US 20070088663 A1
The invention provides a system and method that facilitates a structured contract negotiation between two parties, such as parties to a real estate transaction. A series of predefined milestone negotiation steps are executed on a computer that couples two parties through a network, such as the Internet. The negotiators answer predefined questions regarding a proposed transaction in such a manner that certain aspects of the transaction can be agreed upon early during the negotiation process while others are deferred to later phases. In each phase, each party selects from a predefined list of actions associated with a particular aspect of the negotiation (e.g., sale price). Third-party service providers such as brokers and architects can be automatically pulled into the negotiations using computer-issued requests for services.
1. A computer-assisted method of negotiating a contract over a computer network, comprising the steps of:
(1) in a computer, receiving from a first contract negotiator information designating, for each of a plurality of contract phases, information identifying a person or entity having authority to negotiate a corresponding contract phase, and a role played by that person or entity;
(2) permitting each person or entity having authority for negotiating each respective contract phase to log into the computer and to negotiate with a second negotiator using the computer, wherein the computer displays on a first computer screen a plurality of predefined contract provisions, each relating to a contract provision contained within one of the corresponding contract phases and including an agree/defer selector for a first negotiator and an agree/defer selector for a second negotiator; and
(3) denying persons or entities not authorized in step (1) from negotiating with the second negotiator.
This application is a divisional application Ser. No. of 10/042,245, filed Jan. 11, 2002, which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. application Ser. No. 09/610,005, filed on Jul. 5, 2000.
1. Technical Field
This invention relates generally to electronic commerce and the Internet. More particularly, the invention provides a method and apparatus for allowing two parties to negotiate and execute a contract, such as a real estate lease or a sale, over a computer network such as the Internet.
2. Related Information
Corporations frequently need to lease real estate in the form of offices, laboratories, warehouses, and other spaces. Alternatively, companies sometimes have surplus office space that could be sublet to tenants for profit or cost recovery.
Typically, companies will hire real estate brokers to search for and conduct preliminary negotiations regarding potential leasing arrangements. After preliminary details have been worked out, lawyers acting on behalf of the prospective landlords and tenants negotiate a detailed lease agreement. This process may involve numerous meetings, telephone calls, faxes, exchanges of draft documents, and the like. It also may involve various middlemen in addition to lawyers and real estate brokers. For example, if architectural or mechanical improvements are needed, one or both of the parties may hire outside contractors (e.g., architects or engineers) to assist in evaluation of lease properties and/or to propose modifications to the property.
Because of human nature and the typically unstructured methods by which leases are negotiated, parties sometimes backtrack on previously agreed-upon provisions or demand changes to lease provisions that were previously believed to be the subject of agreement. Parties may spend a large amount of time negotiating details of lease provisions that later become moot (e.g., the leasehold improvements to the premises) because of disagreements over other provisions (e.g., term of the lease). Consequently, acquiring or leasing real estate in the corporate market incurs large costs and time because of intermediaries and human interaction required to negotiate lease provisions.
Various web-based listing services have sprung up in recent years to service the real estate needs of companies looking for space, including sales, leases, and auctions. Companies such as Loopnet (www.loopnet.com), PropertyFirst (www.propertyfirst.com), and EGPropertyLink (www.egpropertylink.co.uk) provide brokerage and listing services in an attempt to facilitate real estate transactions over the Internet. These services primarily focus on listing properties, and do little to facilitate the negotiation or consummation of real estate deals. In particular, these services do not provide process management tools to guide landlords and tenants through a structured deal. Furthermore, they do not provide a mechanism for monitoring the progress of a transaction after signature of the lease (e.g., completion of works by landlord and tenant), nor do they provide any mechanism to integrate into the process an evaluation of qualitative aspects of the transaction such as cross-border difficulties and delays, and the effectiveness of local service providers such as brokers and architects.
The negotiation of real estate leases between parties located in different countries involves additional inefficiencies and drawbacks. For example, because of different time zones, the times available for parties to meet or hold telephone conferences may be limited. Differences in currencies (e.g., dollars versus Euros) and metrics (e.g., square feet versus square meters) add complexity to the negotiation process, thus driving up costs. Language barriers may also add additional costs.
It may be difficult for a U.S.-based prospective tenant to hire outside contractors, such as architects, in another country. Furthermore, the procedures and customs used by foreign real estate brokers and intermediaries to negotiate a corporate lease may be different depending on the country, language, and regulations. Legal documents drafted in one country may look substantially different from those typically drafted under U.S. laws and customs. These and other differences have made it very costly to negotiate leases for commercial office space across international borders.
More generally, negotiating contracts of various types, such as a corporate procurement contract or a contract related to supply-chain management applications, can incur many of the disadvantages and inefficiencies discussed above. Consequently, there exists a need to streamline the process by which prospective parties to a contract can negotiate and consummate a contract.
