Allied Tube & Conduit Corporation v. Indian Head, Inc.

PETITIONER: Allied Tube & Conduit Corporation
RESPONDENT: Indian Head, Inc.
LOCATION: Dickinson School District Superintendent's Office

DOCKET NO.: 87-157
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 486 US 492 (1988)
ARGUED: Feb 24, 1988
DECIDED: Jun 13, 1988

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Allied Tube & Conduit Corporation v. Indian Head, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 24, 1988 in Allied Tube & Conduit Corporation v. Indian Head, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 13, 1988 in Allied Tube & Conduit Corporation v. Indian Head, Inc.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

The other case, Allied Tube & Conduit versus Indian Head, that case involves a private association, the National Fire Protection Association, which publishes product standards and codes related to fire protection.

Its National Electrical Code, which establishes requirements for the design and installation of electrical wiring systems, is routinely adopted into law by a substantial number of state and local governments.

Throughout the relevant period, the Code permitted however, the use of only electrical conduits made of steel.

Respondent is a manufacturer of plastic conduit and then initiated a proposal before the Association to extend Code approval to plastic conduit as well as steel conduit.

The proposal was approved by one of the Association's professional panels, and thus could be adopted into the Code by a simple majority of the members attending the Association's 1980 annual meeting.

Before the meeting was held however, petitioner, which is the Nation's largest producer of steel conduit joined by members of the steel industry, other steel conduit manufacturers, and independent sales agents collectively agreed to exclude respondent's plastic product from the 1981 Code.

It did so by packing the annual meeting with new Association members, made members only for the purpose and for the -- who was to discharge the simple function of voting against respondent's proposal.

After the proposal was defeated at the meeting and an appeal to the Association's Board of Directors was denied, respondent brought this suit in Federal District Court alleging that petitioner and the others had unreasonably restrained trade in the electrical conduit market in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act.

The jury found petitioner liable, but the Court granted a judgment n.o.v. for the petitioner, reasoning that it was entitled to antitrust immunity under the doctrine of Eastern Railroad Presidents Conference versus Noerr Motor Freight, the decision of ours for some years ago.

The Court of Appeals reversed and we affirmed the reversal.

We hold that Noerr antitrust immunity does not apply to the petitioner.

The scope of Noerr protection depends on the source, context, and nature of the anticompetitive restraint an issue.

In this case, the operative restraint is a product's standard set by a private association without official authority that includes members having horizontal and vertical business relations and economic incentives to restrain competition.

Based on a careful examination of the nature and context of this restraint, we conclude that even though the product standard is routinely adopted by legislatures, petitioner's efforts to exclude respondent's product from that standard enjoy no nor immunity from any antitrust liability flowing from the effect the standard has of its own force in the market place.

Justice White has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice O'Connor has joined.