Government at the Standards Bazaar, The

Interoperability, Competition Policy and Antitrust and Standards

Article Snapshot


Stacy Baird


Stanford Law & Policy Review, Vol. 18, No. 35, 2007


This paper offers an overview of government involvement in standards.

Policy Relevance

The private sector should take the lead in setting standards. Government should rarely be involved.

Main Points

  • Some propose that governments be more involved in standard-setting, especially in the area of interoperability, which helps consumers’ products work together. Interoperability can be slow to emerge in the market.

  • Problem areas include copyright protection, open source, emergency, law enforcement and national security information-sharing, health records, and wiretapping.

  • Private firms have very well-developed processes for dealing with standards. Some standards are open to any firm; others are “proprietary,” controlled by one firm.

  • Governments should hesitate to set standards even when markets do not adopt one.
    • Private standards groups should include representatives to consider the public interest, reducing the need for government involvement.

  • Government mandates are justified in a gray area when there is a “significant and substantial” market failure, but authorities should move carefully.
    • Starting with incentives.
    • Use government buying power as a market participant.
    • Consider how to lower the risk of government failure.

Get The Article

Find the full article online

Search for Full Article