ASPs, intellectual property group to set service dispute guidelines –

The ASP Industry Consortium (ASPIC) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) will work together to establish guidelines designed to help application service providers (ASP) and their clients avoid and mediate disputes, the two organizations announced yesterday.

The organizations are planning to set up an ASP dispute settlement service that would be completely voluntary and not legally binding, representatives of Wakefield, Mass.-based ASPIC and Geneva-based WIPO, a United Nations agency, said today at a press conference held at the InternetASP Forum in London.

"We will be providing a service for the private sector using models developed by business for business in order to avoid the traditional court systems," said Francis Gurry, WIPO's assistant director general and director of the Arbitration and Mediation Center.

The new service is "about dispute avoidance first, which is proactive. We are really, genuinely trying to look out for the end user, the customer, because that is the only way the customer is going to pick up the ASP market," said Traver Gruen-Kennedy, chairman of ASPIC, a nonprofit international advocacy group.

ASPIC, which was launched in May 1999 and has 500 members from technology companies worldwide, is managed by Virtual Inc., a marketing and management firm also based in Wakefield.

Gruen-Kennedy and Gurry didn't say when the ASP dispute resolution consortium would begin taking on cases. "The design principles are abstract at this stage. We still need to give some flesh to the bones of this consortium, " Gurry said.

ASPIC approached the UN agency as a co-regulator based on the success that the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center has had in the area of Internet domain name dispute resolution, Gurry said. The dispute settlement mechanism, though tailored specifically for the ASP industry, would be based on the uniform dispute resolution used for Internet domain name disputes, Gurry said.

In January, WIPO settled its first domain name dispute, involving a California resident and U.S.-based World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc. (WWF)

"The domain name dispute scheme is an example of an international scheme that can work quickly and cheaply, just as what would be needed in the ASP arena," Gurry said. The dispute settlement mechanism takes just 45 days after people log their complaint onto the Web site.

One of the current problems with service-level agreements between small and medium-size enterprises and the ASPs from which they rent Web-based software and services is that they are largely "toothless," Gruen-Kennedy pointed out. For example, in most cases small and medium-size enterprises simply can't afford to go after ASPs run by large telecommunications companies if there is a dispute, he said.

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