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The Slogans And Goals Of Antitrust Law, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Oct 2023

The Slogans And Goals Of Antitrust Law, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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This is a comparative examination of the slogans and goals most advocated for antitrust law today – namely, that antitrust should be concerned with “bigness,” that it should intervene when actions undermine the “competitive process,” or that it should be concerned about promoting some conception of welfare. “Bigness” as an antitrust concern targets firms based on absolute size rather than share of a market, as antitrust traditionally has done. The bigness approach entails that antitrust cannot be concerned about low prices, or the welfare of consumers and labor. Nondominant firms could not sustain very high prices or cause significant reductions …


Bibb Balancing: Regulatory Mismatches Under The Dormant Commerce Clause, Michael S. Knoll Mar 2023

Bibb Balancing: Regulatory Mismatches Under The Dormant Commerce Clause, Michael S. Knoll

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Courts and commentators have long understood dormant Commerce Clause doctrine to contain two types of cases: discrimination and undue burdens. This Article argues for a more nuanced understanding that divides undue burdens into single-state burdens—which arise from the application of a single state’s law alone—and mismatch burdens, which arise from legal diversity. Although the Supreme Court purports to apply Pike balancing in all undue-burden cases, we show that the Court’s approach in mismatch cases differs substantially. Specifically, unlike in single-state cases, balancing in mismatch cases involves an implicit and potentially problematic comparison by the Court between the challenged state’s regulation …


Worker Welfare And Antitrust, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2023

Worker Welfare And Antitrust, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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The important field of antitrust and labor has gone through a profound change in orientation. For the great bulk of its history labor has been viewed as a competitive threat, and the debate over antitrust and labor was framed around whether there should be a labor “immunity” from the antitrust laws. In just the last decade, however, the orientation has flipped. Most new writing views labor as a target of anticompetitive restraints imposed by employers. Antitrust is increasingly concerned with protecting labor rather than challenging its conduct.

Antitrust interest in labor markets is properly focused on two things. The smaller …


Antitrust Interoperability Remedies, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2023

Antitrust Interoperability Remedies, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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Compelled interoperability can be a useful remedy for dominant firms, including large digital platforms, who violate the antitrust laws. They can address competition concerns without interfering unnecessarily with the structures that make digital platforms attractive and that have contributed so much to economic growth.

Given the wide variety of structures and business models for big tech, “interoperability” must be defined broadly. It can realistically include everything from “dynamic” interoperability that requires real time sharing of data and operations, to “static” interoperability which requires portability but not necessarily real time interactions. Also included are the compelled sharing of intellectual property or …


Selling Antitrust, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Aug 2022

Selling Antitrust, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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Antitrust enforcers and its other defenders have never done a good job of selling their field to the public. That is not entirely their fault. Antitrust is inherently technical, and a less engaging discipline to most people than, say, civil rights or criminal law. The more serious problem is that when the general press does talk about antitrust policy it naturally gravitates toward the fringes, both the far right and the far left. Extreme rhetoric makes for better press than the day-to-day operations of a technical enterprise. The extremes are often stated in overdramatized black-and-white terms that avoid the real …


President Biden's Executive Order On Competition: An Antitrust Analysis, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jul 2022

President Biden's Executive Order On Competition: An Antitrust Analysis, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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In July, 2021, President Biden signed a far ranging Executive Order directed to promoting competition in the American economy. This paper analyzes issues covered by the Order that are most likely to affect the scope and enforcement of antitrust law. The only passage that the Executive Order quoted from a Supreme Court antitrust decision captures its antitrust ideology well – that the Sherman Act:

rests on the premise that the unrestrained interaction of competitive forces will yield the best allocation of our economic resources, the lowest prices, the highest quality and the greatest material progress, while at the same time …


Antitrust Liability For False Advertising: A Response To Carrier & Tushnet, Susannah Gagnon, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jun 2022

Antitrust Liability For False Advertising: A Response To Carrier & Tushnet, Susannah Gagnon, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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This reply briefly considers when false advertising can give rise to antitrust liability. The biggest difference between tort and antitrust liability is that the latter requires harm to the market, which is critically dependent on actual consumer response. As a result, the biggest hurdle a private plaintiff faces in turning an act of false advertising into an antitrust offense is proof of causation – to what extent can a decline in purchase volume or other market rejection be specifically attributed to the defendant’s false claims? That requirement dooms the great majority of false advertising claims attacked as violations of the …


Digital Cluster Markets, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Apr 2022

Digital Cluster Markets, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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This paper considers the role of “cluster” markets in antitrust litigation, the minimum requirements for recognizing such markets, and the relevance of network effects in identifying them.