The present invention overcomes the aforementioned problems by providing a structured method and apparatus for allowing prospective parties to a contract to negotiate and consummate the contract.
In one embodiment, the method facilitates a structured lease negotiation between two parties to a real estate transaction. A series of predefined milestone negotiation steps are executed on a computer that couples two parties through a network, such as the Internet. Parties to the transaction answer predefined questions regarding a proposed transaction in such a manner that certain aspects of the transaction can be agreed upon early during the negotiation process while others are deferred to later phases. Additional steps of completing the lease transaction can also be included in the inventive method.
In one variation of the invention, the parties answer questions and exchange information without the simultaneous participation of each participant, such that a structured negotiation takes place over a period of time, possibly in different time zones. In each phase, parties must select from a predefined list of actions (e.g., agree or defer) associated with a particular aspect of the negotiation (e.g., rent to be charged, term of the lease, etc.). Provisions to which both parties agree are “locked in” while those that are deferred are worked out in a subsequent phase. Certain lease provisions may have subsidiary actions (e.g., lower-level agreements and deferrals) that can then be “rolled up” to the phase-level negotiation. Tools are provided to facilitate transnational aspects of the negotiation (e.g., conversion between currencies, metrics, or languages). A computer generates intermediate documents that assist in the negotiation (e.g., draft proposal letters) and identifies areas that require further negotiation.
If parties indicate that outside help is needed to define part of the contract (e.g., architect review of an office layout), a computer suggests vendors located in the geographic area of the lease property and transmits via e-mail a draft scope of services request to one or more vendors. Each party identifies corporate approvals required to complete the negotiation, and a computer-generated lease document can be printed for signatures. Feedback from the parties in the form of problems encountered and solutions achieved during the negotiation process are collected and stored in a database for review and use by other future negotiation parties.
Although the method and apparatus as described above are applicable to negotiating real estate transactions such as the sale of real estate properties, certain additional features are included in a continuation-in-part embodiment to facilitate certain sale-specific characteristics. For example, details of the actions taken in each phase can be adjusted to accommodate sale-specific terms and conditions.
More generally, the inventive principles can be used to provide a computer-implemented method of reaching agreement between two parties concerning a contract of any type, such as a corporate procurement contract or a contract related to supply-chain management applications.
Additional improvements include: (1) rules-based agreement on negotiator-supplied terms (response and dialogue box); (2) delegation to transaction team members or service providers; (3) summary reports with link to messaging system; (4) a dual messaging system; (5) customized negotiation process; and (6) sale-specific features.
Other features and advantages of the invention will become apparent with reference to the following detailed description and the figures.
According to the system of
According to one aspect of the invention, each lease is negotiated using a computer-implemented process that guides the parties through various negotiation phases. Although the invention will be described with reference to a nine-phase negotiation and execution process, the invention is not limited in this respect, and it will be appreciated that a different number of negotiation phases can be used without departing from the scope of the invention. Any or all of the steps described herein can be implemented in software and stored on computer-readable media for execution in a computer.
In one embodiment, a structured transaction engine 103 controls the negotiation process by displaying web pages containing predefined choices for various aspects of the transaction within each negotiation phase, and by comparing choices made by each party on each web page to rules stored in a rules database 105. Rules database 105 and engine 103 can comprise an expert system or other type of knowledge base that stores information concerning allowable inputs from each user for each phase. Alternatively, the logic used to control the operation of the negotiation (and to flag errors or conflicting information entered by users) can be incorporated into software using a procedural or object-oriented language.
Structured transaction engine 103 stores information entered by each party into a lease transaction database 104, which maintains information concerning each evolving lease negotiation. Multiple leases may simultaneously be under negotiation at any one time among different sets of negotiators, such that lease transaction database 104 contains information for different leases in various stages of negotiation. Vendor database 106 contains information concerning various third-party vendors (e.g., architects, engineers, lawyers, interior designers, and the like) and their associated contact information (e.g., city, country, e-mail address, telephone and fax number). Document database 107 contains certain standard document templates that can be used to construct a completed lease and other intermediate documents based on information provided by the parties during the negotiation process.
One or more converters 109 provide conversion functions (e.g., Euros to dollars, square feet to square meters, and vice versa) to facilitate the negotiation of particular aspects of each lease. An e-mail service 110 can also be included to allow parties to a negotiation to transmit and receive messages, including attachments such as draft documents, during the negotiation process. Schedule calculator 111 calculates a proposed schedule corresponding to milestones during the negotiation and execution phase, based on average actual lengths of time stored in a database. In one variation, the lengths of time stored in the database are based on or derived from previously negotiated contracts (i.e., real-world practice is used to project future schedules). For example, if over the course of five different negotiated leases the average amount of time needed to go from generating a draft lease to moving into the leased property is two months, the scheduler would use that value to schedule such a milestone two months before the lease move-in date.
