Policy Proposals for High Frequency Trading

Steven Graziano, MJLST Staffer

In his article, The Law and Ethics of High Frequency Trading, which was published in the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science, and Technology Issue 17, Volume 1, Steven McNamara examines the ethics of high frequency trading. High frequency trading is the use of high-speed algorithms to take advantage of minor inefficiencies in trading technologies, and in doing so gain large market returns. McNamara looks into ethical, economic, and legal aspects of high frequency trading. In the course of his discussion McNamara determines that: high frequency trading is a term that actually describes an assortment of different practices; the amount of dollars involved in high frequency trading is declining, but is still a concern for certain types of investors and regulators; a proper analysis of high frequency trading requires use of expectation-based, deontological moral theory; and that modern technology may call into question the use of the Regulation National Market System regime. McNamara concludes that even though high frequency trading may lower costs to most investors, many practices associated with high frequency trading support the position that high frequency trading is not fair.

Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White has recently commented on the legality, and potential ways to approach, high frequency trading. White, while testifying before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, informed the Congressional Committee that “You don’t paint with the broad brush all high-frequency traders — they have very different strategies.” This sentiment mirrors McNamara’s assertion that the term high-frequency trading actually involves various practices. However, White is seemingly defending some practices, while McNamara has a more negative view.

Differing still from these two views are the results of a study done by United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority. That study concluded with the conclusion that high-frequency trade technologies are not rapidly predicting marketable orders and then trading those orders. However, the study examined practices in Europe, which has less market participants and a slower moving market than the United States.

In conclusion, Steven McNamara offers a very insightful, encompassing look at high frequency trading. His analysis resonates through both White’s testimony, and in the results of the study from the Financial Conduct Authority. Although all three perspectives seemingly stand for somewhat different propositions, what is clear from all three sources is that the practice of high-frequency trading is extremely complex and requires in-depth analysis before making any conclusive policy decisions.

Drug Shortages: A Mask for Reprehensible Activity?

Ethan Mobley, MJLST Articles Editor

Access to life-saving prescription medication grabbed headlines after Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of its HIV drug, Daraprim, by about 5,000% overnight. While the Daraprim price hike initially appears to be driven by pure greed, it’s at least conceivable that basic economic principles of supply and demand may have played a minor role. Indeed, many other drugs have undergone serious price hikes arising from innocent supply constraints. While the defensibility of Daraprim price hikes remains uncertain, the story does bring to focus an issue affecting accessibility of hundreds of other life-saving prescription medications—drug supply shortages.

Drug shortages naturally restrict many patients’ ability to obtain life-saving medication, which can have disastrous effects. The Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology addressed the issue in 2013 with a note written by Eric Friske. Friske found that drug shortages are often caused by a “combination of perturbed supply, manufacturing capacity, and utilization.” Friske then analyzed the efficacy of proposed (and now failed) legislation meant to reduce these supply shortages by requiring manufacturers to notify the FDA of impending shortages; the legislation would have also allowed the FDA to collaborate with manufacturers in order to streamline production. However, Friske determined these tools were insufficient to properly combat the shortage problem and proposed his own solution. In addition to notification requirements, Friske pushed for affirmatively incentivizing manufacturers to produce certain drugs and streamlining the drug manufacturing approval process.

Since Friske’s proposal, we’ve seen new legislation and regulation that aims to reduce the number of drug shortages. What’s more, the legislation and regulations contain notification requirements, manufacturer incentives, and streamlined approval processes—just like Friske proposed. While it’s obvious the drug shortage problem has not been solved, it is equally clear drug shortages have decreased over the past few years. Hopefully the trend continues so that life-saving drugs remain accessible to everyone, and drug companies will no longer be able to use supply shortages as justification for obscene price hikes.

Compulsory Licensing and Health Law

Nolan Hudalla, MJLST Staffer

In her articleA Public Health Imperative: The Need for Meaningful Change in the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s Intellectual Property Chapter, Roma Patel discusses the benefits that TRIPS “flexibilities” provide to the pharmaceutical markets in developing nations. Specific to this discussion, Ms. Patel notes that malaria is a permissible reason for a country to declare a “national emergency” or “circumstance of extreme urgency” under TRIPS. Such a declaration would allow a nation to utilize the TRIPS compulsory licensing provision. This permits “a government to allow the sale and manufacture of patented medicine without the patent holder’s consent.” With the recent development of aviable malaria vaccine, what can we expect the impact of this provision to be? In particular, will countries invoke compulsory licensing on the basis of a malaria “national emergency,” and, if so, what results can we anticipate?

