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3M Ordered To Pay LePage’s $68.4M

October 9, 1999

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A federal jury ruled Friday that 3M illegally used its dominant position in the adhesive tape market to hurt a competitor’s business and ordered the company to pay the smaller LePage’s $68.4 million in damages.

The jury awarded LePage’s $22.8 million in damages, which were tripled because the panel also determined that 3M violated federal antitrust laws.

``We’re delighted,″ LePage’s attorney Barbara Mather said. ``It’s a great victory for consumers.″

Pittsburgh-based LePage’s Inc. said it lost $36 million in business, roughly one-third of its already-small share of the invisible tape market, because 3M _ Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co. _ illegally pressured stores to sell only its Scotch brand tape.

John Harkins, a lawyer representing 3M, said he was ``very disappointed″ with the verdict and would appeal the ruling.

During the eight-week trial before U.S. District Court Judge John R. Padova, 3M lawyers maintained that LePage’s sales and profits declined because of bad management, poor-quality products and competition in the private-label market, in which stores sell LePage’s tape under the store name.

LePage’s held nearly 100 percent of the private-label market _ about 30 percent of the entire invisible tape market _ before 3M began using the same strategy in 1991. LePage’s has since dipped to 67 percent of private-label sales, compared with 3M’s 33 percent.

LePage’s had acquired about 14 percent of the retail invisible tape market in 1992, compared to about 83 percent for 3M. LePage’s said its share has since shrunk to 7 percent because of what it called 3M’s ``gutting″ of its key customers _ office supply superstores like Wal-Mart and Staples.

LePage’s alleged that 3M offered stores rebates for buying many different products from 3M, which also makes Post-It Notes, as well as forcing stores into exclusive buying deals that led them to stop selling LePage’s tape.

The St. Paul, Minn.-based company denied making any exclusive tape-selling agreements and said it holds the lion’s share of the market because of its quality, service, efficiency and consumer satisfaction.

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