The Blockchain (R)evolution and the Role of Antitrust

This piece, available here, explores a number of (EU) antitrust issues that may arise in the context of blockchains. It is structured as follows: The paper starts by explaining what the blockchain is and what it can do. The blockchain is a technology that uses a software protocol based on cryptography to keep exchanges secure. It allows anybody in the chain to see all transactions on it, removes the need for trusted intermediaries keeping a transaction ledger, and ensures that the transaction ledger is immutable and very hard to tamper with. Blockchains can be divided into open and permissioned networks. Open (i.e. public) networks are accessible to anyone, so that the database is truly public information. This is the case of the blockchains underlying Bitcoin and Ethereum. Permissioned (i.e. private) networks make access conditional upon authorisation by the owner or owners of the network. An example of a permissioned network is Corda, a distributed ledger platform designed specifically for financial institutions to…

Alison Jones and William E. Kovacic ‘Identifying Anticompetitive Agreements in the United States and the European Union – Developing a Coherent Antitrust Analytical Framework’ (2017) Antitrust Bulletin 62(2) 254

This is a very substantial paper on the appropriate analytical framework for identifying anticompetitive agreements . It can be found here. The paper focuses on how the debate on rules and standards, and on the balance of Type I and Type II errors, affects the analytical framework for identifying infringing agreements in the US and EU. From their standpoint, these debates have been influential in discussions about how to identify anticompetitive unilateral practices and mergers, but have not been relevant for similar discussions regarding horizontal agreements. Also, from their point of view: “the question of how agreements are to be analysed under both the US and the EU jurisprudence is also unduly opaque; it is frequently difficult to ascertain whether agreements, including joint venture and other horizontal collaboration and distribution agreements, are compatible with the law. In particular, confusion about the role and scope of per se rules, the role and scope of ancillary restraint doctrines, and how competing anti- and…

Bjorn Lundqvist ‘Joint Research and Development Collaborations Under Competition Law, with a Layman’s Economic Viewpoint’ (2017) Stockholm University Research Paper No. 3

This paper – which you can find here – looks into the antitrust treatment of joint research and development agreements (“joint R&D”) under both EU and US law. The paper begins by providing (yet another) overview of the literature on competition and innovation. The basic conclusion is that it is  uncertain whether competition promotes or detracts from innovation, but we all know this by now. Informed by these observations, the paper then looks at the EU and US treatment of joint R&D agreements. In the US, after a few old cases, joint R&D was subject to its own antitrust regime by the National Cooperation Research (and Production) Act in 1984 – which applies a rule of reason for innovation markets, and precludes treble damages if the agreement was notified to the competition agencies. In effect, the author argues, this created a safe harbour for R&D collaborations. These developments led to the adoption of the R&D Block Exemption at about the same time…