In accordance with one aspect of the invention, the parties answer questions presented on web pages according to a computer-implemented transaction sequence, such that the parties can quickly identify areas of agreement and resolve areas of disagreement in an efficient manner. The lease negotiation can be conducted across great distances (e.g., across the Atlantic Ocean) and in different time zones through the use of a computer network such as the Internet. Because both parties are forced to conform to a highly structured, well-defined transaction sequence for negotiation, errors and misunderstandings can be greatly reduced. Moreover, computer software can be used to quickly identify areas of agreement and offer alternatives for resolving areas of disagreement.
Each lease provision can be negotiated by taking one of several predefined actions. In one embodiment, at each top-level negotiation phase, a party must either AGREE or DEFER on each lease provision (e.g., by selecting a choice or clicking on an icon representing a choice). Each of these choices in turn can result in or derive from lower-level actions by involving lower-level decisions. In other words, before a party is prepared to AGREE or DEFER on a lease provision, lower-level decisions involving steps of mediation, issuance of third-party requests for assistance, or other types of actions may need to be taken. These lower-level decisions can be reached using additional computer screens that are linked to one or more of the higher-level screens.
More generally, the negotiation, execution and evaluation of a lease can be accomplished according to one aspect of the inventive principles using a reduced instruction protocol that facilitates and accelerates milestone decisions associated with the transaction. Such a protocol provides numerous benefits because, among other things:
One embodiment of the protocol includes the following three elements, although other embodiments incorporate fewer than all three elements:
1. Decision Protocol
The parties must either agree or defer to all milestone decisions. This acknowledges that milestones are critical to completing the project, and that it is important to avoid the dead-end implied by using the word “no” (which is considered impolite or is non-existent in some cultures). The computer provides a facility for either agreeing or deferring on each milestone decision. In addition, displayed with each milestone decision is a dialogue box to enter a comment, or an icon to indicate that a comment has been entered and will be visible on another screen. Predefined actions in this category include:
Agree: a party acknowledges that a milestone decision has been reached (e.g., agreement on a specific monthly rent).
Defer: a party agrees to defer a milestone decision to a later date (e.g., defer a decision on the condition of the premises).
2. Resolution Protocol
Assuming that all milestone decisions must be agreed to complete the process, an additional mechanism can be used to convert deferrals into agreements. Therefore, the protocol provides three resolution mechanisms, including: (a) a user forum; (b) use of a Local Service Provider (LSP); or (c) mediation. The computer facilitates selection of LSP's or mediators (via menus of service providers, issuing scopes of services, etc.), and schedules meetings among the participants in these decisions. Three corresponding predefined actions in the resolution protocol category include:
Forum: the transaction parties (i.e., the landlord and tenant) meet in a structured environment (e.g., scheduled by computer) to agree on a milestone decision.
LSP: the parties agree to select a third party local service provider or providers (e.g., an architect) to facilitate reaching a milestone decision.
Mediate: the parties agree to select a neutral expert to facilitate reaching a milestone decision.
3. Action Protocol
The computer prescribes a sequence of milestone decisions to complete the process. For some milestones, additional work must be done to reach an agreement or deferral. The protocol streamlines this work into a prescribed set of actions that are required of the participants (i.e., the landlord, tenant, and LSPs), and which can be undertaken with computer assistance. The computer acts as an engine to provide adequate information and resources on the desktop of the landlord and tenant. Examples include distributing documents such as draft leases; issuing standardized documents such as Requests For Proposals (RFPs), specification of leasehold improvements, etc; notifying parties if any schedule dates have been missed or any input errors have occurred; and scheduling meetings among the participants.
In addition, the computer can prompt the participants about certain elements in the process. Examples include prompting the parties to identify resource persons; prompting the parties to negotiate certain aspects of tenant's physical environment; and prompting the parties to obtain signatures to certain documents.
It is anticipated that the computer can provide additional assistance in the more restricted roles by suggesting various courses of action. For example, if the parties had not resolved the delivery of the tenant's space on a “turnkey” basis, the computer could suggest that the parties agree to split the cost of the improvements above the landlord's “building standard” on a 50/50 basis. More generally, the computer can draw upon a library of potential solutions based on past practice to suggest resolution to certain milestone decisions or sub decisions. This facility could be visually displayed alongside any required future action. Examples of predefined actions in this action category include:
Identify: the computer prompts the parties to locate an appropriate internal resource person or entity. For example, prompt to identify authorized signatory for lease.
Issue: the computer issues a standardized document to the parties or to LSPs. For example, the computer can issue a request for proposals to one or more architects.
Notify: the computer sends a notice to the parties and/or LSPs if actions are erroneous or milestones are not completed by the scheduled dates. For example, the computer can notify the parties that a scheduled date for signature of lease has been missed.
