IP issues in the telecom industry – An interview with Matteo Sabattini

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The telecommunication industry has experienced a rapid and constant growth over the years. Now the 5G technology and the “Internet of Things” are behind the corner, but a number of legal and regulatory issues are being discussed. We talk about this and much more with Matteo Sabattini, expert in IP-related matters (for his complete bio, scroll down).

Good morning Dr. Sabattini. What’s the weather like today in Washington DC?

Earlier today, it was snowing. Light flurries. Quite unexpected considering that yesterday we had temperatures close to 20 degrees Celsius and spring weather conditions!

Today you are a patent and technology policy expert. What led you into this field? As a student, did you expect to work in this field?

In college, I was passionate about technology and engineering. I had initially envisioned myself as a researcher, an academic or an R&D engineer. And, in fact, that is what I did after I graduated and what pushed me to get a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. I got into IP with an internship at a consulting firm in Boston. While I was growing frustrated with the pace and the often-challenging industrial applicability of academic research, I enjoyed the diversity that working on patents gave me. I was learning quickly and eagerly about a new field, where I could still use my technical skills in a much more applied fashion. Through the years, as I was learning more about IP, I gradually moved from pure technical support to business and commercial aspects of the business. Continue reading “IP issues in the telecom industry – An interview with Matteo Sabattini”

Restriction of competition by object after Cartes Bancaires: further developments

How to assess whether an agreement between competitors has an anticompetitive object? In general, an agreement is known to be anticompetitive by object (or “per se”) when competitors agree on prices and quantities. However, when an agreement contains pro and anti-competitive features, a balance should be struck and the analysis is more complicated.

This assessment has an enormous impact on the burden of proof lying on competition authorities in antitrust investigations. Indeed, when competition authorities conclude that an agreement is restrictive by object, they do not have to prove the existence of an anticompetitive effect.

For decades, the antitrust community tried to to make a clear distinction between those agreements, which are restrictive by object and the ones whose effects have to be analysed in more depth. Finally, in the last years courts around Europe have handed down a number of judgments on this issue, trying to limit the frequent recourse by competition authorities to the “object shortcut”.

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Does IEEE’s IP policy comply with competition law?

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There is a large body of legal and economic literature on standard-essential patents (SEPs) and competition law that focuses on the availability of injunctive relief and strategic behaviour of SEPs’ holders. There is much less literature on the role of standard-setting organisations (SSOs) and their IP policies (I dealt with this topic here).

The IP policies of SSOs became a hot topic in 2015, when the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (“IEEE”), one of the most relevant SSOs active in the information and communication technology (“ICT”) sector, modified its IP policy with an effort to better clarify the “reasonable and non-discriminatory” (“RAND”) commitments that SEPs’ owners are supposed to accept through the submission of a letter of assurance (“LOA”). Continue reading “Does IEEE’s IP policy comply with competition law?”

When Supermodels Meet Competition Law

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Who said competition law is always about the same old markets?

Last November the Italian Competition Authority dealt with something other than pharmaceutical or telecommunication, as it found that 8 major model agencies set up a price-cartel. The investigation had been opened upon submission of a leniency application by the renowned agency IMG and led to a cumulative fine of 4.5 million euro. The other agencies found liable were Brave, D’management, Elite Model, Management, Enjoy, Major Model Management, Next Italy, Why Not and Women Models. Continue reading “When Supermodels Meet Competition Law”

Competition law in the pharmaceutical sector: Aspen fined for excessive pricing in Italy

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The Italian Competition Authority (“ICA”) has recently found that Aspen Pharmacare had increased the prices for some of its oncohematological drugs up to 1500% and imposed to the South African multinational a 5 million Euro fine for violation of art. 102, letter a) of the TFEU. Aspen has already communicated that it will appeal the decision.

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Google held liable in Italy for abuse of economic dependence

abuse of economic dependenceAfter being investigated for an alleged breach of competition law, Google is now experiencing negative outcomes also in the context of private enforcement, as the Court of first instance of Milan held Big G liable for abuse of economic dependence. This concept is unknown to EU competition law and is a separate concept from the abuse of dominant position.

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Antitrust compliance programs and limitation of liability in Italy

Antitrust compliance programsSince fines issued by competition authorities are a major concern for companies, the implementation of antitrust compliance programs should be a priority for legal counsel. Indeed, antitrust fines are of a purely punitive nature and are usually followed by damage lawsuits filed by the harmed parties. Therefore, these fines amount to an abrupt loss and do not exempt the liable firm to compensate harmed parties for the damages suffered. As a consequence, all the companies involved in antitrust investigations should consider implementing a defensive strategy aimed at minimizing the amount of the fine. Continue reading “Antitrust compliance programs and limitation of liability in Italy”