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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 …


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 …


Frand And Antitrust, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2020

Frand And Antitrust, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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This paper considers when a patentee’s violation of a FRAND commitment also violates the antitrust laws. It warns against two extremes. First, is thinking that any violation of a FRAND obligation is an antitrust violation as well. FRAND obligations are contractual, and most breaches of contract do not violate antitrust law. The other extreme is thinking that, because a FRAND violation is a breach of contract, it cannot also be an antitrust violation.

Every antitrust case must consider the market environment in which conduct is to be evaluated. SSOs operated by multiple firms are joint ventures. Antitrust’s role is to …


Is Antitrust's Consumer Welfare Principle Imperiled?, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2019

Is Antitrust's Consumer Welfare Principle Imperiled?, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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Antitrust’s consumer welfare principle stands for the proposition that antitrust policy should encourage markets to produce output as high as is consistent with sustainable competition, and prices that are accordingly as low. Such a policy does not protect every interest group. For example, it opposes the interests of cartels or other competition-limiting associations who profit from lower output and higher prices. It also runs counter to the interest of less competitive firms that need higher prices in order to survive. Market structure is relevant to antitrust policy, but its importance is contingent rather than absolute – that is, market structure …


Anticompetitive Mergers In Labor Markets, Ioana Marinescu, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2019

Anticompetitive Mergers In Labor Markets, Ioana Marinescu, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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Mergers of competitors are conventionally challenged under the federal antitrust laws when they threaten to lessen competition in some product or service market in which the merging firms sell. Mergers can also injure competition in markets where the firms purchase. Although that principle is widely recognized, very few litigated cases have applied merger law to buyers. This article concerns an even more rarefied subset, and one that has barely been mentioned. Nevertheless, its implications are staggering. Some mergers may be unlawful because they injure competition in the labor market by enabling the post-merger firm anticompetitively to suppress wages or salaries. …


Progressive Antitrust, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2018

Progressive Antitrust, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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Several American political candidates and administrations have both run and served under the “progressive” banner for more than a century, right through the 2016 election season. For the most part these have pursued interventionist antitrust policies, reflecting a belief that markets are fragile and in need of repair, that certain interest groups require greater protection, or in some cases that antitrust policy is an extended arm of regulation. This paper argues that most of this progressive antitrust policy was misconceived, including that reflected in the 2016 antitrust plank of the Democratic Party. The progressive state is best served by a …


Antitrust Policy And Inequality Of Wealth, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Oct 2017

Antitrust Policy And Inequality Of Wealth, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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Why would anyone want to use antitrust law as a wealth distribution device when far more explicit statutory tools are available for that purpose? One feature of antitrust is its open-textured, nonspecific statutes that are interpreted by judges. As a result, using antitrust to redistribute wealth may be a way of invoking the judicial process without having to go to Congress or a state legislature that is likely to be unsympathetic. Of course, a corollary is that someone attempting to use antitrust law to redistribute wealth will have to rely on the existing antitrust statutes rather than obtaining a new …


The Ncaa And The Rule Of Reason, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jul 2017

The Ncaa And The Rule Of Reason, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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This brief essay considers the use of antitrust’s rule of reason in assessing challenges to rule making by the NCAA. In particular, it looks at the O’Bannon case, which involved challenges to NCAA rules limiting the compensation of student athletes under the NCAA rubric that protects the “amateur” status of collegiate athletes. Within that rubric, the Ninth Circuit got the right answer.

That outcome leads to a broader question, however: should the NCAA’s long held goal, frequently supported by the courts, of preserving athletic amateurism be jettisoned? Given the dual role that colleges play, that is a complex question, raising …


Antitrust Balancing, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Apr 2016

Antitrust Balancing, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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Antitrust litigation often confronts situations where effects point in both directions. Judges sometimes describe the process of evaluating these factors as “balancing.” In its e-Books decision the Second Circuit believed that the need to balance is what justifies application of the rule of reason. In Microsoft the D.C. Circuit stated that “courts routinely apply a…balancing approach” under which “the plaintiff must demonstrate that the anticompetitive harm…outweighs the procompetitive benefit.” But then it decided the case without balancing anything.

