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ASP Industry and WIPO parade dispute resolution policy

Needed, but WIPO's Internet track record is poor

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The ASP Industry Consortium and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) have announced the set of recommendations and guidelines for the ASP market they have been jointly working on for nearly a year.

The guidelines are greatly needed as the application service provider (ASP) market takes off. Basically, if you don't know, ASPs will deliver software applications to you over the Internet and store the resulting files off-site, accessible through the Internet.

The great advantage to this is that company can pay someone to sort out and worry about all their IT needs. It will also (if running as expected) make a company more efficient and save it loads of money.

The obvious problem though is that a business is almost entirely reliant on another company to function and to maintain its confidential information. Without some form of ASP best practice guide, the possible complications and legal implications are huge and threaten to undermine a market in which the big players have staked their future.

The event was a bit of a love-in, with lots of grand statements and the ASP Consortium actually giving WIPO some ridiculous, made-up award, the ASP Industry Consortium Global Achievement Award. This was because the consortium was "honoring the organisation's foresight and work in preparing the nascent ASP industry's path toward broader customer adoption".

The main objective to guidelines, both parties said, is to "help address ASP contract disputes before they become prevalent". They are needed all the more because of the "unique nature" of the ASP market. It covers dispute resolution methods and best practices in problem identification, customer help desk and service level agreements. It also gives advice on management of and insurance protection for ASP business relationships.

The situation is obviously very complicated and since we aren't lawyers, we couldn't tell you at the moment how weighted the guidelines are towards ASPs rather than their customers.

However, judging from WIPO's previous track record, it is more than likely that the ASPs get very favourable terms and conditions. Only usage will show if the guidelines are practical, but if the plan was to launch a pre-emptive strike before the issues got into the hands of lawyers, they have succeeded. The worst case scenario is where we end up with an ASP equivalent of the sloppy and flawed approach taken to domain name disputes.

The guidelines etc are in a pdf format and can be found here. ®

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