Thursday 23 January 2020

U.S. House Subcommittee Hears Complaints About Purported Anticompetitive Conduct by Platforms

The U.S. House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law recently held hearings concerning potential anticompetitive conduct by platforms against smaller companies who may offer services or products on those platforms at University of Colorado Law School.  Notably, the congressmen on the committee were all concerned about the activities of the platforms.  Here are a few of the notable points: 1) the relatively small companies do not spend a lot of money on lobbying; 2) some of the companies are very concerned about having to purchase their trademarks as keywords from Google; 3) there is concern about bargaining or the lack of it with Amazon; 4) there are concerns about the size of Apple’s cut of App Store sales as well as Apple using control over iOS to disfavor competitors of its own products; 5) there is potentially predatory pricing being conducted by some platforms; 6) there is fear that the platforms are using data about a smaller companies’ products or services created when they use the platform against them to compete; 7) none of the smaller companies could very clearly answer the question of whether the complained about conduct violated current antitrust law; and 8) the congressmen repeatedly thanked the smaller companies for their courage for speaking out against the platforms.  There was some discussion concerning intellectual property.  Sonos, the speaker company, noted that a platform was involved in “efficient infringement” against them.  The smaller companies also complained about the cost of litigating against the platforms and how it diverts funding from research and development.  At least one company noted that having the government pursue these cases would help them because of the cost.  As previously mentioned, there was also concern expressed about trademarks, and additionally, how platforms use similar trade dress to competitor's trade dress on products that platforms use to compete against smaller competitors.  Counterfeiting was also a concern. The full hearings can be found, here

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