The term “balancing” is a very poor label for what courts actually do in these cases. Balancing requires that two offsetting effects …


Antitrust And Information Technologies, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Mar 2016

Antitrust And Information Technologies, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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Technological change strongly affects the use of information to facilitate anticompetitive practices. The effects result mainly from digitization and the many products and processes that it enables. These technologies of information also account for a significant portion of the difficulties that antitrust law encounters when its addresses intellectual property rights. In addition, changes in the technologies of information affect the structures of certain products, in the process either increasing or decreasing the potential for competitive harm.

For example, digital technology affects the way firms exercise market power, but it also imposes serious measurement difficulties. The digital revolution has occurred in …


Re-Imagining Antitrust: The Revisionist Work Of Richard S. Markovits, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2016

Re-Imagining Antitrust: The Revisionist Work Of Richard S. Markovits, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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This review discusses Richard Markovits’ two volume book "Economics and the Interpretation" and "Application of U.S. and E.U. Antitrust Law" (2014), focusing mainly on Markovits’ approaches to antitrust tests of illegality, pricing offenses, market definition and the assessment of market power, and his important work anticipating unilateral effects theory in merger cases. Markovits argues forcefully that the Sherman and Clayton Acts were intended to employ different tests of illegality. As a result, even when they cover the same practices, such as mergers, exclusive dealing, or tying, they address them under different tests. He then shows how he would analyze various …


Rediscovering Capture: Antitrust Federalism And The North Carolina Dental Case, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Apr 2015

Rediscovering Capture: Antitrust Federalism And The North Carolina Dental Case, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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This brief essay analyzes the Supreme Court's 2015 decision in the North Carolina Dental case, assessing its implications for federalism. The decision promises to re-open old divisions that had once made the antitrust "state action" doctrine a controversial lightning rod for debate about state economic sovereignty.

One provocative issue that neither the majority nor the dissenters considered is indicated by the fact that nearly all the cartel customers in the Dental case were located within the state. By contrast, the cartel in Parker v. Brown, which the dissent held up as the correct exemplar of the doctrine, benefited California growers …


Technological Determinism And Its Discontents, Christopher S. Yoo Jan 2014

Technological Determinism And Its Discontents, Christopher S. Yoo

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This book review takes a critical review of the claim advanced by Susan Crawford in Captive Audience that the merger between Comcast and NBC Universal would harm consumers and that policymakers should instead promote common carriage regulation and subsidize municipal symmetrical gigabit fiber-to-the-home (FTTH). First it evaluates the extent to which next-generation digital subscriber lines (DSL) and wireless broadband technologies can serve as effective substitutes for cable modem service, identifying FCC data showing that the market has become increasingly competitive and likely to continue to do so. Furthermore, the market is not structured in a way that would permit the …


Institutional Advantage In Competition And Innovation Policy, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Sep 2013

Institutional Advantage In Competition And Innovation Policy, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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In the United States responsibility for innovation policy and competition policy are assigned to different agencies with different authority. The principal institutional enforcers of patent policy are the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the International Trade Commission (ITC), and the federal district courts as overseen by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and ultimately the Supreme Court. While competition policy is not an explicit part of patent policy, competition issues arise frequently, even when they are not seen as such.

Since early in the twentieth century antitrust courts have had to confront practices that …


Extraterritorial Criminal Jurisdiction Under The Antitrust Laws, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Feb 2013

Extraterritorial Criminal Jurisdiction Under The Antitrust Laws, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

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The Ninth Circuit may soon consider whether challenges to antitrust activity that occurs abroad must invariably be addressed under the rule of reason, which will make criminal prosecution difficult or impossible.

When antitrust cases involve foreign conduct, the courts customarily appraise its substantive antitrust significance only after deciding whether the Sherman Act reaches the activity. Nevertheless, "jurisdictional" and "substantive" inquiries are not wholly independent. Both reflect two sound propositions: that Congress did not intend American antitrust law to rule the entire commercial world and that Congress knew that domestic economic circumstances often differ from those abroad where mechanical application of …