Monthly Archives: November 2013

Murphy, round 2: does exclusive territorial licensing of pay-TV breach EU competition law?

According to a report in the Financial Times last weekend, the European Commission is on the verge of commencing a formal investigation into potentially anti-competitive restrictions in pay-TV licensing arrangements.  Such an investigation could have significant ramifications for any owners of television rights in sports fixtures (or other content) who seek to maximise their revenues by licensing on an exclusive territorial basis.

The last time similar issues came before the Court of Justice, a rights owner rather than the Commission was on the offensive.  In Joined Cases C-403/08 and C-429/08, Football Association Premier League Ltd v QC Leisure, Murphy v Media Protection Services Ltd [2012] 1 CMLR 29, FAPL was attempting to use criminal and civil law provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to enforce its model of exclusive territorial licensing of satellite TV rights for the Premier League.  Mrs Murphy, a publican who had used an illicitly obtained satellite decoder card to show Greek satellite broadcasts of Premier League matches in her Portsmouth pub, famously persuaded the Court of Justice that national legislation prohibiting the import, sale and use of satellite decoder cards from elsewhere in the EU contravenes the free movement rules in the EU Treaties, and that restrictions such as those in the licence agreements between FAPL and its satellite broadcasters, obliging the licensee not to provide decoding devices outside its territory, contravene Article 101 TFEU.  Her appeal against conviction (for the offence of fraudulently receiving a programme included in a broadcasting service) was successful.  Yet FAPL snatched victory from the jaws of this defeat, establishing in the QC Leisure litigation that activities such as Mrs Murphy’s are actionable as copyright infringement. Continue reading

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The Court of Appeal on Cartels and Conflicts

The Court of Appeal handed down two important decisions last week on the application of conflict of law principles to cartel follow-on damages claims: Deutsche Bahn AG & Ors v Morgan Advanced Materials plc & Ors [2013] EWCA Civ 1484 and Ryanair Limited v Esso Italiana Srl [2013] EWCA Civ 1450. The defendants in each case challenged the jurisdiction of the English courts to hear damages claims arising from their cartel activities. Continue reading

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Conspiracy, the CAT, and the Court of Appeal: “Here is a case unprecedented” (The Gondoliers, Act 2)

In W.H. Newson Holding Limited & ors v IMI plc & ors [2013] EWCA Civ 1377, the Court of Appeal has made some important new law regarding the scope of section 47A of the Competition Act 1998 and the tort of common law conspiracy.

The Court upheld Roth J’s decision (on which see Tom Richards’ blog) that it is in principle possible to advance in the CAT a follow on claim based on common law conspiracy. However, it held that because the claim followed on from a Commission Decision which did not contain a specific finding that the Defendant intended to injure the Claimant, the cause of action could not be made out without inviting the CAT to make additional findings – an invitation which the CAT was bound to decline in the light of Enron 1 and Enron 2. Continue reading

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Curtains for the French Blocking Statute?

Never the most celebrated actor on the stage of English litigation, the French Blocking Statute nonetheless has its fans, particularly among competition lawyers.  The recent decision of the Court of Appeal in Secretary of State for Health v Servier Laboratories [2013] EWCA Civ 1234, however, may prove the Statute’s final curtain call in this jurisdiction.

Law No. 68-678 of the French Republic, to give the Statute its proper name, was originally enacted in response to a United States antitrust investigation into French shipping companies.  Continue reading

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Canadian Supreme Court: No such thing as passing on defence

On Thursday last week the Supreme Court of Canada handed down three much-anticipated judgments concerning indirect purchaser claims. The trio of cases point towards a distinctive, and in many respects more claimant-friendly, approach to class actions than that adopted in the US. They will therefore be essential reading for those preparing for the proposed new collective action regimes here in Europe.

Of even greater interest (from a European perspective) is the Court’s rejection of the passing-on defence – i.e. the defence that a claimant ‘passed on’ some or all of the unlawful overcharges to its own customers. In the large majority of European countries, including England, the courts have yet to decide whether to recognise such a defence (its existence was assumed but not debated in the Devenish case). Continue reading

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