Internet-Draft IETF Antitrust Guidelines November 2021
Halpern, et al. Expires 6 May 2022 [Page]
Network Working Group
Intended Status:
Best Current Practice
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 6 May 2022.

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 (antitrust law and competition law are used here synonymously). Certain actions taken by a company that holds a dominant market position can similarly spark concerns about competition law violations. This document provides guidance for IETF participants about how to reduce antitrust risks in connection with IETF activities.

2. Terminology

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "NOT RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all capitals, as shown here.

The IETF does not provide legal advice to participants, and instead encourages participants to obtain independent legal advice as needed. This document does not contain legal advice.

All IETF participants must behave lawfully when engaged in IETF activities, including by following applicable antitrust laws.

4. Existing BCPs

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

5. Additional Guidelines

As the IETF is a standards development environment where representatives from competitors are highly likely to be present, the following additional guidelines are recommended to avoid the possibility of participants violating antitrust laws.

5.1. Adoption and implementation of standards

Participation in the IETF should not be conditioned upon the agreement of the participant to use any output of the IETF.

There should be no agreement among participants to implement or to adhere to IETF standards, or any discussions as to when participants will begin to offer products conforming to IETF standards.

IETF participants should not condition or discuss conditioning the implementation of an IETF standard on the implementer's use of products or services from a particular supplier.

IETF participants should not use IETF standards to exclude suppliers or competitors from the marketplace.

It is acceptable for IETF participants to discuss the likelihood that adoption of a particular standard would subject implementers to a greater or lesser risk of patent litigation, but such discussions should be conducted with caution and only after consultation with the participants' respective legal counsel.

5.2. Exchange of competitive information

IETF participants should avoid the exchange of any proprietary business information that is not necessary to the activities of the IETF. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, IETF participants should not discuss:

  1. any restriction on any company's independence in setting prices or establishing production and sales levels
  2. prices, discounts, or other terms or conditions of sale, at which products or services implementing an IETF standard should be sold
  3. bidding, terms of bidding, or refraining from bidding to sell any product or service
  4. individual companies' market shares or sales territories, except where already public
  5. the allocation or restriction of customers, markets, or territories in which a company may sell or resell products
  6. profits or profit margins
  7. the actual cost of the inputs necessary to create a compliant implementation. However, to the extent that such a discussion would be directly relevant and beneficial to the technical purpose of the session, a sensible comparison of relative cost differentials is acceptable
  8. the status or substance of ongoing or threatened litigation, except as it is directly relevant to IETF
  9. agreements to refuse (or conditionally refuse) to do business with a particular supplier

5.3. Market Requirements

No IETF participants should engage in, direct, or encourage other IETF participants to engage in, the use of IETF facilities for surveys of customers or gathering of statistical data about market requirements. However IETF participants may make presentations about broad market potential or market requirements for informational purposes.

5.4. Dominant market position

IETF participants who are employed by or otherwise represent a company that may be considered to be in a dominant market position should not improperly use the authority of an IETF leadership position to suppress permissible discussions or proposals from a competitor.

6. Escalation of antitrust-related concerns

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

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. Normative References

Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, , <>.
Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174, , <>.
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, .

10. 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
New Zealand