According to history, we can’t expect much. According to Nicol & Owoeye, “[t]o date, there is little to suggest that the Implementation Decision and the Protocol [for the compulsory licensing provisions] can meaningfully contribute to reversing the failure of the industrialized world to supply essential medicines to the countries that need them the most. Nor does there appear to be widespread enthusiasm for using Implementation Decision and Protocol mechanisms to facilitate the provision of low-cost or no-cost pharmaceuticals to those most in need.” This certainly appears to be true for impoverished African nations. For example, the continent has already been devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, yet compulsory licensing has not provided a sufficient solution. In fact, according to a UNAIDS report, “[o]f the 21.2 million people in Africa eligible for antiretroviral therapy in 2013 under the 2013 WHO guidelines, only 7.6 million people were receiving HIV treatment as of December 2012.”

Brian Owens’ article Questions Raised about Whether Compulsory Licenses get Best Pricesdiscusses one of the reasons for the disappointing results of compulsory licensing. He notes that “[t]he use of so-called ‘compulsory licenses’ by developing countries to obtain cheaper drugs for HIV and AIDS by circumventing patents has not been the best strategy for achieving the lowest prices over the past decade . . . .” Expanding on this, Owens states that, “of the 30 cases of compulsory licensing from 2003 to 2012 for which reliable data was available, the median price achieved through international procurement was lower for 19 of them [than compulsory licensing]—in the majority of cases by more than 25% . . . . The effect was strongest in the poorest countries, where in six out of seven cases the procurement price was more than 25% lower than the compulsory license price.” Amir Attaran, the director of the study discussed in Owens’ article, asserts that “countries should not rush into using compulsory licenses until they have exhausted all other options. “Countries can save money using compulsory licenses, but they can save more by negotiating and using international procurement channels . . . If saving money is paramount, then compulsory licenses may not be the optimal strategy.”

Unfortunately, saving money is paramount for many African nations. Thus the greatest “flexibility” given to these nations is not always a practical solution. Perhaps the arrival of the first malaria vaccine will motivate international leaders to learn from prior experience. Hopefully the international community will reconsider compulsory licensing, as Roma Patel did, to determine how it can better provide access to life-saving medications.

The Affordable Care Act, Meant to Increase Medical Care Accessibility, May in Practicality Hurt that Accessibility Through Narrow Networks

Natalie Gao, MJLST Staffer

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) continues to perpetuate some of the issues of medical inaccessibility it was meant to fix. The PPACA uses insurers’ desire to dodge risk to make health insurance more widely available, preventing insurers from refusing coverage based on preexisting conditions and requires they guarantee renewalability without too extensive a waiting period. Although PPACA disincentive insurance companies to risk-select, insurance companies found new ways to compete.

Narrow Networks, the Very Sick, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Recalling the Purpose of Health Insurance and Reform by Valarie Blake discusses the creation of narrow networks by insurance companies as new ways to compete, where insurance companies agree to better rates with a narrow group of providers. This allows them to give better prices and premiums to its customers, even if the potential consequences is that the customers actually end up with more restrictive coverage. PPACA theoretically regulates networks, guaranteeing network adequacy of by a minimum standard of care and that the network be with essential community providers. But PPACA does not require network adequacy of providers. Practically, narrow networks can affect the availability of specialize services that some patients need, and the quality and experience of those providers. Even if the need to compete for patients might also ensure that narrow networks never compromise the necessary care, tertiary and specialty care, and the quality of care and connection due the provider, can easily be limited.

