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Supreme Court of the United States
November 26, 1990, Decided
[*46] [***352] [**401] PER CURIAM.
[****3] In preparation for the 1985 Georgia Bar Examination, petitioners contracted to take a bar review course offered by respondent BRG of [***353] Georgia, Inc. (BRG). In this litigation they contend that the price of BRG's course was enhanced by reason of an unlawful agreement between BRG and respondent Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Legal and Professional Publications (HBJ), the Nation's largest provider of bar review [*47] materials and lecture services. The central issue is whether the 1980 agreement between respondents violated § 1 of the Sherman Act. 1
[****4] HBJ began offering a Georgia bar review course on a limited basis in 1976, and was in direct, and often intense, competition with BRG during the period from 1977 to 1979. BRG and HBJ were the two main providers of bar review courses in Georgia during this time period. In early 1980, they entered into an agreement that gave BRG an exclusive license to market HBJ's material in Georgia and to use its trade name "Bar/Bri." The parties agreed that HBJ would not compete with BRG in Georgia and that BRG would not compete with HBJ outside of Georgia. 2 Under the agreement, HBJ received $ 100 per student enrolled by BRG and 40% of all revenues over $ 350. Immediately after the [**402] 1980 agreement, the price of BRG's course was increased from $ 150 to over $ 400.
[****5] On petitioners' motion for partial summary judgment as to the § 1 counts in the complaint and respondents' motion for summary judgment, the District Court held that the agreement [*48] was lawful. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, with one judge dissenting, agreed with the District Court that per se unlawful horizontal price fixing required an explicit agreement on prices to be charged or that one party have the right to be consulted about the other's prices. The Court of Appeals also agreed with the District Court that to prove a per se violation under a geographic market allocation theory, petitioners had to show that respondents had subdivided some relevant market in which they had previously competed. 874 F.2d 1417 (1989). 3 [****6] The Court of Appeals denied a petition for rehearing en banc that had been [***354] supported by the United States. 893 F.2d 293 (1990). 4
In United States v. Socony-Vacuum Oil Co., 310 U.S. 150, 84 L. Ed. 1129, 60 S. Ct. 811 (1940), we held that an agreement among competitors to engage in a program of buying surplus gasoline on the spot market in order to prevent prices from falling sharply was unlawful, even though there was no direct agreement on the actual prices to be maintained. We explained that ] "under the Sherman Act a combination formed for the purpose and with the effect of raising, depressing, fixing, pegging, or stabilizing the price of a commodity in interstate or foreign commerce is illegal per se." Id., at 223. See also Catalano, Inc. v. Target Sales, Inc., 446 U.S. 643, 64 L. Ed. 2d 580, 100 S. Ct. 1925 (1980) (per curiam); National Society of Professional Engineers v. United States, 435 U.S. 679, 55 L. Ed. 2d 637, 98 S. Ct. 1355 (1978).
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498 U.S. 46 *; 111 S. Ct. 401 **; 112 L. Ed. 2d 349 ***; 1990 U.S. LEXIS 5901 ****; 59 U.S.L.W. 3390; 1990-2 Trade Cas. (CCH) P69,250
JAY PALMER ET AL., PETITIONERS v. BRG OF GEORGIA, INC., ET AL.
Prior History: [****1] ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT.
Disposition: Certiorari granted; 874 F. 2d 1417 and 893 F.2d 293, reversed and remanded.
competed, competitors, territories, prices, per se violation, summary judgment, Sherman Act, allocate, parties, per curiam, respondents', limitations, horizontal, provider, markets, raising, fixing
Antitrust & Trade Law, Sherman Act, General Overview, Monopolies & Monopolization, Conspiracy to Monopolize, Sherman Act, International Aspects, Commerce With Foreign Nations, International Trade Law, Regulated Industries, Higher Education & Professional Associations, Price Fixing & Restraints of Trade, Cartels & Horizontal Restraints, Civil Procedure, Summary Judgment, Burdens of Proof, Regulated Practices, Horizontal Market Allocation, Per Se Rule & Rule of Reason, Per Se Violations, Contracts Law, Contract Modifications, Criminal Law & Procedure, Inchoate Crimes, Conspiracy, Elements