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US Anti Trust and IP


The US Anti Trust Landscape - 2009


Read: "Antitrust Chief Hits Resistance in Crackdown" in the NYT, July 26 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/26/business/26antitrust.html?_r=1&th&emc=th

It seems to me from recent statemnts of theirs DoJ really wants to pursue international cartels, and while they and FTC look at anti trust, only DoJ can put people in jail and seem to hint their scope is more international. Whereas the FTC seems to be more aligned with the examination of monopoly market behavior, and how the consumer is affected.

Gaining more traction is the idea that a monopoly had to be judged on its merits, that is, will the cost of fixing the monopoly be more than the cost of letting it continue, since in the end, the point of all this is coercive activity for the benefit to the consumer, not per se devolution of any monopoly as a punitive action. Informally, an almost rule of thumb might be: Sherman S1? - DoJ, Sherman S2? - FTC.

If somebody made flawless $15 computers and nobody else could do as well at 10X the price and they arose to 99% of the market, then who cares if they're a monopoly? This kind of thinking has been a byproduct of the Bush years the article says, but can really e traced back to the Reagan era, no other president gutted anti trust laws, and in particular the DoJ anti trust division a smuch as that administration, and the DoJ response rings clear: "we care if they were preventing other companies from building $15 computers too".

This is reasonable, you don't want to block monopoly so much as encourage competition, or in egregious case, do not permit a monopoly to discourage competition and stifle innovation.

So, the focus changes for the monopolist to prove their monopoly is beneficial to the consumer, in an attempt to hide a modality of behavior so bad there are laws against it!

I particularly liked this part:

    "In a second area, senior Democrats are proposing legislation to eliminate an exemption from antitrust law for commercial railroad companies. It would give the antitrust division the authority to scrutinize the railroads for anticompetitive practices.

    The proposal, by Senator Herbert Kohl of Wisconsin, who heads the antitrust subcommittee, and Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has been sought by a coalition of railroad shippers. But so far the administration has not taken a position on the measure."

US anti trust laws were enacted because of the railroads in 1909. And we're trying to take away their exemption to this day. Wow. This should give you some idea of the persistance, breadth (and pockets!) of the organizations practicing behavior these laws were meant to curtail.