“Network adequacy,” states Blake, “is not a debate about access of health insurance but rather access of healthcare.” One way to measure whether or not our health care system is doing what it is supposed to is to measure the health of the very sick, and it brings up the question of whether or not PPACA guarantees all the right of healthcare or the right to be healthy. And what does count as sufficient access and who should be responsible for paying the healthcare costs associated with that sufficient access? These questions evoke analysis for consumer choice and consumer rights. The article recommends that network adequacy standard in both State and Federal law include tertiary and specialized care, and not extra cost be added onto out-of-network care, and the article recommends a special standard for tertiary care be adopted into law. On principle and based the cases that have occurred already around PPACA, narrow networks can easily become an issue that, if left unregulated, can create the very thing it was meant to solve.

USPTO to Decide Who Will Own the Pioneer Gene Editing Patent for the Next Billion-Dollar Industry

Na An, MJLST Staffer

Earlier this month, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) declared an interference to determine which one of the two research groups will be awarded the patent protection of one of the most important scientific discoveries in the past decade: CRISPR technology. This technology enables deletion, repair or replacement of genes in such a precise fashion that it could be worth billions of dollars in human health, agriculture and biotechnology industries.

Clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats system (CRISPR) is a mechanism used by the immune system to resist invading viruses by recording their genetic information and then specifically target these exogenous genetic elements in bacteria, mammals and other organisms. It provides a reliable and precise tool for editing genes. Upon its discovery, CRISPR has been adopted for a wide range of applications from creating animal models with human cancers and turning specific genes on and off to genetically modifying plants.

In 2015, companies rushed to invest and occupy early markets of this potentially billion-dollar industry. The first was Novartis, who signed two deals with gene-editing start-ups to use CRISPR for engineering immune cells and blood stem cells, and as a tool for drug discovery. Soon after, AstraZeneca shook hands with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, the Innovative Genomics Initiative, the Broad and Whitehead Institutes, and Thermo Fisher Scientific to identify and validate new targets in preclinical models with CRISPR. Simultaneously, immunotherapy firm Juno Therapeutics made deals with Editas and Vertex Pharmaceuticals to create anticancer immune cell therapies with an agreement that could be valued at $2.6 billion.

Amid the fast surge of research and commercial opportunities, a patent fight over CRISPR simmers in the background, which raises great uncertainties of the future market structure and commercial potential. The UC Berkeley team, lead by chemist Jennifer Doudna, filed a patent application (No. 13/842,859) on March 15, 2013 with a priority date of May 25, 2012. The application contained broad claims to CRISPR technology, but described only “genetically modified cells that produce Cas9,” an enzyme crucial to CRISPR mechanism, and “Cas9 transgenic non-human multicellular organisms.” On October 15, 2013, the MIT researcher Feng Zhang filed his own patent application (No. 14/054,414) with a priority date of December 12, 2012. Unlike the Doudna application, Zhang contemplated specifically adapting CRISPR in eukaryotic cells. Through Accelerated Examination, USPTO granted Zhang a patent on April 15, 2014, even though Doudna had an earlier invention date and filing date. After several amendments to Doudna application in response to two third-party submissions, the world has been waiting on the USPTO to make a decision. On January 19, 2016, the patent office finally agreed to conduct an interference to decide who was the rightful applicant to award the patent protection on CRISPR.

Since both applications have priority dates prior to March 16, 2013, the patent will be granted on a “first to invent” basis. Interference cases are historically rare and could stretch out for years, considering the high probability that the losing party will appeal the decision. It is unclear what the result will be. Mari Serebrov, regulatory editor at Thomson Reuters BioWorld, said “if the courts rule the technology isn’t patentable, it could chill investment. On the other hand, if one group is allowed the patent, it could result in a monopoly and will probably make licenses more expensive or discourage research because the patents could lock up the field, depending on how broadly they are written.” Faced with the great uncertainty, Monsanto has limited CRISPR’s applications until a decision is made. Tom Adams, vice president of global biotechnology at Monsanto, said “until we understand the intellectual property it’s hard to do much.”

As more capital is pouring in and risks skyrocketing, companies and researchers need to use caution in their inventive and investment activities relating to CRISPR.

