A fundamental tension exists between intellectual property and antitrust law. Intellectual property, or IP--in the form of patents and copyrights--can help a company build market power, whereas antitrust law tries to tear that power down when its misuse results in a stifling of competition.
In the 1960s and 1970s aggressive government antitrust policy discouraged patenting because of the assumption by regulators that the exclusive rights conferred by IP constituted market power that should be subject to antitrust scrutiny. Decades later Washington policymakers have now begun to ask whether this trend has moved too far in the opposite direction. Do overpowerful IP rights impede competitors from emerging in software and other technology markets? The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice (DOJ) recently initiated hearings that, through June, will attempt to explore this question.
This article was originally published with the title IP Rights--and Wrongs.