Interoperability in the Digital Economy

Forthcoming in: Journal of Intellectual Property, Information Technology and Electronic Commerce Law (Jipitec)

MAGKS, Joint Discussion Paper Series in Economics, No. 12-2017

32 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2017 Last revised: 1 Mar 2017

See all articles by Wolfgang Kerber

Wolfgang Kerber

University of Marburg - School of Business & Economics

Heike Schweitzer

Humboldt University of Berlin - Faculty of Law

Date Written: January 31, 2017

Abstract

Interoperability has become a buzzword in European policy debates on the future of the digital economy. In its Digital Agenda, the EU Commission has identified a lack of interoperability as one of the significant obstacles for the thriving of the digital economy. The EU Commission and a number of other actors have advocated far-reaching policies for ensuring the interoperability of digital goods, services, platforms and communication networks. In this paper, we present a systematic framework for discussing interoperability problems from an economic and legal perspective and apply it to several interoperability issues, as, e.g., standardization, interoperability regulation in the field of electronic communication, duties of dominant firms (including platforms) to ensure horizontal and vertical interoperability and IP law exceptions in favour of interoperability. The complex trade-offs between benefits and costs of a higher degree of interoperability suggest the need for a careful and separate analysis of each specific interoperability issue, caution regarding a (top down) imposition of mandatory standards and interoperability obligations, and a greater focus on unilateral solutions of interoperability problems, like adapters or converters. EU competition law may be better advised to develop, within the framework of Art. 102 TFEU, a workable test to address hurdles for unilateral interoperability solutions created by dominant firms, than to continue focusing on the essential facilities doctrine to mandate interoperability.

Keywords: interoperability, standards, digital economy, digital goods, platforms, communication networks

JEL Classification: K20, L86

Suggested Citation

Kerber, Wolfgang and Schweitzer, Heike, Interoperability in the Digital Economy (January 31, 2017). Forthcoming in: Journal of Intellectual Property, Information Technology and Electronic Commerce Law (Jipitec); MAGKS, Joint Discussion Paper Series in Economics, No. 12-2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2922515 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2922515

Wolfgang Kerber (Contact Author)

University of Marburg - School of Business & Economics ( email )

Am Plan 2
Marburg, D-35037
Germany
+49 6421 2823921 (Phone)

Heike Schweitzer

Humboldt University of Berlin - Faculty of Law ( email )

Unter den Linden 6
Berlin, D-10099
Germany

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