antitrust investigation.  In the past, fines have been imposed on companies, but the amounts were quite symbolic (i.e., EUR 200,000 for two companies active in the postage sector).  This recent decision will force companies submitting to remedies to resolve a planned concentration to be certain it can accept/effectuate those constraints, as the ultimate failure to respect them could lead to disastrous outcomes.  Indeed, not only could companies risk a withdrawal of the Authority’s authorization and the imposition of very high fines, such as in the present case, but also, the parties could be ordered to reverse the concentration if the commitments would prove impossible to honor.  Canal Plus, which has one month to renotify the concentration, will therefore be forced to undergo a new investigation by the Authority which could in theory end with an obligation to demerge.

It still remains unclear which type of remedies are considered essential by the Authority and, consequently, which breach could lead the Authority to impose the obligation to renotify and fines as significant as in the present case.  More specific details from the Authority about which remedies are considered essential are necessary so that companies can be informed during their considerations of whether or not to accept certain types of remedies. This case is, however, very specific as the conditional authorization granted by the French Competition Authority in 2006 led to the creation of a monopoly.  Moreover, many authors and practitioners highly criticized this decision, particularly several remedies which appeared to be impractical to implement immediately.

The decision (in French) and the press release (in English) can be read respectively at https://www.autoritedelaconcurrence.fr/pdf/avis/11d12.pdf and https://www.autoritedelaconcurrence.fr/user/standard.php?id_rub=389&id_article=1697.




Be Aware of the EU Watch Dog:  Commission Blocks Merger Between Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air

by Martina Maier and Philipp Werner

In January 2011, the European Commission decided that the proposed merger between Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air should be prohibited because it would have resulted in a quasi-monopoly on the domestic Greek air transport market.  This decision shows that traditional airline merger remedies, such as slot releases, are sometimes insufficient to allay concerns of monopolization.  It also illustrates that the Commission will take a tough stance on competition policy, even when facing strong political pressure to clear the merger for the sake of the economy.

To read the full article here, click here




Cooperation Between Competition Authorities in Merger Review in the EU

by Philipp Werner and Christoph Voelk

The European Commission started a public consultation on a draft document which seeks to establish best practices on cooperation between national competition authorities (NCAs) in the EU when reviewing mergers.  Although cooperation between NCAs exists already, especially through the European Competition Network (ECN), the best practices seek to formalize the cooperation between NCAs and thus providing more security and predictability for the parties and their legal advisers.

The best practices should enhance cooperation between NCAs in cases where the same merger is assessed by several NCAs because it does not meet the thresholds for review under the EU Merger Regulation.  The Commission considers cooperation between NCAs as beneficial not only for the authorities but also for the merging parties:  it will speed up the investigation process, reduce burdens on the merging parties and may help NCAs in designing remedies.  Particularly in cases where serious concerns about the post merger situation exist, close cooperation between competition authorities will secure a non-conflicting and coherent outcome. 

The object of the Commission’s draft is twofold: 

First, NCAs should keep each other informed of important developments related to their investigation into the merger.  Also, NCAs should liaise in cases where closer cooperation is necessary and keep each other informed about their progress.  Most importantly, the Commission proposes that NCAs should in future discuss market definition, theories of harm, empirical evidence and the possible impact of a proposed merger. 

Second, the draft also assigns a role to the merging parties.  Merging parties should, as far as possible, provide NCAs with information as to where the merger will be filed, the dates of the proposed filing, geographic areas, sectors involved etc.  Also, merging parties should assist in ensuring that remedies do not lead to inconsistencies and that such remedies are effective.  Of importance is further the proposal that the merging parties, but also third parties, shall – as far as possible – grant waivers of confidentiality so that NCAs actually are permitted to discuss particular issues of a proposed transaction.

Comments on the Commission’s draft can be submitted until 27 May 2011 to comp-a2-mergers@ec.europa.eu.

The consultation page can be accessed via https://ec.europa.eu/competition/consultations/2011_merger_best_practices/index_en.html




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