A legal doctrine in antitrust law that provides that companies or individuals cannot be held liable for anticompetitive conduct that was required of them by law or regulation, even in a jurisdiction that did not impose the requirement. The doctrine finds its origin in two U.S. antitrust cases:
Eastern R. Conf. v. Noerr Motors, 365 U.S. 127 (1961); and United Mine Workers v. Pennington, 381 U.S. 657 (1965).
Thus companies sometimes lobby governments in connection with certain issues, for example standards, with a view to getting the government or an agency to enact decisions or regulations that are competitively beneficial to the lobbyist and indeed may violate competition law; both the lobbying activity (absent corruption) and complying with the resulting decision or regulation is not a something the company(ies) can be held liable for.
Although many countries outside the U.S. recognize the Noerr-Pennington doctrine as a defense, it has context specific exceptions—for example, EU prohibitions on state aids.