One foundational requirement of markets in antitrust cases is that they consist of products that are very close substitutes for one another. Even though markets are nearly always porous, this principle is very robust in antitrust analysis and there are few deviations.

Nevertheless, clustering noncompeting products into a single market for purposes of antitrust analysis can be valuable, provided that its limitations are understood. Clustering contributes to market power when (1) many customers …


The Progressives' Antitrust Toolbox, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2022

The Progressives' Antitrust Toolbox, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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The period 1900 to 1930 was the Golden Age of antitrust theory, if not of enforcement. During that period courts and scholars developed nearly all of the tools that we use to this day to assess anticompetitive practices under the federal antitrust laws. In subsequent years antitrust policy veered to both the left and the right, but today seems to be returning to a position quite similar to the one that these Progressive adopted. Their principal contributions were (1) partial equilibrium analysis, which became the basis for concerns about economic concentration, the distinction between short- and long-run analysis, and later …


Monopolizing Digital Commerce, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2022

Monopolizing Digital Commerce, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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Section 2 of the Sherman Act condemns firms who “monopolize,” “attempt to monopolize,” or “combine or conspire” to monopolize—all without explanation. Section 2 is the antitrust law’s only provision that reaches entirely unilateral conduct, although it has often been used to reach collaborative conduct as well. In general, § 2 requires greater amounts of individually held market power than do the other antitrust statutes, but it is less categorical about conduct. With one exception, however, the statute reads so broadly that criticisms of the nature that it is outdated cannot be based on faithful readings of the text.

The one …


Antitrust Error Costs, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2022

Antitrust Error Costs, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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The idea that consideration of error costs should inform judgments about actions with uncertain consequences is well established. When we act on imperfect information, we consider not only the probability of an event, but also the expected costs of making an error. In 1984 Frank Easterbrook used this idea to rationalize an anti-enforcement bias in antitrust, reasoning that markets are likely to correct monopoly in a relatively short time while judicial errors are likely to persist. As a result, false positives (recognizing a problem when there is none) are more costly than false negatives. While the problem of error cost …


The Invention Of Antitrust, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2022

The Invention Of Antitrust, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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The long Progressive Era, from 1900 to 1930, was the Golden Age of antitrust theory, if not of enforcement. During that period courts and Progressive scholars developed nearly all of the tools that we use to this day to assess anticompetitive practices under the federal antitrust laws. In a very real sense we can say that this group of people invented antitrust law. The principal contributions the Progressives made to antitrust policy were (1) partial equilibrium analysis, which became the basis for concerns about economic concentration, the distinction between short- and long-run analysis, and later provided the foundation for the …


Antitrust By Algorithm, Cary Coglianese, Alicia Lai Jan 2022

Antitrust By Algorithm, Cary Coglianese, Alicia Lai

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Technological innovation is changing private markets around the world. New advances in digital technology have created new opportunities for subtle and evasive forms of anticompetitive behavior by private firms. But some of these same technological advances could also help antitrust regulators improve their performance in detecting and responding to unlawful private conduct. We foresee that the growing digital complexity of the marketplace will necessitate that antitrust authorities increasingly rely on machine-learning algorithms to oversee market behavior. In making this transition, authorities will need to meet several key institutional challenges—building organizational capacity, avoiding legal pitfalls, and establishing public trust—to ensure successful …


A Miser’S Rule Of Reason: The Supreme Court And Antitrust Limits On Student Athlete Compensation, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2022

A Miser’S Rule Of Reason: The Supreme Court And Antitrust Limits On Student Athlete Compensation, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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The unanimous Supreme Court decision in NCAA v. Alston is its most important probe of antitrust’s rule of reason in decades. The decision implicates several issues, including the role of antitrust in labor markets, how antitrust applies to institutions that have an educational mission as well as involvement in a large commercial enterprise, and how much leeway district courts should have in creating decrees that contemplate ongoing administration.

The Court accepted what has come to be the accepted framework: the plaintiff must make out a prima facie case of competitive harm. Then the burden shifts to the defendant to produce …


Regulating New Tech: Problems, Pathways, And People, Cary Coglianese Dec 2021

Regulating New Tech: Problems, Pathways, And People, Cary Coglianese

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New technologies bring with them many promises, but also a series of new problems. Even though these problems are new, they are not unlike the types of problems that regulators have long addressed in other contexts. The lessons from regulation in the past can thus guide regulatory efforts today. Regulators must focus on understanding the problems they seek to address and the causal pathways that lead to these problems. Then they must undertake efforts to shape the behavior of those in industry so that private sector managers focus on their technologies’ problems and take actions to interrupt the causal pathways. …


Antitrust And Platform Monopoly, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Nov 2021

Antitrust And Platform Monopoly, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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Are large digital platforms that deal directly with consumers “winner take all,” or natural monopoly, firms? That question is surprisingly complex and does not produce the same answer for every platform. The closer one looks at digital platforms the less they seem to be winner-take-all. As a result, competition can be made to work in most of them. Further, antitrust enforcement, with its accommodation of firm variety, is generally superior to any form of statutory regulation that generalizes over large numbers.

