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Wesley Lepla advises on all aspects of Belgian and European competition law, including merger control, cartels, anticompetitive agreements, abuse of a dominant position, and state aid law.

On 25 March 2021, the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) dismissed the appeals by Lundbeck, Merck KGaA (and Generics UK), Arrow, Alpharma (and Xellia) and Ranbaxy, against the General Court’s (“GC”) judgment upholding the European Commission’s (“Commission”) 2013 pay-for-delay infringement decision.

Background

The case concerns the antidepressant containing the active pharmaceutical ingredient (“API”) citalopram.  Lundbeck’s patents for the API and two processes to produce it were protected in a number of European countries until 2003 (“Lundbeck’s original patents”).  Over time, Lundbeck developed other processes for the production of citalopram, in respect of which it obtained various patents (“Lundbeck’s new process patents”).

In 2002, Lundbeck entered into settlement agreements concerning potential launches of generic versions of citalopram with Generics UK (at the time an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Merck KGaA), Alpharma, Arrow and Ranbaxy.  Under the agreements, Lundbeck made payments to these producers of generic citalopram (“Other Providers”) in various forms (e.g., direct payments, purchase of generic citalopram stock for destruction, and guaranteed profits in a distribution agreement).  In exchange, the Other Providers agreed to cease or refrain from selling generic citalopram in the EEA as a whole or in specific Member States.

In 2013, the Commission adopted an infringement Decision against Lundbeck and each of the Other Providers, concluding that the agreements were “by object” restrictions of competition.
Continue Reading The CJEU’s Lundbeck judgment

On 28 May 2020, the EU’s General Court (“GC”) annulled the European Commission’s (“Commission”) decision of 11 May 2016 in which the Commission had prohibited the acquisition of Telefónica UK (“O2”) by Hutchison 3G UK (“Three”). It is the first time the EU Courts interpreted the EU Merger Regulation in so-called “gap-cases”, i.e., concentrations in oligopolistic markets which do not result in the creation or strengthening of an individual or collective dominant position.

In the days following the judgment, a number of commentators already emphasised the importance of the GC’s ruling. This post intends to carry out a measured review of the judgment, assess the GC’s findings with respect to each of the Commission’s three theories of harm, and probe whether the judgment is indeed a landmark one.
Continue Reading The General Court Annuls the Commission’s Decision to Block the Acquisition of Telefónica UK by Hutchison 3G UK – a Landmark Judgment for EU Merger Control?

Under Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”), an undertaking may abuse its dominant position by “directly or indirectly imposing unfair purchase or selling prices”.  The UK Court of Appeal recently provided guidance regarding the legal test to determine whether pricing is excessive and unfair.  In March, it dismissed the UK Competition and Markets Authority’s (“CMA”) appeal in the Phenytoin case.
Continue Reading The UK Court of Appeal Clarifies the Legal Test for Excessive Pricing

On 8 April 2020, the European Commission published its Communication on the “Temporary Framework for assessing antitrust issues related to business cooperation in response to situations of urgency stemming from the current COVID-19 outbreak” (the “Framework“).

The Commission recognizes that supply chains have been severely disrupted due to COVID-19, combined with “an asymmetric demand shock caused by either an abrupt decline in consumer demand for certain products and services or a steep rise in demand for other products and services”, notably in the health sector.  The duration and intensity of the shock is unknown.

These exceptional circumstances “may trigger the need for undertakings to cooperate with each other in order to overcome or at least mitigate the effects of the crisis to the ultimate benefit of citizens” (para 3).

The purpose of the Framework is to:

(i) explain the main criteria that the Commission will follow when assessing possible cooperation projects between undertakings aimed at addressing the shortage of essential products and services during the COVID-19 outbreak;

(ii) describe the exceptional procedure that the Commission has set up to provide, where appropriate, ad hoc ‘comfort letters’ to undertakings in relation to specific cooperation projects.
Continue Reading European Commission Publishes Exceptional Antitrust Guidance for Undertakings Collaborating to Address the Shortage of Essential Products and Services during COVID-19

The German Monopolies Commission (Monopolkommission), an independent body advising the German federal government and legislature on competition law and policy, recently published its Twenty-second Biennial Report (“Report”) in which it outlined recommendations to adapt the German legal framework to account for what it characterized as new competition challenges faced by the increasing and irreversible digitisation of many parts of the economy (please see the Summary Report here and Press Release here, both available in English). Of particular interest is the Monopolies Commission’s proposed approach to anti-competitive algorithm-based pricing.
Continue Reading The German Monopolies Commission’s Proposals Regarding Pricing Algorithms