Recent federal court opinions dismissing cases under Rule 12(b)(6) may provide an early off-ramp for antitrust defendants where a roadblock has often existed. Courts are increasingly dismissing cases at the 12(b)(6) stage for failure to properly plead market definition and therefore failing to meet the requirements of Twombly as to the market definition allegations of a Sherman Act claim. Antitrust plaintiffs are finding that it is progressively more difficult to proceed to discovery if the alleged product or geographic market is narrowly defined – a tactic that has frequently been used in support of allegations that an antitrust defendant has market power or to exclude potentially competing products that would decrease the alleged market share at issue. Three recent examples raise the question of whether this trend is here to stay.
An antitrust class action lawsuit brought by golf caddies against the Professional Golf Association will not be afforded a mulligan after a federal district court dismissed their complaint with prejudice. A putative class of similarly-situated golf caddies sued PGA Tour, Inc. over the “bibs” that caddies wear during Tour-sponsored golf tournaments. Plaintiffs alleged that, by adopting and implementing a uniform policy that required caddies to wear a bib as a condition of their participation in a Tour event, the Tour violated the Sherman Act and the Lanham Act, misappropriated the caddies’ images and likenesses, breached its contracts with the caddies, was unjustly enriched, engaged in acts of duress and business compulsion, and violated California’s unfair competition law.