Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Antitrust & Trade Regulation

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In 2010, Lenox MacLaren Surgical Corporation (“Lenox”) sued several related corporations, Medtronic, Inc.; Medtronic PS Medical, Inc. (“PS Medical”); Medtronic Sofamor Danek, Inc. (“MSD, Inc.”); and Medtronic Sofamor Danek Co. Ltd. (“MSD Japan”) (collectively, “Defendants”), for monopolization and attempted monopolization in violation of section 2 of the Sherman Act. Lenox alleged that Defendants engaged in illegal activity to advance a coordinated, anticompetitive scheme in which a related non-party, Medtronic Sofamor Danek USA, Inc. (“MSD USA”), also participated. Lenox sued MSD USA in 2007 on claims arising from the same set of facts. In this case, Lexon challenged the district court’s disposition of Defendants’ second motion for summary judgment, which claimed that Lenox could not prove the elements of its antitrust claims against any of the named Defendants individually, and that Defendants cannot be charged collectively with the conduct of MSD USA or of each other. They also argued that the doctrine of claim preclusion barred Lenox’s claims, in light of the prior proceeding against MSD USA. The district court granted summary judgment, holding that because Lenox could not establish each of the elements of an antitrust claim against any one defendant, or establish a conspiracy among them, Lenox’s claims failed as a matter of law. Lenox appealed. But finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Lenox MacLaren Surgical Corp. v. Medtronic" on Justia Law

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Buccaneer Energy (USA) Inc. sued SG Interests I, Ltd., SG Interests VII, Ltd. (together, “SG”), and Gunnison Energy Corporation (“GEC”) (collectively, “Defendants”) after unsuccessfully seeking an agreement to transport natural gas on Defendants’ jointly owned pipeline system at a price Buccaneer considered reasonable. Specifically, Buccaneer alleged that by refusing to provide reasonable access to the system, Defendants had conspired in restraint of trade and conspired to monopolize in violation of sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, respectively. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants, concluding that Buccaneer could not establish either of its antitrust claims and that, in any event, Buccaneer lacked antitrust standing. The Tenth Circuit agreed that Buccaneer failed to present sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of fact on one or more elements of each of its claims, and therefore affirmed on that dispositive basis alone. View "Buccaneer Energy v. Gunnison Energy" on Justia Law

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This case involved a dispute between two competing prefabricated steel building companies in Colorado. Defendants-Appellants Atlantic Building Systems, LLC d/b/a Armstrong Steel Corporation and its CEO, Ethan Chumley (collectively, “Armstrong Steel”), appealed the district court’s denial of immunity under the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”). The underlying dispute involved Armstrong Steel’s negative online advertising campaign against General Steel. When internet users searched for “General Steel,” negative advertisements from Armstrong Steel would appear on the results page. Clicking on the advertisements would direct users to Armstrong Steel’s web page entitled, “Industry Related Legal Matters” (“IRLM Page”). General Steel brought four claims: (1) unfair competition and unfair trade practices under the Lanham Act, (2) libel and libel per se, (3) intentional interference with prospective business advantage, and (4) civil conspiracy. Armstrong Steel sought summary judgment, claiming immunity from suit and liability under Section 230 of the CDA. The district court found that Armstrong Steel was entitled to immunity for three posts because those posts simply contained links to content created by third parties. The court refused, however, to extend CDA immunity to the remaining seventeen posts and the internet search ads. The court found that the “defendants created and developed the content of those ads,” and were therefore not entitled to immunity. After review, the Tenth Circuit dismissed this appeal for lack of jurisdiction, concluding that the CDA provided immunity from liability, not suit, and the district court’s order did not qualify under the collateral order doctrine. View "General Steel Domestic Sales v. Chumley" on Justia Law