Obtain: the computer prompts the parties to generate information from internal resources. For example, the computer can prompt the parties to obtain approvals for lease.
Provide: the computer prompts the parties as to generally submit information in support of a milestone decision. For example, the computer can prompt a party to submit a preliminary cost estimate for leasehold improvements.
Require: the computer can ask the parties whether they require standardized documents to assist in reaching milestone decisions. For example, the computer can ask the parties whether they require a broker RFP.
Receive: the computer receives and subsequently transmits in a summary form documents from third parties. For example, the computer can receive and transmit a response to a broker RFP.
Resolve: the computer prompts the parties or an LSP to reach agreement on detailed matters related to third party documents. For example, the computer can prompt parties to resolve outstanding provisions of lease agreement.
Schedule: the computer arranges meetings in a format chosen by parties and/or LSPs. For example, the computer can schedule a user forum to agree on outstanding lease issues.
Send: the computer transmits documents to parties. For example, the computer can transmit a draft lease to one of the parties or LSPs.
Select: the computer prompts the parties to make choices among alternatives provided on a screen or box. For example, a computer can prompt a party to select a mode for a user forum.
It will be appreciated that the above examples of predefined actions are exemplary only; different labels or actions can be specified, and each action can be selected using a pictographic icon or other means to facilitate communication across languages (e.g., a handshake icon to signify agreement on a lease provision).
In addition to selecting a pre-defined response such as one selected from the above choices, each party may also in certain circumstances enter ancillary information that is associated with and stored with the response. For example, if one party suggests a delivery date of October 1 for a leased property (and indicates AGREE for that date), the other party may instead suggest a delivery date of November 1 for the property. If both parties have selected AGREE but have entered different values, the computer would flag the discrepancy and possibly suggest a solution (e.g., split the difference). Alternatively, a single text entry box could be provided, and each party could override the other's entry, with the computer flagging any overridden value (and, in one embodiment, changing the first party's AGREE choice back to a default value or some other choice).
If both parties select the same response (e.g., one of the responses selected from the above list), then the agreed status of the particular lease term is deemed to be “locked in” and not subject to further negotiation. This is intended to facilitate the negotiation status by preventing parties from “back-tracking” to items that were previously the subject of agreement. However, the invention is not limited in this respect, and certain variations of the invention include allowing users to change previously matched responses.
Beginning in step 120 of
If a new lease is selected, then in step 124 a new negotiation file is established, and each user can select options such as the currency to use for displaying negotiation information and metrics (e.g., square feet or square meters). In one variation, a prospective tenant and landlord can choose to view the information in different formats, such that the tenant views the rent in dollars and the landlord views the rent in Euros, for example. Currency and metrics converters (function 109 in
If negotiations regarding a previously started lease are to be resumed, then in step 125 computer 100 retrieves previously stored negotiation information from database 104. In step 126, each user (i.e., each tenant and landlord) selects a negotiation phase and enters choices for decisions to be reached during each phase. According to the invention, each party can log on independently and at different times to negotiate the lease, so that it is not necessary to have simultaneous participation by the parties. Of course, it is possible that the parties might log in at overlapping times, and in such a case the system can prevent both users from modifying the same data at the same time (e.g., using file or database locks, for example).
Step 126 can involve subsidiary steps of negotiating particular aspects of a lease provision before agreement or deferral on the provision is reached. For example, before a party is prepared to agree to a lease provision defining the condition of the premises, several sub-decisions may be involved, such as determining what types of electrical systems will be provided, what type of security system is included, etc. These provisions can be negotiated using lower-level computer screens that invite the user to make selections based on pre-defined choices. In one embodiment, the computer indicates to the user that sub-decisions are involved, and prompts the parties to ensure that such sub-decisions are addressed. Alternatively, if the tenant has for example agreed to take the premises in “as-is” condition, these lower-level decisions will be unnecessary, and the computer can avoid prompting the tenant for these choices.
If in step 127 a user specifies that he or she is done entering information, then processing advances to step 129. At various points during the process, each user may optionally choose to generate one or more intermediate documents (e.g., a draft lease proposal or the like) depending on the negotiation phase in which the user is participating (see step 128). Further details of this optional step are provided below.
In step 129 the computer checks to determine whether all of the choices selected by the user in the negotiation phase are either AGREE or DEFER. If so, then in step 130 another check is made to determine whether the other party has also selected choices for the particular negotiation phase. If not, then in step 133 an e-mail message or other notification is transmitted to the other party inviting that party to review the responses provided by the first user. If further explanation is required, the computer can provide a summary of the phase with some frequently asked questions. Additionally, the computer can provide a comment or dialogue box for each phase to facilitate direct communication between the parties. Processing then either terminates or returns to a previous step (e.g., step 125 of
If in step 130 the other party to the negotiation has also selected choices for the particular negotiation phase, then in step 131 a check is made to determine whether all of the choices specified by the other party are either AGREE or DEFER. If not, then in step 134 an error message is generated and solutions are suggested. For example, if one party has selected AGREE for a particular lease provision but the other party has selected DEFER, the computer can suggest that the agreeing party DEFER the decision until the next negotiation phase. As another example, if one party has agreed to $5,000 per month rent but the other party has agreed to $6,000 per month rent, the computer can flag the discrepancy and suggest a compromise rent of $5,500 per month.
