The defendant won summary judgment on all claims in this antitrust case before a Minnesota U.S. District Court.
Note: In June 2020, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the U.S. district court’s summary judgment motion.
Retained by Womble Bond Dickinson
Plaintiff Inline alleged that Graphic had maintained a dominant position in the market for susceptor food packaging, which is used in microwaveable products, through anticompetitive actions. The alleged actions included predatory discount bundling and threats of sham litigation due to infringement of Graphic’s intellectual property. Defense counsel retained Celeste Saravia of Cornerstone Research to provide expert testimony on monopolization and exclusionary practices.
In her report, Dr. Saravia rebutted the plaintiff’s expert, opining that he had failed to offer a coherent theory under which Graphic’s bundled discounts resulted in harm to competition rather than benefit to consumers. Dr. Saravia presented evidence of intense competition in the alleged leveraging paperboard market, suggesting that consumers could find competitive options to purchase paperboard even if they chose to purchase susceptors from Inline rather than in a bundle from Graphic. She also demonstrated that plaintiff’s implementation of the Ninth Circuit’s discount attribution test suffered from numerous errors, and that once corrected, Graphic’s effective price for susceptors was above its cost.
The judge granted Graphic’s motion for summary judgment on all claims and denied Inline’s motion for partial summary judgment. In her opinion, the judge cited Dr. Saravia’s report. The judge stated that “Inline’s failure to show that Graphic had market power in the leveraging paperboard market is fatal to its bundling claim,” and explained that there was “unrebutted evidence” that a buyer has “good competitive options, because Graphic faces vigorous competition in the paperboard market.” The court also found that once plaintiff’s erroneous implementation of the discount attribution test was corrected, there was no evidence of anticompetitive injury.
The judge stated that “no reasonable jury could conclude that Graphic’s alleged discounted bundles resulted in harm to competition.”