Legal Ontology of Contract Formation: Application to eCommerce

John W. Bagby and Tracy Mullen

Artificial intelligence (AI) has diffused slowly into law, regulation and public policy. The development of complex, reasoning-based applications may be impeded by the structure of legal knowledge that is unlike many other learned professions and scientific domains, law is completely dependant on natural language for the identification of salient factors and determining principles making it difficult to construct necessary or sufficient conditions to produce definite outcomes. Further AI developments in law, regulation and public policy may require much more concentrated effort in representing legal rules, case interpretations and practitioner insights into ontologies. This paper describes our ongoing conversion of previously existing expert systems governing contract formation derived from the Uniform Commercial Code, while integrating electronic contract formation under the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act, into a knowledgebased system using the Web Ontology Language OWL.

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