Alternatively, a single text box can be provided for entering a value such as rent, thus allowing each party to override the other's value. In one variation, the computer would then change the choice of the party whose value was overridden from AGREE to undecided or some other choice and generate a message indicating that the first party had changed the value. In yet another embodiment, if the two parties had agreed on different amounts, the computer would change both AGREE choices to DEFER, such that the decision would be deferred to a later negotiation phase.
If in step 131 both parties have selected either AGREE or DEFER for all lease terms pertaining to the particular negotiation phase, then in step 132 the agreed terms are deemed “locked in” by the computer and not subject to further change; all those for which the parties have indicated DEFER are deferred by the computer until a later negotiation phase. Thereafter, in step 135 the user is permitted to advance to the next negotiation phase (e.g., one of the nine negotiation phases shown in
Assuming in step 129 that the user did not choose either AGREE or DEFER for each item in the negotiation phase, then an error message is generated, and processing returns to step 126. It will be appreciated that options other than AGREE or DEFER can be provided without departing from the scope of the invention. Moreover, graphical icons (e.g., a handshake symbol instead of an AGREE choice) can be used. Choices can also be shown in different languages to the different parties, such that one party to the transaction sees choices in English while the other party to the negotiation sees the same choices in Spanish, for example.
As shown in
A second phase 202 includes steps of resolving outstanding business issues, wherein users are presented with a checklist of outstanding issues deferred from the first phase and prompted to develop solutions to these issues. A third phase 203 includes steps of obtaining agreement on lease deliverables (e.g., condition of the premises, furnishings, telecommunication systems, etc.). A fourth phase 204 relates to defining the tenant environment (e.g., preliminary floor plans, furniture, etc.). In this phase, the tenant defines his or her requirements to occupy the premises, including improvements and investments not provided by the landlord (which are typically included in the third phase). In the fourth phase, the landlord may or may not be involved in decisions regarding specification of furniture, network, and telecommunication systems, for example.
A fifth phase 205 relates to agreement on legal documents, including a step of generating a draft contract. A sixth phase 206 relates to obtaining approvals and execution of the lease documents, including steps of submitting forms for corporate approvals, paying deposits, etc. A seventh phase 207 relates to completing landlord works (e.g., landlord delivers landlord-supplied network system and leasehold improvements). An eighth phase 208 (completion of tenant works) includes steps such as delivering tenant-supplied furniture and telecommunications systems. This may include the use of contractors such as architects and engineers, and may or may not involve the landlord.
In the seventh and eighth phases, it is generally contemplated that the computer will perform a monitoring function of the scheduled dates for delivery of works as anticipated in the schedule, with a communication function in the event that scheduled dates are missed and a function to issue a standardized form for acceptance of works performed by the landlord and/or LSPs. Turning briefly to
A final ninth phase (issue best practice report) includes steps of evaluating local service providers and preparing a best practice report, which is preferably stored in a database for future reference.
The following description, in conjunction with
Turning first to
Although the user can jump directly to any negotiation phase, it is contemplated that each user will progress sequentially through the phases, and that users will be prevented from jumping ahead to later phases until agreement has been reached on lease provisions in each phase. Assuming that the user has not previously negotiated any of the lease provisions, the user would click on the first phase (Confirm Lease Proposal and Agree Schedule), which would cause the computer to display a screen such as the one shown in
In general, for each negotiation phase the parties are presented with a set of provisions related to the lease or leased premises, and a set of choices (e.g., AGREE or DEFER) for taking action on each provision. For certain lease provisions, the parties must not only indicate agreement, but must agree on a specific value or values (e.g., the amount of rent to be charged). In some cases, agreement cannot be reached without negotiating lower-level details. In those cases, the computer-implemented method permits the parties to jump to the lower-level decision-making process before committing to an AGREE or DEFER at the higher level of the negotiation phase. Where a lease provision is deferred, the provision can be negotiated during a later phase by selecting choices other than AGREE or DEFER (e.g., resolution protocol actions such as user forum, LSP, or mediation).
