In the wake of several high-profile antitrust prosecutions and investigations of suppliers in the auto industry, clients regularly ask if there are any "educational resources out there" or, better yet, "rules to follow" to help determine whether one's business relationships and/or practices comply with antitrust laws.
Although no set of hard-and-fast rules exists on this topic, the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice, the agencies responsible for the enforcement of federal antitrust laws, have jointly put together sets of guidelines that you or your business may find helpful. Those guidelines address the topics of horizontal mergers, collaborations with competitors and licensing of intellectual property, all of which can be found at: http://www.ftc.gov/bc/antitrust/index.shtm
These guidelines are intended to provide the business community and others with insights into what the agencies look at and rely on when analyzing whether a particular relationship and/or practice is prohibited under antitrust laws.Of course, the guidelines cannot and do not presume to do the impossible, i.e., provide an exhaustive list of do's and don'ts under the antitrust laws or attempt to answer every question that may arise concerning every type of business venture, affiliation, practice, etc. In addition, some of these guidelines are in need of an update regarding more recent antitrust case law.
Keeping this in mind, these guidelines can serve as a pretty good educational resource and may help you identify antitrust issues as they arise in your business. However, they are not a substitute for legal advice nor are they to be relied on as constituting legal advice (from the agencies, this firm or anyone else). As such, it is important, particularly in light of the continuing antitrust prosecutions and investigations, that you immediately seek legal counsel if you spot an antitrust issue or have any questions arising out of a review of these guidelines.