What is Antitrust Law?

Fall Chircahua Mountains, Cave Creek Canyon

"Per se" illegality, which conclusively presumes such practices to be unreasonable, is a doctrine the courts have developed. The Supreme Court held that certain agreements were so plainly anticompetitive and lacking in any redeeming virtue that they should be held ``per se'' illegal without further inquiry into reasonableness.When a per se offense (such as price fixing among competitors) is charged, all the government or the private plaintiff must establish is that the defendant has, in fact, engaged in the proscribed practice. Price fixing and bid rigging are the prime per se offenses. In addition, horizontal customer allocation and territorial allocation agreements among competitors, as well as group boycotts,are per se violations.

Rule of Reason

In Standard Oil Co. v. United States, the Supreme Court interpreted Section 1 of the Sherman Act to prohibit agreements that are ``unreasonably restrictive of competitive conditions.'' Rule of reason analysis applies to all agreements not included in the per se illegal category. The Court has applied rule of reason analysis to cooperative arrangements that have the potential of producing integrative efficiencies, a new market, or other procompetitive benefits. In the Court's view, unless a ``practice facially appears to be one that would always or almost always tend to restrict competition and decrease output,'' the agreement should be analyzed under the rule of reason.


There are three main ways in which the federal antitrust laws are enforced: criminal and civil enforcement actions brought by the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, civil enforcement actions brought by the Federal Trade Commission, and lawsuits brought by private parties asserting damage claims.


Lost profits are the main source of antitrust damages; trebling is available.