As shown in steps 301 through 309 of
As shown in
In general, each tenant and landlord must select either AGREE or DEFER for each lease provision. Before selecting a choice for a particular lease provision, the party can “drill down” to a lower-level decision-making process by clicking on an associated DETAILS hyperlink 1311, which would bring up a page such as that shown in
Some of these sub-provisions require nothing more than an AGREE or DEFER decision (e.g., 1401 and 1402), while others (e.g., 1403 and 1404) require that a value be provided by one or the other party (e.g., elements 1406 and 1407). Each party can select choices as shown in
During the negotiation phases, either party can choose to view a draft lease proposal by clicking on VIEW LEASE PROPOSAL button 1305. In response, the computer generates a draft lease proposal incorporating the lease provisions that had so far been agreed to by the parties. One example of this is shown in
As shown by the steps in
Assuming that both parties have selected either AGREE or DEFER for each lease provision and click DONE, the computer will advance to the next negotiation phase, which will now be explained with reference to
Alternatively, the parties may choose to resolve the issue using a local service provider 1503. Two examples of local service providers relevant to the issue of rent might be a real estate broker in the area of the leased property or an appraiser. As indicated in
As yet a third option, the parties may agree to resolve the issue through the use of a mediator 1507. In that case, the computer can again suggest one or more mediators familiar with the type of lease transaction and convenient to one or both of the parties. Additional computer screens (not shown) can be presented to the user to obtain information necessary to consummate the third party relationship. The computer would issue a request for proposals for the required assistance.
The negotiation options presented by the computer can be tailored to the specific lease provision that is the subject of dispute. For example, if the parties are stuck on the subject of the condition of the leased property (e.g., the type of network communication system that will be provided), the computer would suggest a service provider familiar with telecommunication systems, such as an engineering consultant or a company that specializes in providing networks. As another example, if the parties have not reached agreement on a floor plan, the parties could enlist the services of an architect or interior designer, again with computer-generated requests for proposals with the required scope of services (see, e.g.,
If the parties agree that a local service provider is to be hired, the computer system can recommend one or more providers based on the geographic area of the lease (see
Resolving issues using an LSP can be done through on-line web-based conference calls, e-mail, telephone calls, and/or in-person meetings. Resolving issues without the use of an LSP can be done using the same techniques.
After the issues are resolved by the parties, the parties enter the resolved information into the computer (using, for example, the computer form of the type shown in
Once the parties have successfully completed the first and second phases of the negotiation, the computer system will allow them to proceed to the third negotiation phase. It should be understood that additional computer screens corresponding to the steps in
The third negotiation phase (agreement on lease deliverables) will be described with reference to
In one variation of the invention, a schedule calculator (
The fourth phase (define tenant environment) will be explained with reference to
The fifth phase (agreement on legal documents) will be described with reference to
The sixth phase (obtain approvals and execute documents) will be explained with reference to
The seventh phase (complete lease deliverables) will be explained with reference to
In step 906, the tenant formally accepts all of the above deliverables (to the extent that these were not accepted in the preceding steps); this may include steps of inspecting the premises, rectifying defects or variances, and providing a summary of delivered items.
The eighth phase (complete tenant works) will be explained with reference to
The ninth phase (issue best practice report) will be explained with reference to
Although the above-described structured negotiation process and system has wide applicability to various types of contracts and real estate transactions including leases, sales, and others, the following sets forth in further detail various improvements to the principles outlined above. These improvements concern the following features:
The system described above allows each party to the negotiation to enter ancillary information (e.g., a proposed delivery date or monthly rent) that is then evaluated by the computer to identify a discrepancy (e.g., if each party has proposed a different value) and to propose a solution (e.g., the computer can propose splitting the difference between two numerical values). Additionally, the system described above allows each party to “write over” the other party's proposed ancillary information, wherein the computer flags any overridden values and alerts the other party of the changed value. The system described above also allows each party to enter a value and the computer will recognize agreement if the values entered by both parties are the same.
In some situations, values entered by negotiators may not be simple numeric quantities (e.g., a monthly rent or a sale price). Some contract terms may involve a paragraph or two of legal text explaining the parties' understanding of a particular contract term (e.g., what it means to have “fully functioning plumbing”), or may involve other more complicated terms. Some of these provisions may need to be negotiated over a period of time, such that it is not practical for a party to merely enter a number or type in a sentence. In such situations, a more elaborate dialogue box approach may be warranted.
According to one inventive improvement, each party to the negotiation is provided with a separate dialogue box into which certain proposed contract terms can be provided. As shown in
In general, each party should respond to each decision by (a) making an entry in the response box but not in the dialogue box; or (b) making an entry in the response box and an entry in the dialogue box; or (c) making an entry in the dialogue box but not in the response box, and then (subject to the restrictions below) selecting either Agree or Defer.
In one variation of the invention, the system will accept an Agree response from both parties, and lock in a decision, only if the parties respond as per alternative (a) or (b) above, and provided that entries in the response box for both parties, and entries in the dialogue box for both parties, are identical. If one party wishes to accept the comment in the other party's dialogue box, they may simply enter the word “accept” in their dialogue box, and the system will assume that the comments are identical. The computer will not accept an “Agree” response under alternative (c).
