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The focus of the Sherman Act is to prohibit only “unreasonable” restraints of interstate trade and commerce. Okay, that sounds simple enough, but what does that mean? How would the average business or commercial lawyer respond to the question, “What is an unreasonable restraint of trade?” In response, lawyers bandy about standards get bantered such as, the “rule of reason” and the “per se rule.” The application of those standards is further convoluted by terms like, “horizontal restraints” and “vertical restraints.” What do these standards and terms really mean and, more importantly, how do they all fit together so that the antitrust laws seem more approachable? This article will help explain these standards and terms used in antitrust law by tracing their historical development.

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