The cost of prescription drugs, a function of the nexus of patent law and antitrust law, has recently been thrust into the spotlight. In the shadow of the Federal Trade Commission’s vigorous challenges to anticompetitive agreements between branded manufacturers and their potential generic competitors, a new player entered the administrative patent invalidity arena—noncompetitors, such as hedge fund managers, who, despite their reputation for seeking profit at all costs, asserted a seemingly puzzling altruistic interest in invalidating certain patents that prevent generic competitors from entering the market. In light of “abuse of process” accusations and calls for sanctions, this Note suggests that corporate law may facilitate an understanding of the role of noncompetitors in patent invalidation. Using the corporate law phenomenon of greenmail as an analogy, this Note argues that noncompetitors may actually facilitate competition and, as such, should be permitted to continue filing administrative patent challenges.
Antitrust and Competition Law
In FTC v. Actavis, the Supreme Court issued one of the most important antitrust decisions in the modern era. It held that a brand drug company’s payment to a generic firm to settle patent litigation and delay entering the market could violate the antitrust laws. Since the decision, courts have analyzed several issues, including causation, the role of the patent merits, and whether “payment” is limited to cash. But one issue—the pleading requirements imposed on plaintiffs—has slipped under the radar. This issue has the potential to undercut antitrust law, particularly because settlements with payment and delayed entry today typically do not take the form of cash. The complexity of non-cash conveyances increases the importance of the pleading stage.
For that reason, it is concerning that courts recently have imposed unprecedented hurdles. For example, the district court in In re Effexor XR Antitrust Litigation failed to credit allegations that a generic delayed entering the market because a brand promised not to introduce its own authorized generic that would have dramatically reduced the true generic’s revenues. The same judge, in In re Lipitor Antitrust Litigation, dismissed a complaint despite allegations that the generic delayed entry in return for the brand’s forgiveness of hundreds of millions of dollars in potential damages in separate litigation. This Essay first introduces the Supreme Court’s Actavis decision. It then discusses the pleading standards articulated by the Court in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal. Turning to the cases that applied excessively high pleading requirements, it focuses on the Effexor and Lipitor cases. Finally, it analyzes the settlement cases that applied a more justifiable analysis.
Michael A. Carrier, Pleading Standards: The Hidden Threat to Actavis, 91 N.Y.U. L. Rev. Online 31 (2016).