Balance and Standardization: Implications for Competition and Antitrust Analysis

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Most technical standards development organizations (SDOs) have adopted internal policies embodying “due process” criteria such as openness, balance of interests, consensus decision making, and appeals. Unlike other aspects of SDO governance, relatively little scholarly research has considered the history, scope, and interpretation of SDO balance requirements. Likewise, existing case law and agency guidance offer little assistance in understanding precisely how these balance principles translate into specific antitrust requirements that apply to standards development. Given the absence of specific guidance on the meaning and implications of balance requirements for SDOs under the antitrust laws, it is necessary to review the development of the laws, regulations, and institutional norms that have shaped balance requirements and their application by different SDOs more generally. A series of recent events and disputes, however, has focused attention on this understudied area, particularly as it pertains to policies concerning intellectual property rights (IPRs). In this article, we provide an extensive survey of the evolution of SDO balance requirements. First, we describe the origins and evolution of balance requirements at the international level, leading to their inclusion in WTO and ISO/IEC instruments. We next describe how balance requirements went from a feature of SDOs to an element of rule of reason analysis under U.S. antitrust law, finding their way into related statutes as well. We then chart the parallel path of balance requirements in the EU, from national SDO features to components of EU standardization policy and eventually factors in EU competition law analysis. We conclude by exploring the different notions of balance that have evolved and their application to antitrust analysis.