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This case centered on a dispute between SOLIDFX, LLC, a software development company, and Jeppesen Sanderson, Inc., a subsidiary of Boeing that developed aviation terminal charts. SOLIDFX sued Jeppesen, asserting antitrust, breach-of-contract, and tort claims. The district court granted partial summary judgment on the antitrust claims, but the remaining claims proceeded to trial. A jury ultimately found in favor of SOLIDFX and awarded damages in excess of $43 million. Jeppesen appealed, challenging only the district court’s ruling that SOLIDFX could recover lost profits on its contract claims. SOLIDFX cross-appealed the district court’s summary judgment order in favor of Jeppesen on the antitrust claims. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded the License Agreement at issue here unambiguously precluded the recovery of lost profits, irrespective of whether they were direct or consequential damages. But the Court also determined that, even if the agreement could be read to allow the recovery of direct lost profits, the lost profits awarded by the jury here were consequential damages and therefore not recoverable. Because the Court held that SOLIDFX was contractually precluded from recovering the amounts awarded for lost profits, it did not reach the question of whether SOLIDFX proved those lost profits with reasonable certainty, nor did it address the admissibility of expert testimony offered by SOLIDFX to establish the amount of its lost profits. Finally, the Court agreed with the district court that Jeppesen was entitled to summary judgment on SOLIDFX’s antitrust claims. View "Solidfx v. Jeppesen Sanderson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Forney Industries, Inc.'s product packaging has, since at least 1989, used some combination of red, yellow, black, and white coloration. The issue in this case was whether Forney's use of colors in its metalworking product line was a protected mark under the Lanham Act. Forney alleged that Defendant Daco of Missouri, Inc., which did business as KDAR Co. (KDAR), infringed on its protected mark by packaging KDAR’s “Hot Max” products with similar colors and a flame motif. The district court granted summary judgment to KDAR and the Tenth Circuit affirmed. Forney’s use of color, which was not associated with any particular shape, pattern, or design, was not adequately defined to be inherently distinctive, and Forney failed to produce sufficient evidence that its use of color in its line of products had acquired secondary meaning. View "Forney Industries v. Daco of Missouri" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Andrew Alwert and Stanley Feldman brought putative class actions against Cox Communications, Inc. (Cox) claiming that Cox violated antitrust law by tying its premium cable service to rental of a set-top box. The district court granted Cox’s motions to compel arbitration, then certified the orders compelling arbitration for interlocutory appeal. The Tenth Circuit granted Plaintiffs permission to appeal. They argued that the arbitration order was improper because: (1) the dispute was not within the scope of the arbitration agreement; (2) Cox waived its right to invoke arbitration; and (3) Cox’s promise to arbitrate was illusory, so the arbitration agreement was unenforceable. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed, holding that the arbitration clause in Plaintiffs’ subscriber agreements with Cox covered the underlying litigation and that Cox did not waive its right to arbitration. The Court did not resolve Plaintiffs’ argument that Cox’s promises were illusory because the argument amounted to a challenge to the contract as a whole, which was a question to be decided in arbitration. View "Alwert v. Cox Enterprises" on Justia Law

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This antitrust class action stemmed from an allegation that Dow Chemical Company conspired with its competitors to fix prices for polyurethane chemical products. Over Dow’s objection, the district court certified a plaintiff class including all industrial purchasers of polyurethane products during the alleged conspiracy period. The action went to trial, and the jury returned a verdict against Dow. The district court entered judgment for the plaintiffs, denying Dow’s motions for decertification of the class and judgment as a matter of law. Dow raised four issues on appeal, all of which the Tenth Circuit rejected. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court. View "In re: Urethane AntiTrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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Lenox MacLaren Surgical began to sell some of its bone mills (a device it manufactured for use in spinal surgery) through a Medtronic entity, Medtronic Sofamor Danek USA. The arrangement ended badly: Medtronic Sofamor Danek USA initiated a recall of Lenox's bone mills, and another Medtronic entity began to manufacture and sell its own bone mill. The result, according to Lenox, was that four Medtronic entities acquired an unfair competitive advantage; thus, Lenox sued these entities for monopolization and attempted monopolization from 2007 to 2010. The district court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on both claims, and Lenox appealed. Upon review of the claims and the district court record, the Tenth Circuit concluded that genuine issues of material fact existed regarding market definition, monopoly power, exclusionary conduct, and harm to competition. Thus, the Court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Medtronic on the claims involving monopolization and attempted monopolization, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Lenox MacLaren Surgical v. Medtronic, et al" on Justia Law

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Novell, Inc. filed suit against Microsoft Corporation, alleging anti-trust violations. The matter went to trial in 2011, ending in deadlock. The district court concluded Microsoft's conduct did not offend section 2 of the Sherman Act, and entered judgment as a matter of law. Novell appealed to the Tenth Circuit, arguing that Microsoft refused to share its intellectual property with rivals after first promising to do so. The Tenth Circuit concluded after its review that Novell presented no evidence from which a reasonable jury could infer that Microsoft's discontinuation of this arrangement suggested a "willingness to sacrifice short-term profits, […] in a manner that was irrational but for its tendency to harm competition." View "Novell, Inc. v. Microsoft Corporation" on Justia Law

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The City of Newkirk and Kay Electric Cooperative both provide electricity to Oklahoma consumers. "When a city acts as a market participant it generally has to play by the same rules as everyone else. It can't abuse its monopoly power or conspire to suppress competition. Except sometimes it can. If the city can show that its parent state authorized it to upend normal competition [. . . ] the city enjoys immunity from federal antitrust liability. The problem for the City of Newkirk in this case is that the state has done no such thing." Kay sued Newkirk alleging that the City engaged in unlawful tying and attempted monopolization in violation of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1,2. The district court refused to allow the case to proceed, granting Newkirk's motion to dismiss after it found the City "immune" from liability as a matter of law. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit found that the state did not authorize Newkirk to enter the local electricity market as it did in this case. The Court reversed the district court and remanded the case for further proceedings.