United States v. Parke, Davis & Co.,
362 U.S. 29 (1960)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Parke, Davis & Co., 362 U.S. 29 (1960)

United States v. Parke, Davis & Co.

No. 20

Argued November 10, 1959

Decided February 29, 1960

362 U.S. 29


In a civil suit under § 4 of the Sherman Act charging appellee with combining and conspiring to maintain resale prices of its products in areas which have no "fair trade" laws, the Government introduced evidence showing that appellee had (1) announced a policy of refusing to deal with retailers who failed to observe appellee's suggested minimum resale prices or who advertised discount prices on. appellee's products, (2) discontinued direct sales to those retailers who failed to abide by the announced policy, (3) induced wholesale distributors to stop selling appellee's products to the offending retailers, (4) secured unanimous adherence by informing a number of the retailers that, if each of them would adhere to the announced policy, one of their principal competitors would also do so, and (5) permitted the retailers to resume purchasing its products after they had indicated willingness to observe the policy. The evidence further established that appellee had terminated these practices after becoming aware that the Department of Justice had begun an investigation of its price maintenance activities. The District Court dismissed the complaint on the ground that the Government had not shown a right to relief.

Held: The judgment is reversed, and the case remanded with directions to enter an appropriate judgment enjoining appellee from further violations of the Sherman Act, unless it elects to submit evidence in defense and refutes the Government's right to injunctive relief established by the present record. Pp. 362 U. S. 30-49.

(a) The District Court erred in holding that these practices constituted only unilateral action by appellee in selecting its customers, as permitted by United States v. Colgate Co., 250 U. S. 300. Appellee did not merely announce its policy and then decline to have further dealings with retailers who failed to abide by it, but, by utilizing wholesalers and other retailers, it actively induced unwilling retailers to comply with the policy. The resulting concerted action to maintain the resale prices constituted a conspiracy or combination in violation of the Sherman Act, although it was not based on any contract, express or implied . Pp. 362 U. S. 36-47.

Page 362 U. S. 30

(b) Rule 52 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure does not require affirmance of the District Court's ultimate finding that respondent did not violate the Sherman Act, because that conclusion was based on an erroneous interpretation of the law. Pp. 362 U. S. 43-45.

(e) The District Court's alternative holding that dismissal of the complaint was warranted because there was no reasonable probability that appellee would resume its attempts to maintain resale prices is erroneous, because it is not supported by the evidence. Pp. 362 U. S. 47-48.

164 F.Supp. 827 reversed.

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