Interoperability can be described as the interpretability of data types and related information by different computer systems. Standards for data format and communication protocols have been developed and adopted by different industries. So far, interoperability has only been investigated at the data level. This paper addresses a research approach proposing a system design and a set of generic methods so that to embed engineering knowledge and to achieve interoperability at the feature level in an open collaborative engineering environment. Ideally, the proposed new approach would allow knowledge rules to be embedded into the constraints of features supported by the complex associations of a multi-application engineering repository. Potentially, the system proposed offers user-defined feature types that support flexibility in feature-based information definition, sharing and mapping.