Internet-Draft IETF Antitrust Guidelines July 2023
Halpern, et al. Expires 11 January 2024 [Page]
Network Working Group
Intended Status:
J. M. Halpern, Ed.
B. Biddle
Biddle Law PC
J. Daley
IETF Administration LLC

Antitrust Guidelines for IETF Participants


This document provides education and 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 11 January 2024.

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 is intended to educate IETF participants about how to reduce antitrust risks in connection with IETF activities. Nothing in this document is intended to change existing IETF policies or to prohibit lawful behavior that falls within those policies by IETF participants.

2. Background

2.1. A Note About Terminology

"Antitrust law" and "competition law" are used synonymously in this document. “Antitrust” is the word that is 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 [DOJ] 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.” Similarly, the European Commission [EC] states that the purpose of its competition law rules is "to make EU markets work better, by ensuring that all companies compete equally and fairly on their merits" which "benefits consumers, businesses and the European economy as a whole." 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. Additional Recommendations

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

This section provides more information about:

4.1. Topics to Avoid

While IETF participants are expected to participate as individuals, their actions could still be construed as representing their employer, whatever their role. Therefore, participants should be aware that some topics are generally inappropriate for discussion in a standards setting environment where representatives from competitors to their employer are likely to be present. These topics include: discussion about product pricing or profit margins among potential competitors, the details of business relationships between specific vendors and customers, details about the supply chains of specific companies, discussions about market opportunities for specific companies, or employee compensation or benefits among potentially competitive employers. While not all discussions of these topics would necessarily be antitrust violations, and recognizing that analysis of antitrust considerations will be different for differently-positioned participants, prudence suggests that avoiding these specific topics in the context of the collaborative IETF process 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 are responsible for ensuring that their conduct does not violate any antitrust laws or regulations.

4.2. Topics Requiring Caution

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

IETF participants who require informal advice on these issues have a number of options open to them, including speaking to relevant Area Directors, raising the matter with the community on a mailing list, or contacting IETF counsel directly.

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.

Participants can report potential antitrust issues in the context of IETF activities by contacting IETF legal counsel ( or via the IETF LLC whistleblower service. Note that reports will only be assessed for their impact upon the IETF; participants directly impacted by an antitrust issue are responsible for obtaining their own legal advice.

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 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

"The Tao of the IETF", <>.
"The mission of the Antitrust Division", <>.
"Competition", <>.

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