Standards Ownership and Competition Policy

26 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2006

See all articles by Herbert Hovenkamp

Herbert Hovenkamp

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School; University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School; University College London

Date Written: March 2006


Antitrust law is a blunt instrument for dealing with many claims of anticompetitive standard setting. Antitrust fact finders lack the sophistication to pass judgment on the substantive merits of a standard. In any event, antitrust is not a roving mandate to question bad standards. It requires an injury to competition, and whether the minimum conditions for competitive harm are present can often be determined without examining the substance of the standard itself.

When government involvement in standard setting is substantial antitrust challenges should generally be rejected. The petitioning process in a democratic system protects even bad legislative judgments from collateral attack. In any event, antitrust's purpose is to correct private markets. It is not a general corrective for political processes that have gone awry. The best case for antitrust liability occurs when the government has somehow been deceived into adopting a standard that it would not have adopted had it known the true facts. Even then, nonantitrust remedies such as equitable estoppel are probably a superior solution.

Keywords: Antitrust, Competition, Standard Setting, Technology, Networks, Exclusion, Collusion, Regulation

JEL Classification: K21, L12, L44

Suggested Citation

Hovenkamp, Herbert, Standards Ownership and Competition Policy (March 2006). U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 05-44, Available at SSRN: or

Herbert Hovenkamp (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
319-512-9579 (Phone)

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

University College London ( email )

Gower Street
London, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

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