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C. Scott Hemphill

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Paying for Delay: Pharmaceutical Patent Settlement as a Regulatory Design Problem

C. Scott Hemphill

Over the past decade, drug makers have settled patent litigation by making large payments to potential rivals who, in turn, abandon suits that (if successful) would increase competition. Because such “pay-for-delay” settlements postpone the possibility of competitive entry, they have attracted the attention of antitrust enforcement authorities, courts, and commentators. Pay-for-delay settlements not only constitute a problem of immense practical importance in antitrust enforcement, but also pose a general dilemma about the proper balance between innovation and consumer access.
This Article examines the pay-for-delay dilemma as a problem in regulatory design. A full analysis of the relevant industry-specific regulatory statute, the Hatch-Waxman Act, yields two conclusions. First, certain features of the Act widen, often by subtle means, the potential for anticompetitive harm from pay-for-delay settlements. Second, the Act reflects a congressional judgment favoring litigated challenges, contrary to arguments employed to justify these settlements. These results support the further conclusion that pay-for-delay settlements are properly condemned as unreasonable restraints of trade. This analysis illustrates two mechanisms by which an industry-specific regulatory regime shapes the scope of antitrust liability: by creating (or limiting) opportunities for anticompetitive conduct as a practical economic matter, and by guiding as a legal matter the vigor of antitrust enforcement in addressing that conduct.

The Scope of Strong Marks: Should Trademark Law Protect the Strong More than the Weak?

Barton Beebe, C. Scott Hemphill

At the core of trademark law has long been the blackletter principle that the stronger a trademark is, the greater the likelihood that consumers will confuse similar marks with it and thus the wider the scope of protection the mark should receive. The relation between trademark strength and trademark scope is always positive. The strongest marks receive the widest scope of protection.

In this article, we challenge this conventional wisdom. We argue that as a mark achieves very high levels of strength, the relation between strength and confusion turns negative. The very strength of such a superstrong mark operates to ensure that consumers will not mistake other marks for it. Thus, the scope of protection for such marks ought to be narrower compared to merely strong marks. If we are correct, then numerous trademark disputes involving the best-known marks should be resolved differently—in favor of defendants. Our approach draws support from case law of the Federal Circuit—developed but then suppressed by that court—and numerous foreign jurisdictions.

As we show, some courts justify the conventional wisdom on the alternative ground that, whatever the likelihood of confusion, defendants with similar marks should not reap where they have not sown. This misplaced concern with free riding suffers from multiple analytical flaws and is contrary to trademark policy. These flaws are compounded where the mark owner sues a competitor, claiming expansive scope over similar but non-confusing marks. The fundamental change in trademark doctrine that we propose not only conforms to the empirical realities of consumer perception, but also advances the overarching policy goal of trademark law, which is not to enable the strongest to grow even stronger, but rather to promote effective competition.