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Forgett v. Scharf

April 24, 1950

VALMORE FORGETT, INDIVIDUALLY AND DOING BUSINESS AS SERVICE WELDING CO.
v.
CHARLES SCHARF, INDIVIDUALLY AND DOING BUSINESS AS PARAMOUNT PHOTO SERVICE; ALBERT HOGLE; AND THE FOTOPAK CORP.



Author: Hastie

Before BIGGS, Chief Judge; GOODRICH and HASTIE, Circuit Judges.

Opinion of the Court

HASTIE, Circuit Judge:

This appeal from a final order dismissing appellant's complaint on motion requires decision whether that complaint states a cause of action under Section 4 of the Clayton Act*fn1 for violation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act.*fn2

The complaint is less than a model of the pleader's art. However, we do not regard it as fatally defective under today's liberal rules. In substance it alleges, and the motion to dismiss admits, the following facts:

Plaintiff is a manufacturer who, beginning in March 1946 and thereafter, has manufactured and sold in interstate commerce machinery for the automatic development and printing of ordinary amateur photographic negatives in continuous strip operation. From March 1946 to November 1947, plaintiff was the only commercial manufacturer of such machinery in the United States. During that period he sold and disposed of fifty-four machines in interstate commerce.

In the spring of 1947, "... the defendants Scharf and Hogle formed and entered into a conspiracy to restrain, monopolize and appropriate to themselves the interstate commerce in automatic strip developing and printing machinery, and to drive plaintiff out of said commerce by performance of the acts hereinafter set out."

The principal acts thereafter alleged as in furtherance of the conspiracy are as follows: In June 1947, defendant Scharf commenced a suit in equity against the plaintiff and obtained ex parte an injunction restraining him from the manufacture and sale of his machines. Scharf acted in bad faith, maliciously and without probable cause. Ultimately, the suit resulted in judgment for the present plaintiff. In July, the defendants and others caused the incorporation of a rival business and through that instrumentality engaged in the manufacture and sale of machines similar to those of the plaintiff.Thereafter, the defendants made false and malicious statements to the trade to the effect that they originated the design of plaintiff's machines; that plaintiff misappropriated the design and that purchasers of plaintiff's machines might anticipate involvement in litigation.

After consideration of these allegations the trial judge dismissed the complaint, stating that he did so upon the reasoning of the District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Swartz v. Forward Association, 41 Fed.Supp. 294 (1941), and the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Hunt v. Brotherhood of Transportation Workers, 47 Fed.Supp. 571 (1942).

Section 4 of the Clayton Act gives "any person who shall be injured in his business or property by reason of anything forbidden in the anti-trust laws" an action for treble damages against the offender. 15 U.S.C. § 15. It is the theory of the complaint that the defendants entered into a "conspiracy in restraint of trade" forbidden by Section 1 of the Sherman Act and that they "[conspired] to monopolize part of the trade or commerce among the several states" as forbidden by Section 2 of the Sherman Act. 15 U.S.C. §§ 1 and 2. The question here is whether plaintiff has alleged conduct within the prohibition of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act.

The above-quoted language of the Sherman Act is brief but comprehensive. Its meaning in relation to a great variety of fact situations has been expounded in a vast body of case law. However, the disposition of this appeal does not require us to range over a large area.

The allegations of the present complaint make it necessary to consider only the situation of a complaining entrepreneur and a rival group who at the time in question are the only parties competitively interested in the manufacturing of a product and its marketing in interstate commerce. In such a situation "... though but one competitor can make a sale, all competitors can enjoy the free opportunity of approaching each and every prospective purchaser on equal terms, with a chance of making a sale if he can persuade him to buy. For one competitor to exclude all or substantially all other competitors from such opportunity - i.e., drive them from the field of freely offering their goods, so as to have the field to himself - is to monopolize according to the legal and accurate sense of the word."*fn3 It is just such a wrong that the plaintiff alleges.

The Supreme Court has found clear violation of the anti-trust laws where "... the aim of [the] combination was the intentional destruction of one type of manufacture and sale which competed with ... [the conspirators]. The purpose and object of this combination, its potential power, its tendency to monopoly, the coercion it could and did practice upon a rival method of competition, all brought it within the policy of the prohibition declared by the Sherman and Clayton Act."*fn4 Thus tested, the combination here charged is actionable.

We do not agree with the court below that the rationale of Swartz v. Forward Association and Hunt v. Brotherhood of Transportation Workers, supra, is decisive against the present complaint. There district court decisions in turn are based upon the decision of the Supreme Court in Apex Hosiery Co. v. Leader .*fn5 The following excerpts from the opinion in the Apex case state the limiting ...


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