The opinion of the court was delivered by: MEANEY
These are civil actions brought under the Anti-Trust Laws by manufacturers and sellers of electric lamps. The question to be determined at this juncture is whether certain phases of these actions are barred by a statute of limitations. Since the same question arises in both cases, they may be considered together.
It will be helpful to note the time sequence of events.
1. The United States instituted suit against the defendant for violations of the Anti-Trust Laws of the United States on January 27, 1941.
2. There was final judgment in favor of the United States against General Electric Company on December 6, 1953.
3. Plaintiff, Magno Tronic Corporation, filed the instant suit on December 28, 1955.
4. On January 7, 1956, an amendment to the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 15b, created a uniform four year statute of limitations for all civil anti-trust actions.
5. Plaintiff, Industrial Electronics Corporation, commenced its suit against General Electric Company on April 15, 1957.
Each of these complaints alleges a continuing breach of the anti-trust laws to the continuing injury of the plaintiffs from the time of their organization to October 7, 1957, the date of filing of the amended and supplemental complaint. Therefore, defendant objected to two phases of such complaint.
First, General Electric Company alleged that all acts prior to December 29, 1953 (in the case of Magno Tronic Corporation) and January 7, 1954 (in the case of Industrial Electronics Corporation) were beyond the plaintiffs' reach because barred by the applicable state statute of limitations.
Secondly, General Electric Company attacked the remaining allegations of illegal acts subsequent to the dates specified, on the grounds that they failed to state a cause of action. This latter phase of the motion was denied so that the only question before the court is the applicability of the proper statute of limitations.
In the case of Gordon v. Loew's, Inc., 3 Cir., 1957, 247 F.2d 451, the Court of Appeals for this circuit found that the New Jersey statute of limitations, N.J.S.A. 2A:4-1, 10, applied, citing the applicable law in footnote 3 at page 454, and that the New Jersey statute of limitations in suits of this kind was the two year period imposed on penal suits. This determination was grounded on a decision of the Supreme Court of New Jersey, Addiss v. Logan Corp., rendered in 1957, 23 N.J. 142, 128 A.2d 462 (cited in Gordon, supra, 247 F.2d at page 455).
The new uniform federal statute of limitations of four years became effective January 7, 1956, with this qualification:
'No cause of action barred under existing law on the effective date of this section and sections 15a and 16 of this title shall be revived by said sections.' 15 U.S.C.A. § 15b.
This, then, is the heart of the matter. What was the 'existing law on the effective date of this section'? And ...