Toward a Declarative Language for Negotiating Executable Contracts

Daniel M. Reeves, Benjamin N. Grosof, Michael P. Wellman, and Hoi Y. Chan

We give an approach to automating the negotiation of business contracts. Our goal is to develop a language for both partially-specified contracts that are in the midst of being negotiated, including via automated auctions. Our starting point for this language is Courteous Logic Programs (CLP’s), a form of logic-based knowledge representation (KR) that is semantically declarative, intuitively natural, computationally tractable, and practically executable. A CLP is suitable in particular to represent a fullyspecified executable contract. The basic CLP KR also facilitates modification during negotiation, because it includes prioritized confllct handling features that facilitate modification. Beyond the basic CLP KR, we have developed an initial ontology, and an associated style of representation, to specify additional aspects of a partial contract and of a negotiation process. The initial ontology specifies the set of negotiables and the structure of a contract in terms of its component goods/services and attributes. Specifying the negotiable aspects of a good or service includes specifying its attributes, their possible values, and dependencies/constraints on those attributes. Building upon the representation of these negotiable aspects, we are in current work developing methods to structure negotiations, especially to select and configure auction mechanisms to carry out the negotiation. This work brings together two strands of our previous work on business process automation in electronic commerce: representing business rules shared between enterprises, and conflgurable auction mechanisms.


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