Long-Term Success of Autonomous Vehicles Depends on its First-Generation Market Share

Vinita Banthia, MJLST Articles Editor

In its latest technology anticipations, society eagerly awaits a functional autonomous car. However, despite the current hype, whether or not these cars will be ultimately successful remains a question. While autonomous cars promise to deliver improved safety standards, lower environmental impacts, and greater efficiency, their market success will depend on how practical the first generation of autonomous vehicles are, and how fast they are adopted by a significantly large portion of the population. Because their usability and practicality depends inherently on how many people are using them, it will be important for companies to time their first release for when they are sufficiently developed and can infiltrate the market quickly. Dorothy J. Glancy provides a detailed account of the legal questions surrounding autonomous cars in Autonomous and Automated and Connected Cars Oh My! First Generation Autonomous Cars in the Legal Ecosystem. This blog post responds to Glancy’s article and suggests additional safety and regulation concerns that Glancy’s article does not explicitly discuss. Finally, this post proposes certain characteristics which must be true of the first generation of autonomous vehicles if autonomous vehicles are to catch-on.

Glancy thoroughly covers the expected benefits of autonomous cars. Autonomous cars will allow persons who are not otherwise able to drive, such as visually impaired people, and the elderly, to get around conveniently. All riders will be able to save time by doing other activities such as reading or browsing the internet during their commute. And in the long run, autonomous vehicles will allow roads and parking lots to be smaller and more compact because of the cars’ more precise maneuvering abilities. Once enough autonomous vehicles are on the road, they will be able to travel faster than traditional cars and better detect and react to dangers in their surroundings. This will decidedly lead to fewer crashes.

On the contrary, several other features may discourage the use of autonomous vehicles. First, because of the mapping systems, the cars will likely be restricted to one geographic region. Second, they might be programmed to save the most number of people during a car crash, even if that means killing the occupant. Therefore, many prospective buyers may not buy a car that is programmed to kill him or her in the event of an inevitable crash. In addition, initial autonomous cars may not be as fast as imagined, depending on whether they can detect faster moving lanes, frequently change lanes, and adapt to changing speed limits. Until there are significant numbers of autonomous cars on roads, they may not be able to drive on longer, crowded roads such as highways, because vehicles will need to interact with each other in order to avoid crashes. Some argue that other car-service provides will suffer as taxis, Ubers, busses, and trails become less relevant. However, this change will be gradual because people will long continue to rely on these services as cheap alternatives to car-ownership.

When these cars are available, in order to promote autonomous cars to enter the market rapidly, manufacturers should make the cars most attractive to potential buyers, instead of making them good for society as a whole. For example, instead of programming the car to injure its own occupants, it should be programmed to protect its occupants. This will encourage sales of autonomous cars, reducing the number of car crashes in the long run.

Glancy also states that the first generation of autonomous vehicles will be governed by the same state laws that apply for conventional vehicles, and will not have additional rules of their own. However, this is unlikely to be true, and specific state and possibly even federal laws will most likely affect autonomous vehicles before they may be driven on public roads and sold to private individuals. Because autonomous cars will co-exist with traditional vehicles, many of these laws will address the interaction between autonomous and conventional cars, such as overtaking, changing lanes, and respecting lane restrictions.

In the end, the success of autonomous cars depends widely on how practical the first fleet is, how many people buy into the idea and how fast, as well as the car’s cost. If they are successful, there will be legal and non-legal benefits and consequences, which will only be fully realized after a few decades of operation of the cars.

Patent Damages

Tianxiang (Max) Zhou, MJLST Staffer

In Dec. 2015, almost five years after Apple sued Samsung for infringing a smartphone design patent, Samsung agrees to pay Apple $548 million. Apple is now demanding Samsung pay an additional $180 million for the patent dispute. Besides the huge amounts of damages, the case is not over and it continues raising fundamental issues of how to evaluate values of design patent infringements.

In the petition for writ of certiorari challenging the $400 million that it has paid for infringing Apple’s design patent, Samsung writes, “The questions presented are: . . . Where a design patent is applied to only a component of a product, should an award of infringer’s profits be limited to those profits attributable to the component?

The second issue stated in the writ is noteworthy. Under the current rule, the awards in a design patent infringement case to the patent owner are the whole profits from the sale of the infringing products. This rule has created and will create massive jury verdicts in design patent infringement cases, and the Supreme Court has not reviewed the rule. As Samsung writes in the petition, “the Supreme Court has not reviewed a design-patent case in more than 120 years.” With the new development of the industries and various design patents, it is doubted whether the awards of whole profits are reasonable.

