FTC’s Lipsky criticizes Obama-era antitrust officials for ‘careless talk’

31 March 2017. By Leah Nylen.

The acting director of the US Federal Trade Commission's competition unit criticized his predecessor at the agency during the Obama administration for "careless talk" about antitrust's objectives and, in particular, the intersection between antitrust and intellectual property.

"I thought there was a great deal of careless talk about antitrust objectives and antitrust construction," said Tad Lipsky, the acting director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition.

He cited in particular a 2009 statement by the former assistant attorney general for antitrust Christine Varney about the need for a "rebalancing" of law and economics in antitrust.

"I don't think that during the Obama years we saw any fundamental attack, at least no successful fundamental attack, on this consensus about using sound economic analysis to pursue consumer welfare and protection of the competition process as the main antitrust goal," he said. "But this fuzziness around the edges has had consequences."

Lipsky also took issue with statements and policy positions by officials at the FTC and DOJ during the Obama years about the intersection of antitrust and intellectual property. Some of those statements didn't give enough thought to how important intellectual property rights are to innovation and technological progress, he said.

"When we monkey with one of the key tools for technological progress, we're doing something dangerous," he said. "There were some things done that, I think, were not a good idea."

	Eliot Gao