Assuming that an antitrust violation is found, what should be the remedy? Breaking up large firms subject to extensive …


Addressing The Divisions In Antitrust Policy, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Nov 2021

Addressing The Divisions In Antitrust Policy, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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This is the text of an interview conducted in writing by Professor A. Douglas Melamed, Stanford Law School.


Vertical Control, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Sep 2021

Vertical Control, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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Antitrust litigation often requires courts to consider challenges to vertical “control.” How does a firm injure competition by limiting the behavior of vertically related firms? Competitive injury includes harm to consumers, labor, or other suppliers from reduced output and higher margins.

Historically antitrust considers this issue by attempting to identify a market that is vertically related to the defendant, and then consider what portion of it is “foreclosed” by the vertical practice. There are better mechanisms for identifying competitive harm, including a more individualized look at how the practice injures the best placed firms or bears directly on a firm’s …


Appreciating The Overlooked Contributions Of The New Harvard School, Christopher S. Yoo Jul 2021

Appreciating The Overlooked Contributions Of The New Harvard School, Christopher S. Yoo

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My colleague, Herbert Hovenkamp, is almost universally recognized as the most cited and the most authoritative US antitrust scholar. Among his many honors, his status as the senior author of the authoritative Areeda and Hovenkamp treatise makes him the unquestioned leader of the New Harvard School, which has long served as the bellwether for how courts are likely to resolve emerging issues in modern antitrust doctrine. Unfortunately, its defining tenets and its positions on emerging issues remain surprisingly obscure. My contribution to this festschrift explores the core commitments that distinguish the New Harvard School from other approaches to antitrust. It …


Antitrust Harm And Causation, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jul 2021

Antitrust Harm And Causation, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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How should plaintiffs show harm from antitrust violations? The inquiry naturally breaks into two issues: first, what is the nature of the harm? and second, what does proof of causation require? The best criterion for assessing harm is likely or reasonably anticipated output effects. Antitrust’s goal should be output as high as is consistent with sustainable competition.

The standard for proof of causation then depends on two things: the identity of the enforcer and the remedy that the plaintiff is seeking. It does not necessarily depend on which antitrust statute the plaintiff is seeking to enforce. For public agencies, enforcement …


The Looming Crisis In Antitrust Economics, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2021

The Looming Crisis In Antitrust Economics, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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As in so many areas of law and politics in the United States, antitrust’s center is at bay. It is besieged by a right wing that wants to limit antitrust even more than it has been limited over the last quarter century. On the left, it faces revisionists who propose significantly greater enforcement.

One thing the two extremes share, however, is denigration of the role of economics in antitrust analysis. On the right, the Supreme Court’s two most recent antitrust decisions at this writing reveal that economic analysis no longer occupies the central role that it once had. On the …


Due Process In Antitrust Enforcement: Normative And Comparative Perspectives, Christopher S. Yoo, Yong Huang, Thomas Fetzer, Shan Jiang Jan 2021

Due Process In Antitrust Enforcement: Normative And Comparative Perspectives, Christopher S. Yoo, Yong Huang, Thomas Fetzer, Shan Jiang

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Due process in antitrust enforcement has significant implications for better professional and accurate enforcement decisions. Not only can due process spur economic growth, raise government credibility, and limit the abuse of powers according to law, it also promotes competitive reforms in monopolized sectors and curbs corruption. Jurisdictions learn from the best practices in the investigation process, decisionmaking process, and the announcement and judicial review of antitrust enforcement decisions. By comparing the enforcement policies of China, the European Union, and the United States, this article calls for better disclosure of evidence, participation of legal counsel, and protection of the procedural and …


Is The Digital Economy Too Concentrated?, Jonathan Klick Nov 2020

Is The Digital Economy Too Concentrated?, Jonathan Klick

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Concentration in the digital economy in the United States has sparked loud criticism and spurred calls for wide-ranging reforms. These reforms include everything from increased enforcement of existing antitrust laws, such as challenging more mergers and breaking up firms, to an abandonment of the consumer welfare standard. Critics cite corruption and more systemic public choice problems, while others invoke the populist origins of antitrust to slay the digital Goliaths. On the other side, there is skepticism regarding these arguments. This chapter continues much of that skepticism.


