Focus Areas:    Antitrust | Competition | Innovation

Amicus brief of ICLE & Scholars of Law and Economics, Apple Inc. v. United States, SCOTUS

Brief of International Center for Law & Economics and Scholars of Law and Economics as Amici Curiae Supporting Petitioners, Apple Inc. v. United States et al. (U.S. Dec. 2, 2015) (No. 15-565).

Summary

“The court of appeals’ decision poses a grave risk to the innovation economy. The court condemned as per se violations of the antitrust laws practices that made competition possible in a nascent market through introduction of a new business model. And it did so in the absence of any precedent holding that the novel combination of practices at issue could be deemed per se illegal. The court of appeals’ decision thus sends a chill wind through industry sectors where entrepreneurs are contemplating the launch of innovative business models to fuel the modern economy.

This Court’s precedent on application of the per se rule is clear: “[I]t is only after considerable experience with certain business relationships that courts classify them as per se violations” of the antitrust laws. Broad. Music, Inc. v. Columbia Broad. Sys., Inc., 441 U.S. 1, 9 (1979) (“BMI”). Per se condemnation is appropriate only when a practice lacks any plausible procompetitive rationale. Cal. Dental Ass’n v. FTC, 526 U.S. 756, 771 (1999). If there is no long track record of judicial experience establishing that a practice always or almost always lessens competition, then the practice should be subject to analysis under the rule of reason. BMI, 441 U.S. at 23-24. In that way, a finding that a novel practice (or an old practice in a new context) is anticompetitive may be made only after a rigorous analysis of all the facts and circumstances. Such a rule sensibly avoids unintentional condemnation of economically valuable activity where the full effects of that activity are simply unknown to the courts.

In disregard of these principles, the court of appeals applied the per se rule to a novel combination of competition-enabling practices in an emerging market. The negative consequences of the court’s ruling will be particularly acute for modern high technology sectors of the economy, where entrepreneurs planning to create entirely new markets or inject competition into existing ones through adoption of new business models will now face exactly the sort of artificial deterrents that this Court has strived to prevent. “Mistaken inferences and the resulting false condemnations ‘are especially costly, because they chill the very conduct the antitrust laws are designed to protect…’”

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