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Annual European Competition Review 2019

McDermott's Annual European Competition Review summarizes key developments in European competition rules. During the previous year, several new regulations, notices and guidelines were issued by the European Commission. There were also many interesting cases decided by the General Court and the Court of Justice of the European Union. All these new rules and judicial decisions may be relevant for your company and your day-to-day practice. In our super-connected age, we can be inundated by information from numerous sources and it is difficult to select what is really relevant to one’s business. The purpose of this review is to help general counsel and their teams to be aware of the essential updates. This review was prepared by the Firm’s European Competition Team in Brussels and Paris. Throughout 2019 they have monitored legal developments and drafted the summary reports. Access the full report.

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Advocate General Wahl Delivers Opinion on Legality of Bans on Online Sales via Third-Party Platforms in Selective Distribution Systems

According to Advocate General Nils Wahl’s opinion, delivered on July 26, in the Court of Justice of the European Union’s (CJEU) case Coty Germany GmbH v Parfümerie Akzente GmbH (case C-230/16), suppliers of luxury goods may prohibit their authorized retailers from selling their goods via third-party internet platforms. Such bans do not necessarily infringe Article 101(1) of the Treaty of Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) (which prohibits anticompetitive agreements). Background of the Case On July 16, 2016, the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt lodged a request for a preliminary ruling with the CJEU asking whether selective distribution systems that serve to ensure a “luxury image” for the goods constitute an aspect of competition that is compatible with Article 101(1) TFEU and, whether bans on sales via third-party internet platforms constitute a restriction “by object” and should be viewed as “hardcore restrictions” under the Commission’s Vertical...

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General Court of the EU Confirms Fines Imposed on Lundbeck and Generic Drug Manufacturers for Entering into Patent Settlements

On 8 September 2016, the General Court of the EU (GCEU) handed down five judgments upholding a decision by the Commission of 19 June 2013 imposing fines on Lundbeck, an originator company, and Merck (the parent company of Generics), Arrow, Alpharma and Ranbaxy, four generic companies. The Commission found that the companies had entered into anticompetitive “pay-for-delay” settlement agreements whereby Lundbeck paid a lump sum to the generic companies in exchange for their agreement to delay their entry on the market for Citalopram, an anti-depressant drug. This ruling is notable in that it is the first time that the GCEU has been asked to rule on patent settlements between originators and generic companies. The GCEU upheld the Commission’s reasoning, noting that the Commission’s reasoning in this case reflects the provisions of its Guidelines on the application of Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) to technology transfer agreements....

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EU Court Rules That Royalties for Unpatented Technology Are Not Necessarily Anticompetitive

On 7 July 2016, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) handed down a judgment on whether Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) must be interpreted as precluding effect being given to a licence agreement requiring the licensee to pay royalties for the use of a patent which has been revoked (Sanofi-Aventis v. Genentech, Case C-567/14). Background In 1992, Hoechst granted a licence to Genentech for a human cytomegalovirus enhancer. The licensed technology was subject to one European patent and two patents issued in the United States. In 1999, the European Patent Office revoked the European patent. Under the licence agreement with Hoechst, Genentech was obliged to pay a one-off fee, a fixed annual research fee and a running royalty based on sales of finished products. Genentech never paid the running royalty, however, and in 2008 it notified Hoechst and Sanofi-Aventis (Hoechst’s parent company) that it was...

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EU Court Maintains Tough Stance Against Business Practices by Firms With Strong Market Power

The European Union’s court of first instance, the General Court, has confirmed the Commission’s decision in Intel and upheld a record fine of €1.06 billion. In so doing, it condemned a number of Intel’s business practices, including loyalty rebates. The General Court’s approach suggests that it views exclusionary business practices by a company in a position of dominance as anti-competitive by their very nature. On this basis, it is likely that the courts will continue to assess allegations of antitrust infringements by dominant companies without taking into account their effects on the market, and might condemn conduct that may not, in fact, be harmful. Read the full article.

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European Commission Uses EU State Aid Rules Against Aggressive Tax Planning by Multinational Companies

by Martina Maier and Philipp Werner (with contribution from Katharina Dietz) The European Commission (Commission) took the first concrete action towards using EU State aid rules against aggressive tax planning by multinational companies by opening formal investigations against Ireland (Apple), Luxembourg (Fiat Finance and Trade) and the Netherlands (Starbucks). The Commission has concerns that these companies may have benefited from a selective advantage in the form of tax rulings by tax authorities that confer on them a preferential calculation of the taxable basis. The Commission has already announced that it investigates further cases of alleged State aid in the form of tax rulings in at least six EU Member States (including France and the UK) in the upcoming months. Please click here to read the full article

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Revised GBER Reduces Need For Commission Prior Approval of State Aid But Some Conditions Stricter Than Before

The European Commission (Commission) has adopted new rules that exempt public support given to companies by EU Member States, including regional and local authorities, from the requirement of prior notification to, and approval by, the Commission. These new rules, which revise the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) significantly extend the scope of support that can be granted by Member States without the Commission’s involvement. Some substantive conditions for exemption will, however, be stricter than before. Public authorities and aid beneficiaries are well advised to take the new opportunities and challenges introduced by the revised GBER into account when designing their aid measures. Please click here to read the full article.

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The Case of Ophthalmic Drugs in Italy and France: A Lesson to Learn – Parallel Antitrust Investigations and Cooperation Between National Competition Authorities

The recent investigations into two pharmaceutical companies active in the ophthalmic drugs market in Italy and France serve as a reminder of the cooperation that takes place between national competition authorities. International groups should therefore take into account all the jurisdictions where they have a presence or do business when developing their antitrust audit and compliance programmes. Read the full article.

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European Commission Adopts Revised Competition Regime for Technology Transfer Agreements

On 21 March 2014, the European Commission (Commission) adopted a revised set of rules for the assessment of technology transfer agreements by the Commission and national competition authorities. The new Technology Transfer Block Exemption Regulation and accompanying Technology Transfer Guidelines will enter into force on 1 May 2014. The revised regime provides clearer and, arguably much needed, guidance on licensing agreements. This enhanced clarity should make it easier for businesses to assess whether or not their licensing and other collaborative practices aimed at the transfer of technology are in compliance with EU competition law. Click here to read the full article.

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