O’Melveny Worldwide

Blockchain and Antitrust: Emerging Issues for Businesses

February 7, 2019

Blockchain is creating new opportunities for companies in fields such as shipping, retail, supply chain, insurance, healthcare, finance, advertising, travel distribution, and telecommunications. It also raises new legal considerations. O’Melveny counsel Sergei Zaslavsky recently published an article explaining why antitrust should be top-of-mind for these blockchain adopters.

Blockchain implementation is frequently a collaborative effort. Blockchain is a shared ledger that allows for a consensus-based creation of an immutable record of transactions. It differs from a traditional database in that it is distributed among all participants rather than centrally maintained, allowing participants to share data without relying on a trusted third party to compile and secure the ledger. 

In many industries, firms are forming consortia to study blockchain, agree on common standards, and drive industry adoption. Any time a company cooperates with its competitors, antitrust counseling is highly recommended. Blockchain adds another layer of antitrust issues: questions of what data to share with others and which companies to invite or turn away from the shared ledger require counsel to adapt age-old competition law on information exchange and exclusion to a new and unfamiliar setting. Minimizing risk without getting in the way of legitimate business goals requires expertise in both traditional antitrust doctrine and the novel technological setting where that doctrine must now be applied. O’Melveny is a pioneer on this new front, serving as counsel to Bitcoin.com and others in the first federal antitrust case involving blockchain and cryptocurrency.

This memorandum is a summary for general information and discussion only and may be considered an advertisement for certain purposes. It is not a full analysis of the matters presented, may not be relied upon as legal advice, and does not purport to represent the views of our clients or the Firm. Sergei Zaslavsky, an O’Melveny counsel licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia and Maryland, Ian Simmons, an O’Melveny partner licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania, and Eric Sibbitt, an O’Melveny partner licensed to practice law in California and New York, contributed to the content of this newsletter. The views expressed in this newsletter are the views of the authors except as otherwise noted.

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