In what’s becoming a growing series of articles, I have to yet again respond to an outrageous bullshit claim made on the internet by ASQ’s Bill Levinson. This time, Levinson is suggesting that Oxebridge is hypocritical in fighting against the unaccredited or self-accredited “certificate mills” because we filed a trademark. Yes, it’s as ludicrous as it sounds.

Levinson, whose sole legal expertise appears to come from attorney G. Oogle, Esq., thinks he struck gold when he discovered we applied for a trademark for “ISO 9000 Verified.” As part of the trademark application process, you have to select a “goods and services” description for the purpose of the mark, which is pulled from a predefined list of possible options developed by the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). One of the descriptors listed in PTO’s “Trademark ID Manual” which must be used reads “accreditation services, namely, evaluating organizations to determine whether the organizations conform to an established standard.”

In Levinson’s mind, seeing the words “Oxebridge” next to “accreditation services” somehow connected to form the notion that we were looking to become an unaccredited certification body, or certificate mill. He even says, without a shred of proof, that “Oxebridge wanted to issue “ISO 9001 Verification.” From his osteinfo defamation site:

Click to embiggen.

Congrats, Bill, now you’ve got yet another false statement to defend in court. Ethics violation yet, ASQ?

The reality is — and I’m not giving away the entire story here, since it’s still in development — is that Oxebridge is working on a “verification scheme” akin to what’s known in the software world as IV&V — independent verification and validation. The “ISO 9001 Verification” scheme would sit on top of ISO 9001 certificates issued by (and only by) accredited registrars. In fact, a company would not even be able to apply for ISO 9001 Verification if it didn’t already have an ISO 9001 certified system, with no open major nonconformities. It would add an additional layer of statistical analysis to prove a company’s QMS met all requirements, not merely based on an auditor’s whimsical visit, but on hard data assessed by a professional quality statistician.

[Ironically, Levinson’s name came up back in July of 2015, when we advertised a job opening for a part-time statistician to help develop the math behind the scheme, and then perform the statistical analysis work. But I didn’t know who he was, and now can say thank goodness it didn’t go further than that.]

The “ISO 9001 Verification” scheme is intended to put trust and validity back into ISO 9001 certification, which has become a joke. In the software world, IV&V is used to independently and objectively assess software and surrounding systems for functionality, based on hard data obtained by testing. We took that approach to develop an analog for the QMS assessment activities. By analyzing a company’s quality objectives and process performance data, actual conformance with ISO 9001 could be determined, far beyond what your typical ISO auditor does during a 9001 audit.

But Oxebridge wouldn’t issue the verification certificates — in fact, there wouldn’t be “certificates” at all, but instead a scoring system borrowed (again) from the IV&V world. These scores would be issued by the independent V&V bodies, not Oxebridge. That could be done by the current ISO 9001 registrars, who already have accreditation, or by entirely new organizations who would have to attain it. So Levinson’s claim is absolutely false, and he simply imagined it, and then hit “submit.”

Best of all, ISO 9001 Verification would be updated quarterly, with the scores constantly re-assessed, and a company could actually lose the Verification by obtaining a failing score. Since the entire thing would be based on math, not opinion, such conditions would be automatic. A “failing” company could work to repair their score or drop the Verification; their choice. But they couldn’t hide it, and they’d never be able to claim Verification if they didn’t actually have it.

There were two wrinkles, however. First, the trademark failed because we couldn’t overcome ISO’s shadow: it had their name in the mark, after all. The bigger problem, however, is that ISO doesn’t have an accreditation standard that would work in this case. Neither ISO 17021 nor ISO 17011 fit for the kind of IV&V we are talking about. Which means we’d have to petition ISO/CASCO to create an entirely new accreditation standard for IV&V of management systems. That’s still in play, but the thought was that it would be “folded into” the current accreditations available to CBs now, somehow.

Incidentally, we kept this quiet because we know it’s a gold mine waiting to be tapped, and that means some CB will just rush out and start issuing “ISO Verified!” logos without doing the actual IV&V work, just to start cashing checks. (I bet a few of them reading this are thinking about it right now.) To them, I say: contact me first. Don’t do this alone, or you’ll embarrass yourself.

Levinson didn’t bother to write me to find out about the trademark application, of course. He just ran to print with his outright lie, based on nothing other than something he found on Google and filled in with his own assumptions. He has done the same thing when claiming we hacked our own website, claiming we infringed on ISO’s copyright, claiming Oxebridge filed bankruptcy, and claiming Oxebridge supports international terrorism. Facts don’t matter to Levinson, only his version of “Fake News!”

You’d think the guy doesn’t realize he is going to have to explain this under oath. And of course coming from a guy who was just ruled as having infringed Oxebridge’s copyright, by the World Intellectual Property Organization, it’s all pretty rich. And he claims to be a risk management expert!

So, no, Oxebridge never started to go down the certificate mill route. Levinson may support guys like Daryl Guberman — who literally offered to certify a company that alleged to make cement life preservers — but we don’t. Oxebridge is still working to make the certificate mills illegal, and to have them thrown in jail.

To see the other articles that were unfortunately necessary because ASQ can’t seem to rein in its leadership, see these:

No, Oxebridge Didn’t Hack Its Own Website

No, Oxebridge Didn’t Illegally Distribute ISO 9001 Standards


    About Christopher Paris

    Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 25 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001:2015. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.