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One-Way Essential Complements


  • Keith M. Chen
  • Barry Nalebuff


While competition between firms producing substitutes is well understood, less is known about rivalry between complementors. We study the interaction between firms in markets with one-way essential complements. One good is essential to the use of the other but not vice versa, as arises with an operating system and applications. Our interest is in the division of surplus between the two goods and the related incentive for firms to create complements to an essential good. Formally, we study a two-good model where consumers value A alone, but can only enjoy B if they also purchase A. When one firm sells A and another sells B, the firm that sells B earns a majority of the value it creates. However, if the A firm were to buy the B firm, it would optimally charge zero for B, provided marginal costs are zero and the average value of B is small relative to A. Hence, absent strong antitrust or intellectual property protections, the A firm can leverage its monopoly into B costlessly by producing a competing version of B and giving it away. For example, Microsoft provided Internet Explorer as a free substitute for Netscape; in our model, this maximizes Microsoft's joint monopoly profits. Furthermore, Microsoft has no incentive to raise prices, even if all browser competition exits. This may seem surprising since it runs counter to the traditional gains from price discrimination and versioning. We also show that a essential monopolist has no incentive to degrade rival complementary products, which suggests that a monopoly internet service provider will offer net neutrality. There are other means for the essential A monopolist to capture surplus from B. We consider the incentive to add a surcharge (or subsidy) to the price of B, or to act as a Stackelberg leader. We find a small gain from pricing first, but much greater profits from adding a surcharge to the price of B. The potential for A to capture B's surplus highlights the challenges facing a firm whose product depends on an
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  • Keith M. Chen & Barry Nalebuff, 2006. "One-Way Essential Complements," Levine's Bibliography 321307000000000669, UCLA Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:cla:levrem:321307000000000669

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Raymond J. Deneckere & R. Preston McAfee, 1996. "Damaged Goods," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 5(2), pages 149-174, June.
    2. Farrell, Joseph & Katz, Michael L, 2000. "Innovation, Rent Extraction, and Integration in Systems Markets," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48(4), pages 413-432, December.
    3. Whinston, Michael D, 1990. "Tying, Foreclosure, and Exclusion," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(4), pages 837-859, September.
    4. Hugo Sonnenschein, 1968. "The Dual of Duopoly Is Complementary Monopoly: or, Two of Cournot's Theories Are One," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 316-316.
    5. Barry Nalebuff, 2000. "Competing Against Bundles," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm157, Yale School of Management.
    6. Myles,Gareth D., 1995. "Public Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521497695, May.
    7. William James Adams & Janet L. Yellen, 1976. "Commodity Bundling and the Burden of Monopoly," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 90(3), pages 475-498.
    8. R. Preston McAfee & John McMillan & Michael D. Whinston, 1989. "Multiproduct Monopoly, Commodity Bundling, and Correlation of Values," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 104(2), pages 371-383.
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    Cited by:

    1. Laura Nurski, 2012. "Net Neutrality, Foreclosure and the Fast Lane: An empirical study of the UK," Working Papers 12-13, NET Institute.
    2. Economides, Nicholas & Tåg, Joacim, 2011. "Network Neutrality and Network Management Regulation: Quality of Service, Price Discrimination, and Exclusive Contracts," Working Paper Series 890, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    3. Ramon Casadesus-Masanell & Gastón Llanes, 2011. "Mixed Source," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 57(7), pages 1212-1230, July.
    4. Katz, Raúl L. & Galperin, Hernán, 2013. "The demand gap: drivers and public policies," Libros de la CEPAL, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), number 37060, March.
    5. Economides, Nicholas & Tåg, Joacim, 2012. "Network neutrality on the Internet: A two-sided market analysis," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 91-104.
    6. Vladimir I. Soloviev & Natalia A. Iliina & Marina V. Samoyavcheva, 2009. "Cournot Equilibrium In A Model Of Hardware And Software Manufacturers’ Interaction," Annales Universitatis Apulensis Series Oeconomica, Faculty of Sciences, "1 Decembrie 1918" University, Alba Iulia, vol. 1(11), pages 1-4.
    7. Ganuza, Juan José & Viecens, María Fernanda, 2013. "The challenge of over-the-top content and services," Libros de la CEPAL, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), number 37069, March.
    8. Juliane Fudickar, 2015. "Net Neutrality, Vertical Integration, and Competition Between Content Providers," Working Papers 2015014, Berlin Doctoral Program in Economics and Management Science (BDPEMS).
    9. Barrantes, Roxana & Jordán, Valeria & Rojas, Fernando, 2013. "The shifting digital paradigm in Latin America," Libros de la CEPAL, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), number 37059, March.
    10. Colciago, Andrea & Etro, Federico, 2013. "Cloud computing, structural change and job creation in SMEs," Libros de la CEPAL, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), number 37064, March.
    11. Lleras, Juan S. & Miller, Nathan H., 2011. "The entry incentives of complementary producers: A simple model with implications for antitrust policy," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 110(2), pages 147-150, February.
    12. León, Omar de, 2013. "Regional and international connectivity," Libros de la CEPAL, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), number 37061, March.
    13. repec:eee:indorg:v:52:y:2017:i:c:p:358-392 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. -, 2013. "Broadband in Latin America: Beyond Connectivity," Libros de la CEPAL, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), number 120 edited by Eclac, March.
    15. Broos, Sébastien & Gautier, Axel, 2014. "Competing one-way essential complements: the forgotten side of net neutrality," CORE Discussion Papers 2014064, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    16. Matteo Alvisi & Emanuela Carbonara & Francesco Parisi, 2011. "Separating complements: the effects of competition and quality leadership," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 103(2), pages 107-131, June.
    17. Quint, Daniel, 2014. "Imperfect competition with complements and substitutes," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 152(C), pages 266-290.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C7 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory
    • D42 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Monopoly
    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection
    • K21 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Antitrust Law
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms
    • L12 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Monopoly; Monopolization Strategies
    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
    • L41 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Monopolization; Horizontal Anticompetitive Practices
    • M21 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Economics - - - Business Economics

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