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Developments in Antitrust Suits Involving Service and Aftermarket Vendors

April 1992

In our January 1990 and January 1992 issues we addressed the trend toward an increasing number of antitrust suits by service and aftermarket vendors against large computer manufacturers. As we noted, this was a reaction to moves by manufacturers making it more difficult for these companies to provide aftermarket services and products. We noted that in one of these cases, HyPoint v. Hewlett-Packard, HyPoint had won a $500,000 verdict. A federal court of appeals has now reversed this judgment on the legal technicality that HyPoint did not have antitrust “standing” to make the claim. HyPoint has now asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review this decision.

Litigation in this sector continues to heat up. Late last year TSJ, Inc. sued Wang Laboratories, Inc., and obtained a nation-wide preliminary injunction preventing Wang from charging higher fees for its operating system software to customers that purchase used or upgraded Wang hardware from independent resellers. The judge found that Wang had created a price structure that pressured customers to go to Wang for their hardware, rather than to purchase used or upgraded equipment. This policy had, apparently, forced TSJ to the brink of financial failure. TSJ’s initial victory is no guarantee of success in an area where the law is so volatile, however, and the appeals courts so willing to overrule lower court judges.