News in brief from around the world… This week the World Trade Organisation upheld a US complaint accusing the EU of providing billions of euros in unlawful subsidies to Airbus. Meanwhile, a Chinese drone company is fighting back against an IP lawsuit with its own claims of antitrust violations in a US federal court.

Europe

⇒ The World Trade Organisation’s appellate body ruled on 15 May that the European Union provided illegal subsidies to Airbus in breach of an earlier WTO ruling.

The WTO said in its report that EU launch aid provided to Airbus had caused Boeing to lose out on sales of its 747 aircraft in the EU, Australia, China, Korea, Singapore and UAE markets.

The latest ruling rejecting an appeal by Airbus opens the door for the US to impose retaliatory tariffs on EU aircraft exports.

The report confirmed some of the findings of a WTO compliance panel in September 2016, which convened after the US challenged EU claims that it had stopped providing around €18 billion in subsidised financing to Airbus that breached WTO rules.

US trade representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement: “Unless the EU finally takes action to stop breaking the rules and harming US interests, the United States will have to move forward with countermeasures on EU products.”

USA

 ⇒ ALN sister publication Global Competition Reviews reports that Chinese drone company Autel and its US subsidiary have retained Steptoe & Johnson – including partner Jonathan Sallet – as it fires back against a patent infringement lawsuit with its own antitrust counterclaims in the US District Court for the District of Delaware.

SZ DJI Technology had accused Autel of infringing six of its patents for unmanned aerial vehicles, but Autel is now claiming that DJI engaged in an anticompetitive scheme to monopolise “the market for the sale of ready-to-fly rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicles sold at prices ranging from approximately $700 to approximately $3,000 in the United States”.

The counterclaims include predatory pricing allegations that accuse DJI of pricing the drones at below-cost levels, which harmed competition and was meant to push Autel from the market. “American consumers were – and will continue to be – harmed as a result of DJI’s behavior,” counsel to Autel wrote.

“And with a stranglehold on the market, DJI’s monopoly will be protected by high barriers to entry, the inability of damaged competitors to increase their output in any manner sufficient to challenge DJI’s hold on the market, and the knowledge in the industry that DJI can price below cost whenever it wishes to block the emergence of any significant challenger to its dominant market position.”

⇒ Residents of several Washington, DC, neighbourhoods asked the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on 9 May for a rehearing of their case against the US Federal Aviation Administration about airplane noise from flights departing Reagan National Airport.

The petitioners argued that a three-judge panel in the same court misread facts and contradicted previous rulings in its March decision to reject a challenge brought against the FAA’s decision to approve changes to flight paths from the airport. The route changes are “patently unlawful” and the results would be “harsh and inequitable” in a way that US federal law prohibits, the petition said.

Georgetown University and six local neighbourhood associations filed the initial petition seeking to block the changes after the FAA published charts depicting the new routes in June 2015. The court originally dismissed the petition as “untimely” after noting that it had not been filed within 60 days of the FAA’s final action as required under federal law.

Previous routes took departing flights over northern Virginia and the west bank of the Potomac River. However, the new plans, approved in December 2013, brought them closer to the Georgetown neighbourhood of Washington, DC.

⇒ A bipartisan group of US senators introduced a bill on 14 May to give the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security powers to take action against drones that are considered to be a threat.

The bill would allow the agencies to track, intercept, confiscate or disable drones that are believed to be a threat to US border control, certain Secret Service operations, and various federal officers and facilities, including prisons.

In an expansion of existing regulations, anti-drone support would be provided to “state, local, or tribal law enforcement to ensure protection of people and property at mass gatherings, where appropriate and within available resources”.

The new legislation would also require the Department of Homeland Security to issue an assessment of the potential threat posed by drones to the US, focusing on dangers to critical infrastructure and large airports. The department would also be required to examine existing federal and local powers to deal with such threats.

This expansion of powers comes a week after the Department of Transportation announced the partners in its Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program to tackle significant challenges to integration of drones into the country’s national airspace, including potential risks to public safety and security.