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Chinese Supreme Court Rules On Rare Earth Antitrust Case

 |  March 6, 2024

China’s Supreme People’s Court delivered a pivotal judgment overturning a previous ruling and affirming Hitachi Metals’ position in an antitrust case involving the valuable rare earth industry. The case, which began in December 2014 when four Ningbo-based rare earth magnet producers accused Hitachi Metals of market dominance abuse, has now concluded after a protracted legal battle that spanned nearly a decade.

The initial ruling by the Ningbo Court in April 2021 favored the plaintiffs, but the Supreme People’s Court’s second instance judgment completely reversed this decision. This turn of events not only addresses significant international legal concerns, particularly those raised by the USTR’s Office, but also establishes a precedent for the application of the Anti-Monopoly Law (AML) in China, emphasizing fair, transparent, and non-discriminatory enforcement.

One of the central points of contention in the case was the application of the essential facilities doctrine, which sparked considerable debate and international attention. While the first instance judgment attempted to apply this doctrine, the Supreme Court’s decision refrained from explicit commentary on it, instead focusing on Hitachi Metals’ purported lack of dominant market position. This cautious approach aligns with global practices regarding the limited application of the essential facilities doctrine.

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Beyond the immediate legal ramifications, the ruling holds significant implications for both antitrust law and intellectual property rights. It underscores the delicate balance between protecting innovation and ensuring fair competition, reaffirming the principle that antitrust laws should not hinder the lawful exercise of intellectual property rights unless they lead to the elimination or restriction of competition. This precedent-setting decision emphasizes the importance of fostering fair competition while safeguarding innovation, setting the stage for future antitrust cases involving intellectual property.

Furthermore, the case underscores the critical role of expert witnesses in shaping legal outcomes, highlighting the complexity inherent in antitrust litigation. With this ruling, China’s legal landscape signals a commitment to fair and transparent enforcement of antitrust laws, marking a significant milestone in the country’s approach to competition regulation.

Given the interconnected nature of the global economy, the implications of this ruling extend far beyond China’s borders, influencing the trajectory of antitrust law and intellectual property rights on a global scale.

Source: BNN Breaking