The system will accept a Defer response from both parties under alternative (a), (b) or (c) above. It is not necessary for the entries in either the response box or the dialogue box to be identical. If one party enters “Agree” and the other party enters “Defer”, the system will assume that no decision has been made, and that this phase in the process is therefore not complete. The system will prompt the parties to reach an Agree or Defer decision. If one party makes an entry in an Agree/Defer box and the other party does not, the system will prompt the other party to make an entry.
As shown in
Also as shown in
Both parties have indicated in dialogue boxes 1354 and 1355 that an occupancy date of Dec. 1, 2001 is to be used, and have indicated agreement on this provision. The computer-implemented rules would detect that both parties had entered the same date in these dialogue boxes, and would lock in this lease provision accordingly.
In another variation, the parties could agree at the start of the process to exclude any dialogue box comments as part of the decision making process. In yet another variation, the parties could be prompted by the computer as to whether they would accept the Agree choice without taking into account the dialogue box comments. Many other variations are of course possible.
In a further variation, the system could note on a higher level screen all decisions reached by the parties on a web-based computer screen such as that shown on
2. Delegation to Transaction Team or Service Provider
According to another aspect of the invention, negotiators to a transaction can designate members of their transaction teams or service providers, such that different aspects of a negotiation can be handled by different authorized entities. According to this aspect of the invention, the parties can identify a person responsible for each decision and, optionally, the role played by that person (e.g., architect, broker, attorney, real estate agent). These persons may be employed by the parties (e.g., a user group representative or project manager for a tenant), or they may be an external service provider (e.g., a broker for the landlord). By nominating and registering these persons, they can (subject to permissions granted by the parties) participate directly in the decision-making process; can print out reports; and can send and receive messages among other members of the negotiating team.
In the context of a real estate lease negotiation, the prospective landlord and tenant, who are identified at the beginning of the transaction, have the capability to designate and modify members of the transaction team. Members can be designated based on different phases of the negotiation (e.g., one person handles Phase I negotiations, whereas a different person handles Phase II negotiations), or they can be designated based on particular functions (e.g., an architect could be designated to handle office space planning, whereas a broker could be designated to handle space and price requirements or they can be designated to handle specific decisions within a particular phase).
The tenant has similarly designated Steve Smart of Brokers Plus to negotiate outstanding business issues, as indicated at 2004 and 2005 in
Based on the designations made by each party (e.g., tenant and landlord), different team members would be permitted to log into the system and negotiate only those contract provisions for which they had been given authorization. Access could be restricted to other parts of the system (e.g., reviewing bids from competing service providers or other proprietary information) where the service provider does not need detailed information to complete its assigned tasks.
In a further variation, a party may delegate partial decision making authority to a service provider by permitting this person to utilize certain preformatted and/or dialogue boxes (such as shown in
In another variation of the above-described principles, decision-making can be allocated between a transaction party and the party's service provider by decision-making level. This permits a party to delegate the authority for negotiating detailed terms and conditions on lower-level screens through use of the preformatted choices and dialogue boxes, but to reserve the final agree/defer decision to the party itself on a higher level screen such as the screen displayed in
In another variation, a general override provision can be included to allow a party to change any decision that his or her service provider has made (thus in some cases “unlocking” decisions).
3. Summary Reports With Link to Messaging System
A third improvement to the system outlined above is the ability to provide a summary report with a linkage to a messaging system (e.g., an e-mail service) for each transaction party. As shown in
As shown in
In one variation, messages can be sent to team members based on role, rather than contact name. Thus, for example, once a tenant has designated an architect to act on his or her behalf to handle one or more aspects of the lease negotiation, the report refers to the contact person by function rather than by user name, and others in the system can send a message to the person having that role merely by indicating that person's role. Turning to
4. Dual Messaging System
Yet another improvement relates to a feature wherein a user can elect to send a message that is not posted in a message log visible to all members of the transaction team.
Sometimes, however, it may be desirable to send a message to one person in the group of people negotiating the contract without allowing others to view the message. According to one aspect of the invention, the sender of a message can indicate, such as by specifying a private designator 2206 (see
The messaging and reporting systems are designed to generally facilitate communication and relay information during a transaction. However, most of this contact will be within each transaction team rather than between the two teams. It is contemplated that most of the contact between the two transaction parties would take place through the detailed screens, allowing of course for other means of communication. Accordingly, in one variation there can be two separate reports with respective contact persons for each party. For the dual messaging system, the system would function the same way: both parties would have his or her own message log, which would not preclude messages passing and being logged between parties. All messages within each team would be displayed, unless a team member opted to send a private message. Messages between teams would follow the same rules.