Although statistically the Supreme Court will not take the case, the issue of design patent awards raised heated discussions. In 2014, a group of 27 law professors submitted an amicus brief in support of Samsung urging the Federal Circuit to interpret the relevant statutory provision to limit the award of profits in design patent infringement cases. The amicus brief stated: “the Court should require proof of some connection between the patented design and the defendant’s profits, the order the district court to remit the award of profits to the extent it exceeds those profits attributable to the patented designs.” The professors argued the origin and context of the controlling statute Section 289, and that awarding a defendant’s entire profits makes no sense in the modern world, and to prevent disgorgement of profits.

As stated above, the Supreme Court has not reviewed the issue for over one hundred years. With the unsettled dispute between Samsung and Apple continuing, we could look forward to whether the Supreme Court would take the case and redefine Section 289. However, a question posed to the judges is, if the awards to the design patent infringement are not the whole profits of the sale, then what proportion of the profits should be awarded? Judges should figure out a reasonable standard to evaluate the amount attribute to the infringed design.

Recent Developments in Automated Vehicles Suggest Broad Effects on Urban Life

J. Adam Sorenson, MJLST Staffer

In “Climbing Mount Next: The Effects of Autonomous Vehicles on Society” from Volume 16, Issue 2 of the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology, David Levinson discusses the then current state of automated vehicles and what effects they will have on society in the near and distant future. Levinson evaluates the effect of driverless cars in numerous ways, including the capacity and vehicles-as-a-service (VaaS). Both of these changes are illuminated slightly by a recent announcement by Tesla Motors, a large player in the autonomous vehicle arena.

This week Tesla announced Summon which allows a user to summon their tesla using their phone. As of now, this technology can only be used to summon your car to the end of your drive way and to put it away for the night. Tesla sees a future where this technology can be used to summon your vehicle from anywhere in the city or even in the country. This future technology, or something very similar to it, would play a pivotal role in providing urban areas with VaaS. VaaS would essentially be a taxi service without drivers, allowing for “cloud commuting” which would require fewer vehicles overall for a given area. Ford has also announced what it calls FordPass, which is designed to be used with human-driven cars, but allows for leasing a car among a group of individuals and sharing the vehicle. This technology could easily be transferred to the world of autonomous vehicles and could be expanded to include entire cities and multiple cars.

Beyond VaaS, these new developments bring us closer to the benefits to capacity Levinson mentions in his article. Levinson mentions the benefits to traffic congestion and bottlenecks which could be alleviated by accurate and safe autonomous vehicles. Driverless vehicles would allow for narrower lanes, higher speed limits, and less space between cars on the highway, but Levinson concedes that these cars still need to “go somewhere, so auto-mobility still requires some capacity on city streets as well as freeways, but ubiquitous adoption of autonomous vehicles would save space on parking, and lane width everywhere.” Tesla is seeking to alleviate some of these issues by allowing a vehicle to be summoned from a further distance, alleviating some parking congestion.

Audi, however, is seeking to tackle the problem in a slightly different fashion. Audi is partnering with Boston suburb Somerville to develop a network including self-parking cars. “UCLA urban planning professor Donald Shoup found 30 percent of the traffic in a downtown area is simply people looking for parking” and eliminating this traffic would allow for much higher capacity in these areas. Similarly, these cars will not have people getting in and out of them, allowing for much more compact parking areas and much higher capacity for parking. Audi and Tesla are just some of the companies working to be at the forefront of automated vehicle technology, but there is no denying that whoever the developments are coming from, the effects and changes David Levinson identified are coming, and they’re here to stay.

General Motor’s $500 Million Investment in Lyft: a Reminder to State Legislatures to Quickly Act to Resolve Legal Issues Surrounding Self-Driving Cars

Emily Harrison, MJLST Editor-in-Chief

On January 4, 2016, General Motors’ (G.M.) invested $500 million in Lyft, a privately held ridesharing service. G.M. also pledged to collaborate with Lyft in order to create a readily accessible network of self-driving cars. According to the New York Times, G.M.’s investment represents the “single largest direct investment by an auto manufacturer into a ride-hailing company in the United States . . . .” So why exactly did General Motors, one of the world’s largest automakers, contribute such a significant amount of capital to a business that could eventually cause a decrease in the number of cars on the road?

