Competition Law in the United States

Competition Policy and Antitrust

Article Snapshot


Stephen Calkins


Competition Law Today: Concepts, Issues, and the Law in Practice, Vinod Dhall, ed., Oxford University Press, 2007


The author gives an overview of U.S. Competition law and shows that its evolution is informed by economic understanding.

Policy Relevance

U.S. Competition law stems from a few main statutory provisions but is the product of both substance and procedure that operate as a kind of common law. Understanding the system is important for seeing where the law comes from and the direction it is heading.

Main Points

  • There are three main provisions that antitrust lawyers worry about: Sherman Act section 1, Sherman Act section 2, and Clayton Act section 7. The first deals with restraints on trade, the second with monopolization, and the fourth with mergers and acquisitions that lessen competition.
  • Competition law can be traced back to the passage of the Sherman Act in 1890.
  • Although competition law evolution tends to be evaluated through changing substantive rules and doctrines, procedural changes also play a key role.
  • Competition law can be enforced in by many parties, including, the Antitrust Division, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), State Attorneys General, and lawyers representing private parties.
  • The vast majority of antitrust lawsuits are private. Jurisdiction is no longer a common barrier as interstate commerce is commonly recognized, but the international reach of U.S. competition laws continues to invite controversy.
  • Horizontal restraints are the most obvious and condemned type of restraints in competition law. Vertical restraints of various types are not as disfavored by courts as their horizontal counterparts are.
  • Horizontal restraints, vertical restraints, mergers and acquisitions, dominant firms, and price discrimination are key substantive areas of antitrust law.
  • There are exemptions and immunities from U.S. antitrust laws. Some are partial and some are complete. They can be both statutory or judge made.


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