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Sequential Innovation, Network Effects and the Choice of Compatibility


  • Michael Manove
  • Gerard Llobet


It is commonly argued that when innovation is sequential, and the product has network externalities, incumbents build a large network that inefficiently blocks the entry of future incompatible innovators. This paper shows that when intellectual property rights permit some degree of compatibility between the technologies of the incumbent and entrant, increased network size is not necessarily a deterrent to entry. In some cases an incumbent might prefer to construct a small network in order to make its capture by an entrant less appealing. Furthermore, the threat of entry may induce an incumbent to underinvest in the quality of his product. Finally, we show that property rights that fail to protect the incumbent are suboptimal, especially when the cost of future research is high. Moreover, weak property rights decrease current welfare by reducing the incumbent's incentives to create a big network in the first place. In most cases, a subsidy of the cost of R\&D of future innovators turns out to be more efficient than allowing entrants to use highly compatible technologies

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Manove & Gerard Llobet, 2004. "Sequential Innovation, Network Effects and the Choice of Compatibility," 2004 Meeting Papers 721, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed004:721

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    Cited by:

    1. Athanasopoulos, Thanos, 2014. "Compatibility, Intellectual Property,Innovation and Welfare in Durable Goods Markets with Network Effects," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1043, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    Network Effects; Sequential Innovation;

    JEL classification:

    • L41 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Monopolization; Horizontal Anticompetitive Practices
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital

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