Antitrust & Competition Policy Blog

Editor: D. Daniel Sokol
University of Florida
Levin College of Law

Monday, March 20, 2017

From Private Ordering to Public Law: The Legal Frameworks Governing Standards-Essential Patents

Jorge Contreras, Utah describes From Private Ordering to Public Law: The Legal Frameworks Governing Standards-Essential Patents.

ABSTRACT:  Technical standard setting, though conducted largely through private organizations, possesses many attributes of a public function. By and large, SDO policies operate effectively to enable competitors to collaborate to develop standards that produce network effects and yield significant social welfare gains. At times, however, internal policing and enforcement mechanisms may not be sufficient to curb abusive behavior by SDO participants, particularly behavior that tends to diminish the value of patent-related commitments made by participants. In these cases, the intervention of public law principles may be appropriate. But while public law regimes such as antitrust and competition law may offer effective means for addressing the most egregious abuses of these commitments, it may be preferable for public agencies to promote legal measures assuring the enforceability of these private commitments on their own terms. Legal support for the enforcement such commitments, and the avoidance of new legal duties, should result in more adaptable and predictable mechanisms for ensuring the continued effective operation of private standardization systems, while the public character of standard setting should continue to be recognized when applicable legal rules call for consideration of the public interest.

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