5. Customized Negotiation Process
The structured lease negotiation process as described herein is generally contemplated to cover transactions applicable to a wide variety of tenants, landlords, and others. It may be desirable, however, to permit parties to customize the negotiation process for a particular situation. For example, the process can be simplified by removing decisions that are not required by the parties to complete a transaction. Two different methods can be employed to accomplish this result.
In a first variation, a “customize lease” function is provided, allowing the party originating the transaction at the beginning of the process to click through a number of pre-formatted boxes to decide whether all of the standard decisions under Phase I (Agree Lease Proposal and Confirm Schedule) are applicable or non-applicable. For example, if there would be no “landlord's works” in the leased premises, this display screen and connected lower-level display screens related to specifying the landlord's works would be removed. Further, any related screens that would normally appear in subsequent phases of the process (e.g., completion of landlord's works) would also be removed. The other party not responsible for this customization process would be able to challenge any decisions deemed non-applicable, and the parties could agree to reinstate these decisions. In one variation, the “customize lease” function could be applied directly to all aspects of the process and not just to Phase I (this would primarily influence tenant-only decisions in Phase IV and VIII where the tenant is specifying and then completing its own works in conjunction with its own local service provider or project manager).
In a second variation, under the “Checklist” functions displayed in Phase III and IV, the parties may at specified intervals (e.g., defining landlord's works and tenant environment) agree to eliminate decisions that are not part of a negotiation, or are the tenant's responsibility under the lease, or which the tenant does not wish to address through this system. For example, if the tenant is providing the network system, this decision can be removed from landlord's works. The checklists also permit the parties to reconsider other aspects of the transaction as the negotiations continue and the roles and responsibilities become clear, and permit the tenant to re-evaluate its needs for improvements in the premises in those phases that do not involve the landlord. This would include, for example, restoring decisions that had been eliminated as part of the initial customization process.
These customization methods assure the parties that they will not expend unnecessary effort on screens and decisions that are irrelevant, and that corporate real estate representatives are not drawn into decision making for which they are not responsible and/or which the company would administer outside of the system. This also eliminates “downstream” decisions that would otherwise be redundant and permits the parties to adjust the decision making process as agreements are reached and new information becomes available.
It should also be apparent that customization can be based on broader user-specific needs, including for example different phases; different screen formats; milestone decisions; documentation and report interfaces; and messaging interfaces.
6. Sale-Specific Features
Although the principles of the invention have been described primarily using the example of a real estate lease transaction, the invention can also be tailored to address a real estate sale transaction. This variation employs the above-described phased negotiation system including agreement/deferral decision-making processes, but with additional features that facilitate a sale transaction. The term “buyer” and “seller” in this variation should be understood to include agents acting on behalf of a buyer and seller respectively. Similarly, references in the figures and above description to “tenant,” “landlord,” and “lease” should be understood to refer to “buyer,” “seller,” and “sale” in the context of this variation of the invention.
(1) confirm business terms and schedule
(2) resolve outstanding business issues
(3) agree on seller's deliverables and buyer's conditions
(4) finalize purchase and sale document
(5) obtain approvals and sign contract
(6) complete buyer's due diligence
(7) complete seller's works and deliverables
(8) complete transaction and closing
(9) issue best practice report
As shown in
Additionally, by clicking on a details link 2713, the user is transferred to web page (e.g.,
Decision 2703 may include terms relating to direct sale of assets; direct transfer of a leasehold interest; sale of a company; sale of a partnership or similar entity; and allocation of ownership interests.
Decision 2704 may include terms relating to payment in cash; payment in shares; and payment in installments.
Decision 2705 may include terms relating to condition of assets; legal documentation; mortgage financing; obtaining permits/approvals; and requiring local service provider (LSP) intervention.
Decision 2706 may include terms relating to contingent deposits; timing of payment; and specifying currency.
Decision 2707 may include terms relating to fixed or variable closing dates, among others.
Decision 2708 may include terms relating to binding or non-binding schedules; requiring LSP intervention; and a draft schedule.
Decision 2709 may include terms relating to binding or non-binding letters of intent; requiring LSP intervention; and agreement on a draft letter of intent.
Also as shown in
Thus has been described a system and method for negotiating a contract, such as a real estate transaction, using a computer network. The invention has broad applicability and scope beyond real estate transactions, and can be applied more generally in any contract negotiation setting, such as a corporate procurement contract or a contract related to supply-chain management applications. The inventive principles can be practiced using an intranet, extranet, wireless network, 3G systems using GSM and other technologies.
Reference numerals in the appended method claims identifying steps are for convenience only and are not intended to imply a necessary ordering of the steps. It is, therefore, to be understood that within the scope of the appended claims the invention may be practiced otherwise than as specifically described. No claim should be interpreted to be in means-plus-function format.