The short answer is that G.M. views its investment in Lyft as a way to situate itself in a competitive position in the changing transportation industry. As John Zimmer, president of Lyft, said in an interview, the future of cars will not be based on individual ownership: “We strongly believe that autonomous vehicle go-to-market strategy is through a network, not through individual car ownership.” In addition, this partnership will allow G.M. to augment its current profits. The president of G.M., Daniel Ammann, explained that G.M.’s ‘core profit’ predominately comes from cars that are sold outside of the types of urban environments in which Lyft conducts its main operations. Therefore, G.M. can capitalize on its investments by aligning itself at the forefront of this burgeoning automated vehicle industry.

A transition to a network of self-driving cars raises a variety of legal implications, particularly with respect to assigning liability. As Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology Volume 16, Issue 2 author Sarah Aue Palodichuk notes in her article, “Driving into the Digital Age: How SDVs Will Change the Law and its Enforcement,”: “[a]utomated vehicles will eliminate traffic offenses, create traffic offenses, and change the implications of everything from who is driving to how violations are defined.” Underlying all of these changes is the question: who or what is responsible for the operation of self-driving cars? In some states, for example, there must be a human operator who is capable of manual control of the vehicle. As additional states begin to adopt legislation with respect to self-driving cars, it is foreseeable that there will be great debate as to who or what is responsible for purposes of liability. Yet, in the meantime, G.M.’s significant investment in Lyft signals to consumers and state legislators that these issues will need to be resolved quickly, as the automotive industry is moving full-speed ahead.

Just Not Mayo

Nolan Hudalla, MJSLT Staffer

In August 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning letter to Hampton Creek Foods, the makers of the popular vegan mayonnaise substitute “Just Mayo.” This letter informed the company that its product had a misleading name and label imagery, because, by FDA regulation, mayonnaise must contain one or more eggs. This opinion by the FDA was in response to a high-profile lawsuit brought against Hampton Creek by Unilever (the makers of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise) and a similar class action filed in Florida state court, both alleging violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and unjust enrichment. But, in an era of healthier alternatives – a world of Whole Foods, Thanksgiving Tofurky, and even eggless mayo – is the FDA missing the point? Instead of relying on food recipes enshrined in agency regulations from the 1970’s to identify whether an eggless substitute is mayonnaise or not, maybe the FDA needs to modernize its definitions instead.

In an effort to demonstrate just how committed the government is to keeping Just Mayo from poaching the traditional mayo market, consider the American Egg Board’s (AEB) response to Just Mayo. The AEB, a group appointed by the US Department of Agriculture, may have used public funds to conspire against Just Mayo. According to a Guardian article, “the government-backed egg lobby had organized a concerted effort to tackle Hampton Creek, a company described in leaked emails as a ‘major threat’ and ‘crisis’ for the $5.5bn-a-year egg industry.” This investigation led to the resignation of the AEB’s CEO Joanne Ivy. In addition, the FDA sent Just Mayo its warning letter despite an enormous show of popular support against the agency’s policy. Over 112,000 petitioners scrambled to sign a petition started by Food Network star Andrew Zimmern entitled “Stop Bullying Sustainable Food Companies,” to Unilever Chairman Michael Treschow. This public uprising boiled to the point that Unilever voluntarily dropped its initial lawsuit within two days of filing.

Even if the Florida state court suit amounts to nothing, this issue will not be over easy for the FDA. As demonstrated by the petition, consumer preferences are changing, and not just for mayonnaise. Similar battles are being fought over peanut butter, milk, yogurt, and ice cream. Retail sales of vegan products rose by over 6% last year, and 36% of U.S. consumers use milk or meat alternatives. This raises the question of whether it is really worth all of the government’s money and effort to maintain 1970’s ideas of food. Instead of deviling these modern alternatives, maybe the FDA should buy in too. After all, it’s just mayo.