Network Effects In Action, Christopher S. Yoo Nov 2020

Network Effects In Action, Christopher S. Yoo

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This Chapter begins by examining and exploring the theoretical and empirical limits of the possible bases of network effects, paying particular attention to the most commonly cited framework known as Metcalfe’s Law. It continues by exploring the concept of network externalities, defined as the positive external consumption benefits that the decision to join a network creates for the other members of the network, which is more ambiguous than commonly realized. It then reviews the structural factors needed for models based on network effects to have anticompetitive effects and identifies other factors that can dissipate those effects. Finally, it identifies alternative …


Competitive Harm From Vertical Mergers, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Oct 2020

Competitive Harm From Vertical Mergers, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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The antitrust enforcement Agencies' 2020 Vertical Merger Guidelines introduce a nontechnical application of bargaining theory into the assessment of competitive effects from vertical acquisitions. The economics of such bargaining is complex and can produce skepticism among judges, who might regard its mathematics as overly technical, its game theory as excessively theoretical or speculative, or its assumptions as unrealistic.

However, we have been there before. The introduction of concentration indexes, particularly the HHI, in the Merger Guidelines was initially met with skepticism but gradually they were accepted as judges became more comfortable with them. The same thing very largely happened again …


Antitrust: What Counts As Consumer Welfare?, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jul 2020

Antitrust: What Counts As Consumer Welfare?, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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Antitrust’s consumer welfare principle is accepted in some form by the entire Supreme Court and the majority of other writers. However, it means different things to different people. For example, some members of the Supreme Court can simultaneously acknowledge the antitrust consumer welfare principle even as they approve practices that result in immediate, obvious, and substantial consumer harm. At the same time, however, a properly defined consumer welfare principle is essential if antitrust is to achieve its statutory purpose, which is to pursue practices that injure competition. The wish to make antitrust a more general social justice statute is understandable: …


House Judiciary Inquiry Into Competition In Digital Markets: Statement, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Apr 2020

House Judiciary Inquiry Into Competition In Digital Markets: Statement, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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This is a response to a query from the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, requesting my views about the adequacy of existing antitrust policy in digital markets.

The statutory text of the United States antitrust laws is very broad, condemning all anticompetitive restraints on trade, monopolization, and mergers and interbrand contractual exclusion whose effect “may be substantially to lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly.” Federal judicial interpretation is much narrower, however, for several reasons. One is the residue of a reaction against excessive antitrust enforcement in the 1970s and earlier. However, since that time antitrust …


On The Meaning Of Antitrust's Consumer Welfare Principle, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2020

On The Meaning Of Antitrust's Consumer Welfare Principle, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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This brief essay addresses the ambiguities in the meaning of “consumer welfare” in antitrust, exploring the differences between the Williamson, Bork, and current understanding of that term. After weighing the alternatives it argues that the consumer welfare principle in antitrust should seek out that state of affairs in which output is maximized, consistent with sustainable competition


Google V. Oracle Amicus Merits Stage Brief: Vindicating Ip’S Channeling Principle And Restoring Jurisdictional Balance To Software Copyright Protection, Peter Menell, David Nimmer, Shyamkrishna Balganesh Jan 2020

Google V. Oracle Amicus Merits Stage Brief: Vindicating Ip’S Channeling Principle And Restoring Jurisdictional Balance To Software Copyright Protection, Peter Menell, David Nimmer, Shyamkrishna Balganesh

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The Federal Circuit’s decisions in Oracle v. Google conflict with this Court’s seminal decision in Baker v. Selden, 101 U.S. 99 (1879), misinterpret Congress’s codification of this Court’s fundamental channeling principle and related limiting doctrines, and upend nearly three decades of sound, well-settled, and critically important decisions of multiple regional circuits on the scope of copyright protection for computer software. Based on the fundamental channeling principle enunciated in Baker v. Selden, as reflected in § 102(b) of the Copyright Act, the functional requirements of APIs for computer systems and devices, like the internal workings of other machines, are …


Justice Department's New Position On Patents, Standard Setting, And Injunctions, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2020

Justice Department's New Position On Patents, Standard Setting, And Injunctions, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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A deep split in American innovation policy has arisen between new economy and old economy innovation. In a recent policy statement, the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department takes a position that tilts more toward the old economy. Its December, 2019, policy statement on remedies for Standard Essential Patents issued jointly with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the National Institute of Standards and Technology reflects this movement.

The policy statement as a whole contains two noteworthy problems: one is a glaring omission, and the other is a mischaracterization of the scope of antitrust liability. Both positions are strongly …