The FTC has accused Surescripts, LLC (“Surescripts”) of using improper tactics to sustain its monopoly over services related to electronic prescriptions in violation of the Sherman Act. Surescripts has challenged the D.C. federal court’s subject matter jurisdiction over the matter, and further has argued that the FTC is not entitled to seek monetary relief in a separate case. Essentially, Surescripts argued that, under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act, the Court is limited to hearing “proper” cases, i.e., those that are “routine” and “straightforward,” and, as this case presents complex and novel issues in antitrust law, it is not a routine and straightforward, proper case for the Court to adjudicate.
The D.C. District Court began its analysis by clarifying that “proper cases” was not necessarily a jurisdictional restriction, as such a reading was not supported by the text of the FTC Act and would result in an unwieldy threshold assessment of the complexity of the merits of the case before deciding whether to hear the case itself. Moreover, the Court ruled against Surescripts, finding that the permanent injunction sought by the FTC was indeed “proper” under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act. The Court agreed with Surescripts that “proper” cases did not support a blanket license for permanent injunctions in “all cases,” but was not going to limit “proper” to narrowly and strictly mean “straightforward” or “routine” cases. Rather, the Court suggested that a case-by-case analysis is required.