The ASP Industry Consortium (ASPIC), a nonprofit international advocacy group, and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) will work together to establish guidelines designed to help application service provider (ASP) companies and their clients avoid and mediate disputes, the two organisations announced recently.
The companies are planning to set up an ASP dispute settlement service that would be completely voluntary and not legally binding, representatives of ASPIC and WIPO announced.
"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 assistant director general and director of the Arbitration and Mediation Centre.
"It's about dispute avoidance first, which is pro-active. 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.
The US-based ASPIC, which was launched last May and has 500 members from technology companies worldwide, is managed by marketing and management company Virtual.
Gruen-Kennedy and Gurry did not say when the ASP dispute resolution consortium would begin taking on cases. "The design principals 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 Centre 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.
"The domain name dispute scheme is an example of an international scheme that can work quickly (45 days after people log their complaint onto the Web site) and cheaply, just as what would be needed in the ASP arena," Gurry explained.
One of the current problems with service level agreements between small-and-medium size enterprises (SMEs) and the ASPs from which they rent Web-based software and services is that they are largely "toothless," ASPIC's Gruen-Kennedy pointed out. For example, in most cases SMEs simply cannot afford to go after ASPs run by large telecommunications companies if there is a dispute, he said.