Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



This Note explores several problems with recent RPM decisions: (1) the effect of the per se rule on producers' rights to control their marketing strategies; (2) inconsistent use of the plural action requirement as a foil for avoiding or invoking the per se rule; (3) the suppression of benign or pro-competitive activities because of the rule; (4) the difficulties with free rider marketing; and (5) the obstacles to advice and planning that recent decisions have created. This Note contends that a new standard, a rebuttable presumption against legality, would alleviate most, if not all, problems that the inflexible per se rule causes. A rebuttable presumption, followed by rule of reason analysis in cases in which the defendant satisfies the threshold inquiry, would restore certainty and intellectual honesty to RPM cases. The rebuttable presumption would eliminate the need to reconcile contrary cases and the need to consider issues that par-ties now must address under the rule of reason. While the rebuttable presumption does not require that courts maintain or reject the Colgate doctrine, this Note argues that the Court could retain Colgate but primarily rely upon the guidelines and safeguards of the rebuttable presumption. This new line of inquiry would retain the benefits of the per se rule-efficiency and certainty-and would remain flexible enough to accommodate special cases in which RPM may be beneficial to the market. In many cases, the rebuttable presumption also would save society, courts, and litigants the protracted costs of rule of reason analysis.

Part II of this Note considers major RPM cases since the early 1900s, with special focus on Russell Stover and Filco v. Amana Refrigeration, Inc., cases which protect the defendant under the Colgate doctrine. Part III analyzes the weaknesses of the per se rule and the benefits that could inure to manufacturers and the marketplace under the rebuttable presumption. Part IV examines the strengths and weaknesses of the rule of reason and offers an improved rule of reason approach as the second part of the rebut-table presumption standard. Finally, Part V outlines a suggested analysis for RPM disputes using a rebuttable presumption of illegality. Part V also considers the effects of the presumption on federal antitrust laws.

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Marketing Law Commons