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Antitrust and the Internet

Could Java Change Everything? The Competitive Propriety of a Proprietary Standard

MARK A. LEMLEY and DAVID MCGOWAN, University of Texas, School of Law and University of Minnesota Law School, February 1998


The Internet software market is characterized by strong network effects and omnipresent intellectual property rights. In this paper, we attempt to explore the relationship between the two, focusing on two examples: the government's antitrust proceeding against Microsoft for browser tying, and Sun's suit against Microsoft for altering Java. We conclude that the social value of the Internet lies in its ability to facilitate interoperation, and this in turn argues in favor of open access to network standards. Such open standards may be achieved in the open market. Where they are not, the law may intervene, but it must be cautious not to overreach and to avoid disturbing the incentives provided by intellectual property protection.

Copyright SRBC 1998 up