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Competition Policy Center

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Recent Work

Competition Policy Center

Richard Gilbert, Chair

Berkeley faculty are prominent in the analysis and application of competition policy. The Center aims to help Berkeley faculty in their academic research relating to competition policy and antitrust; to help disseminate the results of that research; and to help everyone (at Berkeley and outside) to learn about those results.

Cover page of Integration and Independent Innovation on a Network

Integration and Independent Innovation on a Network


Physical telecom networks are costly and few, traditionally to the point of monopoly. Innovation thrives with many independent minds. So one might hope independent innovators, not only its proprietor M, can offer innovative services on a network, as has been true on the Internet. This issue is central in telecom policy; it also arises elsewhere, including complaints about Microsoft. I try to expound the following key points. Often an unregulated M has ex ante incentives to organize service innovation efficiently. But this incentive breaks down ex post as M can extract an independent J’s quasi-rents (Farrell and Michael Katz 2000). Even ex ante, the "one monopoly rent theorem" (Ward Bowman 1957) fails when M’s bottleneck access business is more regulated than its competitive services (e.g., Jean-Jacques Laffont and Jean Tirole 2000). This tempts M to sabotage J’s innovations. "Quarantining" M from the service sector solves these problems, but excludes the firm with (often) the best opportunities and the strongest incentives to innovate. "Parity pricing" or ECPR (Robert Willig 1979) purports to get the best of both worlds (BoBW). But it seems so hard to implement in innovation markets that one might construe ECPR analysis as reductio ad absurdum for BoBW.

Cover page of Deal or No Deal? Licensing Negotiations in Standard-Setting Organizations

Deal or No Deal? Licensing Negotiations in Standard-Setting Organizations


Technical standards benefit consumers and producers by facilitating productadoption, promoting compatible solutions, and helping to create anecosystem of products and services in which competition can thrive. However,standards also may create opportunities for the exercise of market power. Owners of patents with claims that are essential to a standard may “hold up” firms or consumers that are “locked-in” to a standard by charging high royalties for the use of products that comply with the standard. This licensor (or seller) market power3 arises “ex post,” i.e., after firms and consumers have made investments that are specific to the standard.

Cover page of Freedom to Trade and the Competitive Process

Freedom to Trade and the Competitive Process


Although antitrust courts sometimes stress the competitive process, they have not deeply explored what that process is. Inspired by the theory of the core, we explore the idea that the competitive process is the process of sellers and buyers forming improving coalitions. Much of antitrust can be seen as prohibiting firms’ attempts to restrain improving trade between their rivals and customers. In this way, antitrust protects firms’ and customers’ freedom to trade to their mutual betterment.

Cover page of Revising the Horizontal Merger Guidelines:   Lessons from the U.S. and the E.U.

Revising the Horizontal Merger Guidelines: Lessons from the U.S. and the E.U.


Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission have embarked on an effort to revise and update the U.S. Horizontal Merger Guidelines. There is substantial overlap between the U.S. and E.U. Guidelines, which makes a proposal for U.S. revisions immediately applicable to the E.U. and elsewhere. The U.S. Merger Guidelines can be revised in light of the learning of economists and lawyers in the past two decades to emphasize the importance of competitive effects analysis in merger evaluation and the forces that drive innovation. The Guidelines should also note that once a competitive effects analysis has been completed, it is possible to “back out” a relevant market (or markets) that is consistent with that competitive effects analysis.

Cover page of The Rising Tide of Patent Damages

The Rising Tide of Patent Damages


Very large awards and settlements for patent infringement have increased dramatically since the 1980s. A large fraction of these awards have occurred in the computer hardware and software industries. Complex technologies such as computer hardware and software require rights to a very large number of patents. One explanation for the large awards for patent infringement is the bargaining power of a patentee that has a credible injunction threat for a product that requires rights to multiple patents. This can lead to infringement damage awards and settlements that overestimate the patent’s contribution to product value.

Cover page of A World Without Intellectual Property? Boldrin and Levine, Against Intellectual Monopoly

A World Without Intellectual Property? Boldrin and Levine, Against Intellectual Monopoly


In their recent book, Against Intellectual Monopoly, Michele Boldrin and David Levine conclude that patents and copyrights are not necessary to provide protection for either innovation or creative expression and should be eliminated. The authors note the many flaws of the U.S. system of intellectual property protection and argue that other means are available to appropriate the benefits of invention and creative expression. However, the authors overlook important functions of intellectual property. Their efforts would be put to better use by more carefully analyzing policy proposals that may improve our system of intellectual property rights and have some potential to be implemented.

Cover page of Openness, Open Source, and the Veil of Ignorance

Openness, Open Source, and the Veil of Ignorance


The open source movement evolved in the one industrial context where openness is not required by intellectual property law.1 Nevertheless, openness itself cannot be the driving force behind the open source movement. This is because openness can be achieved in many ways other than the GPL, for example, with proprietary licenses, or licenses that are even more permissive than the GPL, such as the BSD license.

Early commentators explained this new development model by focussing on the motives of the programmer, such as to demonstrate skills. See the survey by Stephen M. Maurer and Suzanne Scotchmer (2006). But firms also participate in open-source collaborations, sometimes contributing significant resources (Joachim Henkel, 2006, Dirk Riehle, 2009). Doing so can be profitable even if the contributors are rivals in the market. The quality improvements or cost reductions provided by a rival’s open-source contributions may outweigh the deleterious effect of empowering the rival to be a better competitor.

Cover page of Ties that Bind: Policies to Promote (Good) Patent Pools

Ties that Bind: Policies to Promote (Good) Patent Pools


Hundreds of patents cover products in many high technology fields such as semiconductors, information technology, and biotechnology. Firms that make, sell, or use products in these fields often have to negotiate patent rights with many intellectual property owners. The time and effort required to assemble these rights can interfere with the adoption and diffusion of new technologies and the cumulative payments to rights holders for use of their intellectual property can weigh heavily on technology costs.

Cover page of The Essentiality Test for Patent Pools

The Essentiality Test for Patent Pools


Antitrust policy for the pooling of patents and other intellectual property rights has undergone a dramatic transformation since the first cases were decided at the beginning of the twentieth century. This transformation generally reflects developments in economics that provide a better understanding of the characteristics of patent pools that warrant antitrust scrutiny. The change, however, was slow, and the U.S. antitrust agencies did not clarify their enforcement principles with respect to patent pools until the publication by the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission of Antitrust Enforcement and Intellectual Property Rights: Promoting Innovation and Competition, released in April 2007 (“IP Report”).1

Cover page of Efficient Division of Profits from Complementary Innovations

Efficient Division of Profits from Complementary Innovations


Many products—including microprocessors, telecommunications devices, computer software and on-line auction services—make use of multiple technologies, each of which is essential to make or sell the product. The owner of one technology benefits from the existence of complementary technologies. We show that, despite this externality, the structure of payoffs that support efficient R&D investment by duopolists racing to discover a single innovation generalizes to the structure that supports efficient investment for complementary innovations. The paper also examines how alternative intellectual property regimes and legal institutions affect R&D investment in complementary technologies. The results have policy implications for the organization of R&D, the assessment of damages for patent infringement, and allocations of value in patent pools.