Martin Waldburger

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Student: Martin Waldburger
Title: Automated Contract Formation for Commercial Electronic Services with International Connection

Across Administrative Domains

Affiliation: UniZH
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Burkhard Stiller
Committee: Prof. Dr. Burkhard Stiller, Prof. Dr. Stefan Bechtold
Start: 2004
End: 2010
Funding: University of Zurich, Department of Informatics (IFI)


Martin Waldburger holds a Master of Science (MSc) degree which he received in 2004 from the University of Zurich. In the same year, he joined Prof. Dr. Burkhard Stiller's Communication Systems Group (CSG) at the University of Zurich in the position of an assistant and doctoral student. He participated in the European Union project "Access to Knowledge through the Grid in a Mobile World" (Akogrimo) and the "European Union Network of Excellence for the Management of Internet Technologies and Complex Services" (EMANICS). His research work is concerned with technical, legal, and business aspects of electronic service provisioning in multi-domain environments. In particular, he is focusing on research challenges in automated contract formation for value-added electronic services in an international context.

PhD project description

Electronic business in the Internet has become an important driver for economic growth. The provisioning of commercially offered electronic value-added services in the Internet – e.g., content, news, or social networking services – requires the conclusion of an international contract in case the respective service is provided across borders. In international contracts, two contractual parameters are of key importance: Jurisdiction and applicable law. Jurisdiction indicates which nation's courts are authorized to hear and decide on a potential conflict arising from a concluded contract, while applicable law indicates under which nation's law a court decision shall be found.

With the complete service and contract lifecycle in mind, provisions on jurisdiction and applicable law are preferably agreed upon between a service provider and service customer during contract formation phase (as opposed to contract enforcement phase) already. This scheme is typically adopted today. However, the way choices of jurisdiction and applicable law are made in international service contracts today is often not compliant with the relevant procedures of private international law (PIL). This results in a situation in which jurisdiction and applicable law choices are usually at hand, but these choices may be illegitimate. Illegitimate choices are voided (and replaced by PIL-compliant terms on jurisdiction and applicable law) should a dispute arise and a contract claim be deposited in a court.

Given this risk outlined, service providers and customers alike are in need of a toolset to facilitate choices of jurisdiction and applicable law that they can rely on. To date, however, there is no alternative available to the static PIL-ignorant way adopted currently. This lack is perceived, on the one hand, as a major hurdle to foster the adoption of (international) electronic business, while, on the other hand, its absence may be explained by the considerable complexity in determining first the right PIL – there are multiple PILs on national and supra-national level – and secondly in modelling and implementing the respectively relevant, PIL-specific procedures to determine jurisdiction and applicable law.

This thesis, hence, is a pioneering effort to support service providers and service customers in the highly complex task to determine – during contract formation phase – jurisdiction and applicable law relevant to international service contracts in a legally compliant way. This will help facilitate increased predictability, legal certainty, and accurate risk assessment along the complete service and contract lifecycle for both contract parties.


The initial idea that research in the interdisciplinary area of private law and electronic business in the Internet is needed dates back to 2007 when a fundamental design gap between the territorial approach of the legal domain and the global, non-territorial design of the Internet was identified. This has led to a row of key research problems determined, all of which may be summarized as problems of legal compliance in commercial service provisioning across administrative domains. Among further related specific issues to be addressed, the primary research problem has been identified as "For given parties (in terms of legal entities) and a given electronic service to be provided, a decision has to be taken, if at all and under which governing law a contract can be concluded." This set of research challenges to be addressed has been actively brought into scientific discourse:

  • M. Waldburger, B. Stiller: Legal Compliance in Commercial Service Provisioning Across Administrative Domains; 13th EUNICE Open European Summer School and IFIP TC6.6 Workshop on Dependable and Adaptable Networks and Services (EUNICE 2007), Enschede, The Netherlands, pp. 1-8, July 2007.
  • M. Waldburger: Legal Compliance in Commercial Service Provisioning Across Administrative Domains; Perspectives Workshop: Telecommunication Economics, Dagstuhl, Germany, pp. 1-22, January 2008.

In addition to those fundamental research ideas identified and outlined, this thesis profits from a successful track of publications in the area of European regulation analysis. This experience in law analysis is of particular interest, since this is a pioneering, interdisciplinary effort with its major challenges being driven by the right level of generalization, completeness, abstraction, and value added in assessing and integrating multiple national and international PILs.

  • M. Waldburger, B. Stiller: Regulatory Issues for Mobile Grid Computing in the European Union; 17th European Regional ITS Conference, Amsterdam, Netherlands, pp. 1-9, August 2006.
  • M. Waldburger, B. Stiller: Regulatory Issues for Mobile Grid Computing in Europe; 18th European Regional ITS Conference (ITS 2007), Istanbul, Turkey, pages 1-10, September 2007.

Current research work focuses on the one hand on an intensified scientific discourse in terms of presentations and discussion with experts from both, network and service management as well as legal domains. On the other hand, two comprehensive publications of direct relevance to this thesis have been completed and successfully published.

  • M. Waldburger: Locality and Contracts; EMANICS Workshop on Economic Traffic Management, Zurich, Switzerland, pp. 1-10, August 2008.
  • M. Waldburger: Bandwidth on Demand Contract(s); Dagstuhl Seminar 09072 Bandwidth on Demand, Dagstuhl, Germany, pp. 1-6, February 2009.
  • M. Waldburger: Towards Automated Contract Formation for Electronic Value-added Services – Analysis of the Swiss Federal Law on Private International Law; Doctoral Seminar, Professorship for Intellectual Property, ETH Zurich, Switzerland, pp. 1-16, June 2009.
  • M. Waldburger, B. Stiller: Automated Contract Formation for Electronic Value-added Services in the Internet—The Case of Bandwidth-on-Demand Contracts in Europe; 37th Research Conference on Communication, Information and Internet Policy (TPRC 2009), Arlington (VA), USA, pp. 1-30, September 2009.
  • M. Waldburger, M. Charalambides, T. Schaaf, B. Stiller: Automated Determination of Jurisdiction and Applicable Law for International Service Contracts: Modeling Method, Information Model, and Implementation; 18th Biennial and Silver Anniversary International Telecommunications Society Conference (ITS 2010), Tokyo, Japan, pp. 1-31, June 2010.

Additional information

Find further information about contact options, research interests, projects, and teaching activities on the personal page of Martin Waldburger.

External links