Thursday, February 22, 2018

Switching Costs, Path Dependence, and Patent Holdup

While this blog focuses on case law, I also do more theoretical work, including a new paper, “Switching Costs, Path Dependence, and Patent Holdup,” co-authored with Tom Cotter and Erik Hovenkamp, which we have just posted on SSRN. Here’s the abstract:

Patent holdup occurs when a patent holder extracts higher royalties ex post (after the payor has committed to use of the patented technology) than it could have negotiated ex ante, where the difference is not explained by an increase in the technology’s value. To date, the literature principally has focused on—indeed, sometimes conflated—two potential sources of holdup: the sunk costs the user has incurred ex ante to adopt the technology, and the “switching costs” of adopting an alternative ex post. We demonstrate, however, that this literature tends either to over- or underestimate holdup risk, because holdup may arise even when sunk costs are zero, or be absent despite high ex post switching costs. More generally, we show that patent holdup is best understood as an opportunistic exploitation of path dependence, arising when prior commitment to a technology creates some dynamic distortion in the technology’s incremental value over alternatives.

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