The Italian Competition Authority publishes draft “Guidelines on antitrust compliance” encouraging the adoption of compliance programs

On April 20 the Italian Competition Authority (“AGCM”) launched a public consultation in order to gather comments on its draft “Guidelines on antitrust compliance”.

The document is of huge importance since it provides for the first time the view of the AGCM on how an effective antitrust compliance program should be established and managed. Even more importantly, the draft guidelines show how the Authority will weigh the adoption of compliance programs as a mitigating circumstance at the moment of calculating fines in antitrust investigations. Continue reading “The Italian Competition Authority publishes draft “Guidelines on antitrust compliance” encouraging the adoption of compliance programs”

Reforming EU copyright law through competition enforcement? Waiting for the Commission’s decision in the “Pay-tv” case

These are complicated days for the entertainment industry. While one investigation regarding sports media rights has just been launched by the European Commission, another is coming to an end. I am talking about the so-called “Pay-tv” case, by means of which the Commission is subtly attempting to reform copyright law through competition enforcement. Continue reading “Reforming EU copyright law through competition enforcement? Waiting for the Commission’s decision in the “Pay-tv” case”

CJEU (C-179/16, Hoffman-La Roche): infringement of pharmacovigilance obligations may give rise to EU competition law liability

On 23 January 2018, the European Court of Justice (“CJEU”) issued its preliminary ruling in the Hoffman-La Roche case, where it had the chance to address some major issues regarding competition law in the pharmaceutical sector. The request for a preliminary ruling had been referred by the Italian Consiglio di Stato in relation to a cartel case where the Italian Competition Authority had fined Roche and Novartis for a total amount of 180 million euros.

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CJEU (C-230/16, Coty Germany): sales via internet platforms can be prohibited within selective distribution systems

On December 6, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) delivered its final ruling in the Coty case. This is a landmark judgment, since it will have a strong impact on the internet sales strategies of all those companies that, in order to preserve the quality of their products and ensure their proper use, want to use a selective distribution system. In this regard, it has to be recalled that from the perspective of EU competition law, selective distribution is a distribution system where the supplier undertakes to sell the contract goods or services only to retailers which meet specified qualitative criteria and where these retailers undertake to sell such goods only to final consumers or to other authorised retailers within the territory reserved by the supplier to operate that system.

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The European Commission provides guidance on SEP licensing but leaves open issues

On November 29, the European Commission published its long-awaited “Communication setting out the EU approach to standard-essential patents” (SEPs). The stakeholders were expecting from the Commission in-depth guidance on the definition of fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms in the context of SEP licensing. However, the Commission did not address all the open issues, leaving room for continued legal uncertainty on the exact meaning of FRAND. Continue reading “The European Commission provides guidance on SEP licensing but leaves open issues”

AG Saugmandsgaard Øe provides guidance on the application of EU competition law in the pharmaceutical sector

**Update**: see here the comment on the final judgment of the CJEU.

On 21 September Advocate General Saugmandsgaard Øe provided his Opinion to the CJEU on some key issues regarding competition law in the pharmaceutical sector. The request for a preliminary ruling was referred by the Italian Supreme Administrative Court (“Consiglio di Stato”) in relation to a cartel case where the Italian Competition Authority (“ICA”) fined Roche and Novartis for a total amount of 180 million euros.

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BREAKING: the CJEU sets new criteria to assess excessive pricing under competition law

Yesterday the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on one of the hottest antitrust issues of 2017: excessive pricing.

It was Commissioner Vestager in late 2016 who set the antitrust radar of the European Commission on these conducts, which were considered a bit like unicorns until last year: traces of them were visible only on old handbooks. Following the Commissioner’s speech, the European Commission launched an investigation against Aspen Pharma for alleged excessive pricing in May 2017 (everywhere but in Italy, where Aspen had already been fined by the Italian Competition Authority, see here).

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“Annual Competition Act” with lowered merger notification thresholds and other pro-competitive measures approved in Italy

On 2 August 2017, the Italian Parliament enacted the so called “Annual Competition Act”, an Act which is supposed to be approved every year by the Legislator in order to adopt measures that should boost competition on the market. Why is that? Under the Italian Competition Act, the Italian Competition Authority submits an yearly official report to the Presidency of the Council to identify all the pre-existing or emergent legislative measures that create restrictions on competition and to suggest possible solutions. After examining the report, the Government delivers a draft law to the Parliament which will discuss, amend and approve it.

The new law significantly lowers the existing merger notification turnover thresholds. As a consequence, the new thresholds which trigger a mandatory filing to the Italian Competition Authority are:

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Recent developments on vexatious litigation and misuse of regulatory procedures under EU competition law

There are some forms of abuse of dominant position which raise significant issues in terms of compliance with the principle of legal certainty. Among such behaviours we can surely include conducts like “vexatious litigation” and “misuse of regulatory procedures” , categories developed by courts and not explicitly found in statutes. When competition authorities launch an investigation based on these conducts, companies have good reasons to get worried.

A new investigation in Italy – ICA v. Telecom Italia

Over the past years, the number of cases based on the “abuse of law” concept have risen, and last week the Italian Competition Authority (ICA) opened a new investigation based on this concept. According to the ICA, Telecom Italia would have abused its dominant position under article 102 TFEU by means of vexatious litigation, misuse of regulatory procedures, margin squeeze and lock-in strategies on the national wholesale market for the access to the ultra-broadband network and on the retail market for the supply of ultra-broadband telecommunication services. The ICA considered Telecom Italia dominant both at wholesale (it owns around 95% of the facilities) and retail level (with a market share of 45,9%).

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High Court rules in favour of the SEP holder and narrows the scope of competition law defence in Unwired Planet vs. Huawei

On 5 April 2017 the High Court of Justice of England and Wales (Hon. Justice Birss) issued its long awaited judgment in the patent dispute between Unwired Planet and Huawei. The ruling is of high relevance, as it is the first decision adopted by a judge in the UK after the CJEU’s judgment in Huawei.

The facts

The trial began in March 2014 when Unwired Planet sued Google, Huawei and Samsung for infringement of five SEPs (and one non-essential patent). Later, Unwired Planet settled with Google and Samsung. Continue reading “High Court rules in favour of the SEP holder and narrows the scope of competition law defence in Unwired Planet vs. Huawei”