Internet-Draft IETF Antitrust Guidelines October 2022
Halpern, et al. Expires 24 April 2023 [Page]
Network Working Group
Intended Status:
J. M. Halpern, Ed.
B. Biddle
Biddle Law PC
J. Daley
IETF Administration LLC

Antitrust Guidelines for IETF Particiants


This document provides guidance for IETF participants on compliance with antitrust laws and how to reduce antitrust risks in connection with IETF activities.

Status of This Memo

This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Note that other groups may also distribute working documents as Internet-Drafts. The list of current Internet-Drafts is at

Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

This Internet-Draft will expire on 24 April 2023.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Standards development frequently requires collaboration between competitors. Cooperation among competitors can spark concerns about antitrust law or competition law violations. This document provides guidance for IETF participants about how to reduce antitrust risks in connection with IETF activities.

2. Background

2.1. A Note About Terminology

"Antitrust law" and "competition law" are used synonymously in this document. "Antitrust" is the word that's used in the US and in several other jurisdictions; "competition law" is the terminology used in Europe and in many other jurisdictions. There can be some nuanced differences between how different jurisdictions address these kinds of legal issues, and sometimes people use the terminology differently to highlight these nuances, but here they are being used as synonyms.

2.2. Purpose of Antitrust or Competition law

The U.S. Department of Justice says that "the goal of the antitrust laws is to protect economic freedom and opportunity by promoting free and fair competition in the marketplace. Competition in a free market benefits consumers through lower prices, better quality and greater choice. Competition provides businesses the opportunity to compete on price and quality, in an open market and on a level playing field, unhampered by anticompetitive restraints." Fundamentally, antitrust or competition laws are designed to facilitate open, fair, robust competition, ultimately to benefit consumers.

2.3. Overlapping Areas of Concern

There are two overlapping areas of concern the IETF has in connection with antitrust compliance:

3. Existing IETF Antitrust Compliance Strategy

Compliance with the BCPs and other relevant policies that document the established rules and norms of the IETF facilitates compliance with antitrust law, as the IETF structure and processes are designed to mitigate antitrust risks. As a reminder, participants are required to comply with the following policies:

4. Key Recommendations

The most important recommendation is for IETF participants to rigorously follow all applicable IETF policies as set out in section 3 above.

Additionally it is recommended that IETF participants:

4.1. Avoid 'red flag' Topics

Some topics are particularly inappropriate for discussion in a standards setting environment where representatives from competitors are likely to be present. These topics include: product pricing, profit margins, business relationships between specific vendors and customers, details about particular supply chains, discussions about particular market opportunities, or employee compensation or benefits. While not all discussions of these topics would necessarily be antitrust violations, prudence suggests that avoiding these topics altogether in the context of collaborative IETF discussions best mitigates antitrust risks for the IETF and its participants.

Note that antitrust law reaches beyond these topics, however. For example, any behavior that amounts to an agreement to restrain marketplace competition, or that facilitates monopolization of particular markets, raises potential antitrust risks. Participants must ensure that their conduct does not violate any antitrust laws or regulations.

4.2. Use Caution With 'yellow flag' Topics

Two topics that can be relevant at times in a standard setting context but that can also raise some competition law risks are:

IETF participants should consult with IETF legal counsel and/or other IETF experts as needed to ensure that an investigation of these topics follows established best practices.

All IETF participants are expected to behave lawfully when engaged in IETF activities, including by following applicable antitrust law. The IETF does not provide legal advice to participants, and instead recommends that participants obtain independent legal advice as needed. IETF participants should consult with their own counsel when antitrust or competition law-related questions arise.

Participants should report potential antitrust concerns in the context of IETF activities through the following channels: IETF Chair (, the IETF LLC executive director (, the IETF legal counsel (, or via the IETF LLC whistleblower service.

5. IANA Considerations

No values are assigned in this document, no registries are created, and there is no action assigned to the IANA by this document.

6. Security Considerations

This document may be considered to document means to avoid risks to the IETF and IETF participants related to antitrust. One may consider those to be security considerations. Other than that, this document introduces no known security aspects to the IETF or IETF participants.

7. Normative References

Bradner, S., "The Internet Standards Process -- Revision 3", BCP 9, RFC 2026, .
Dusseault, L. and R. Sparks, "Guidance on Interoperation and Implementation Reports for Advancement to Draft Standard", BCP 9, RFC 5657, .
Housley, R., Crocker, D., and E. Burger, "Reducing the Standards Track to Two Maturity Levels", BCP 9, RFC 6410, .
Resnick, P., "Retirement of the "Internet Official Protocol Standards" Summary Document", BCP 9, RFC 7100, .
Kolkman, O., Bradner, S., and S. Turner, "Characterization of Proposed Standards", BCP 9, RFC 7127, .
Dawkins, S., "Increasing the Number of Area Directors in an IETF Area", BCP 9, RFC 7475, .
Halpern, J., Ed. and E. Rescorla, Ed., "IETF Stream Documents Require IETF Rough Consensus", BCP 9, RFC 8789, .
Bradner, S., "IETF Working Group Guidelines and Procedures", BCP 25, RFC 2418, .
Wasserman, M., "Updates to RFC 2418 Regarding the Management of IETF Mailing Lists", BCP 25, RFC 3934, .
Resnick, P. and A. Farrel, "IETF Anti-Harassment Procedures", BCP 25, RFC 7776, .
Resnick, P. and A. Farrel, "Update to the IETF Anti-Harassment Procedures for the Replacement of the IETF Administrative Oversight Committee (IAOC) with the IETF Administration LLC", BCP 25, RFC 8716, .
Moonesamy, S., Ed., "IETF Guidelines for Conduct", BCP 54, RFC 7154, .
Bradner, S., Ed. and J. Contreras, Ed., "Rights Contributors Provide to the IETF Trust", BCP 78, RFC 5378, .
Bradner, S. and J. Contreras, "Intellectual Property Rights in IETF Technology", BCP 79, RFC 8179, .

8. Informative References

Authors' Addresses

Joel M. Halpern (editor)
P. O. Box 6049
Leesburg, VA 20178
United States of America
Brad Biddle
Biddle Law PC
650 NE Holladay Street, Suite 1600
Portland, OR 97232
United States of America
Jay Daley
IETF Administration LLC
1000 N. West Street, Suite 1200
Wilimington, DE 19801
United States of America