Readers of this blog are likely familiar with the Supreme Court's 2013 FTC v. Actavis decision, which concluded that certain "reverse payment" pharmaceutical patent litigation settlements could violate the antitrust laws and that "it is normally not necessary to litigate patent validity to answer the antitrust question." Actavis had plenty of academic input before it was decided and has continued to spark vigorous scholarly debates, such as an article by Edlin, Hemphill, Hovenkamp & Shapiro, a response by Harris, Murphy, Willig & Wright, and a reply from the original group.
But until I read Kevin Soter's forthcoming Stanford Law Review Note, Causation in Reverse Payment Antitrust Claims, I wasn't aware of the developing circuit split over reverse-payment antitrust suits brought by private individuals rather than the government.
Unlike the government, private individuals must establish "antitrust standing," including the need to show causation of injury-in-fact, which limits enforcement to groups like drug purchasers, consumer groups, or insurers that might actually be harmed by the settlement. Under the approach to causation adopted by the Fifth and Third Circuits, "plaintiffs must prove precisely how, absent the illegal settlement agreement, generic entry would have happened earlier," which can require litigation of patent invalidity or noninfringement. Other courts—including the California Supreme Court, three district courts, and perhaps the Second Circuit—use the same inference as in Actavis, "reasoning that a plaintiff who has shown an antitrust violation based on a reverse payment settlement agreement has necessarily shown an agreement to delay generic entry beyond the otherwise expected date of generic entry."
Soter sides with the latter approach, arguing that the causation inquiry for private plaintiffs is no different from the inquiry over anticompetitive effects at issue in Actavis, for which litigation of patent validity is unnecessary. And he notes that a burden-shifting approach could address lingering concerns by allowing defendants to rebut the inference of causation.
The best part of teaching at Stanford is having extraordinarily talented students who can produce works like this, and I thought it was worth highlighting for anyone who has been following the pharmaceutical patent litigation antitrust debates.