- assignments basic law
Assignments: The Basic Law
The assignment of a right or obligation is a common contractual event under the law and the right to assign (or prohibition against assignments) is found in the majority of agreements, leases and business structural documents created in the United States.
As with many terms commonly used, people are familiar with the term but often are not aware or fully aware of what the terms entail. The concept of assignment of rights and obligations is one of those simple concepts with wide ranging ramifications in the contractual and business context and the law imposes severe restrictions on the validity and effect of assignment in many instances. Clear contractual provisions concerning assignments and rights should be in every document and structure created and this article will outline why such drafting is essential for the creation of appropriate and effective contracts and structures.
The reader should first read the article on Limited Liability Entities in the United States and Contracts since the information in those articles will be assumed in this article.
Basic Definitions and Concepts:
An assignment is the transfer of rights held by one party called the “assignor” to another party called the “assignee.” The legal nature of the assignment and the contractual terms of the agreement between the parties determines some additional rights and liabilities that accompany the assignment. The assignment of rights under a contract usually completely transfers the rights to the assignee to receive the benefits accruing under the contract. Ordinarily, the term assignment is limited to the transfer of rights that are intangible, like contractual rights and rights connected with property. Merchants Service Co. v. Small Claims Court , 35 Cal. 2d 109, 113-114 (Cal. 1950).
An assignment will generally be permitted under the law unless there is an express prohibition against assignment in the underlying contract or lease. Where assignments are permitted, the assignor need not consult the other party to the contract but may merely assign the rights at that time. However, an assignment cannot have any adverse effect on the duties of the other party to the contract, nor can it diminish the chance of the other party receiving complete performance. The assignor normally remains liable unless there is an agreement to the contrary by the other party to the contract.
The effect of a valid assignment is to remove privity between the assignor and the obligor and create privity between the obligor and the assignee. Privity is usually defined as a direct and immediate contractual relationship. See Merchants case above.
Further, for the assignment to be effective in most jurisdictions, it must occur in the present. One does not normally assign a future right; the assignment vests immediate rights and obligations.
No specific language is required to create an assignment so long as the assignor makes clear his/her intent to assign identified contractual rights to the assignee. Since expensive litigation can erupt from ambiguous or vague language, obtaining the correct verbiage is vital. An agreement must manifest the intent to transfer rights and can either be oral or in writing and the rights assigned must be certain.
Note that an assignment of an interest is the transfer of some identifiable property, claim, or right from the assignor to the assignee. The assignment operates to transfer to the assignee all of the rights, title, or interest of the assignor in the thing assigned. A transfer of all rights, title, and interests conveys everything that the assignor owned in the thing assigned and the assignee stands in the shoes of the assignor. Knott v. McDonald’s Corp ., 985 F. Supp. 1222 (N.D. Cal. 1997)
The parties must intend to effectuate an assignment at the time of the transfer, although no particular language or procedure is necessary. As long ago as the case of National Reserve Co. v. Metropolitan Trust Co ., 17 Cal. 2d 827 (Cal. 1941), the court held that in determining what rights or interests pass under an assignment, the intention of the parties as manifested in the instrument is controlling.
The intent of the parties to an assignment is a question of fact to be derived not only from the instrument executed by the parties but also from the surrounding circumstances. When there is no writing to evidence the intention to transfer some identifiable property, claim, or right, it is necessary to scrutinize the surrounding circumstances and parties’ acts to ascertain their intentions. Strosberg v. Brauvin Realty Servs., 295 Ill. App. 3d 17 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1998)
The general rule applicable to assignments of choses in action is that an assignment, unless there is a contract to the contrary, carries with it all securities held by the assignor as collateral to the claim and all rights incidental thereto and vests in the assignee the equitable title to such collateral securities and incidental rights. An unqualified assignment of a contract or chose in action, however, with no indication of the intent of the parties, vests in the assignee the assigned contract or chose and all rights and remedies incidental thereto.
More examples: In Strosberg v. Brauvin Realty Servs ., 295 Ill. App. 3d 17 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1998), the court held that the assignee of a party to a subordination agreement is entitled to the benefits and is subject to the burdens of the agreement. In Florida E. C. R. Co. v. Eno , 99 Fla. 887 (Fla. 1930), the court held that the mere assignment of all sums due in and of itself creates no different or other liability of the owner to the assignee than that which existed from the owner to the assignor.
And note that even though an assignment vests in the assignee all rights, remedies, and contingent benefits which are incidental to the thing assigned, those which are personal to the assignor and for his sole benefit are not assigned. Rasp v. Hidden Valley Lake, Inc ., 519 N.E.2d 153, 158 (Ind. Ct. App. 1988). Thus, if the underlying agreement provides that a service can only be provided to X, X cannot assign that right to Y.
Novation Compared to Assignment:
Although the difference between a novation and an assignment may appear narrow, it is an essential one. “Novation is a act whereby one party transfers all its obligations and benefits under a contract to a third party.” In a novation, a third party successfully substitutes the original party as a party to the contract. “When a contract is novated, the other contracting party must be left in the same position he was in prior to the novation being made.”
A sublease is the transfer when a tenant retains some right of reentry onto the leased premises. However, if the tenant transfers the entire leasehold estate, retaining no right of reentry or other reversionary interest, then the transfer is an assignment. The assignor is normally also removed from liability to the landlord only if the landlord consents or allowed that right in the lease. In a sublease, the original tenant is not released from the obligations of the original lease.
An equitable assignment is one in which one has a future interest and is not valid at law but valid in a court of equity. In National Bank of Republic v. United Sec. Life Ins. & Trust Co. , 17 App. D.C. 112 (D.C. Cir. 1900), the court held that to constitute an equitable assignment of a chose in action, the following has to occur generally: anything said written or done, in pursuance of an agreement and for valuable consideration, or in consideration of an antecedent debt, to place a chose in action or fund out of the control of the owner, and appropriate it to or in favor of another person, amounts to an equitable assignment. Thus, an agreement, between a debtor and a creditor, that the debt shall be paid out of a specific fund going to the debtor may operate as an equitable assignment.
In Egyptian Navigation Co. v. Baker Invs. Corp. , 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30804 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 14, 2008), the court stated that an equitable assignment occurs under English law when an assignor, with an intent to transfer his/her right to a chose in action, informs the assignee about the right so transferred.
An executory agreement or a declaration of trust are also equitable assignments if unenforceable as assignments by a court of law but enforceable by a court of equity exercising sound discretion according to the circumstances of the case. Since California combines courts of equity and courts of law, the same court would hear arguments as to whether an equitable assignment had occurred. Quite often, such relief is granted to avoid fraud or unjust enrichment.
Note that obtaining an assignment through fraudulent means invalidates the assignment. Fraud destroys the validity of everything into which it enters. It vitiates the most solemn contracts, documents, and even judgments. Walker v. Rich , 79 Cal. App. 139 (Cal. App. 1926). If an assignment is made with the fraudulent intent to delay, hinder, and defraud creditors, then it is void as fraudulent in fact. See our article on Transfers to Defraud Creditors .
But note that the motives that prompted an assignor to make the transfer will be considered as immaterial and will constitute no defense to an action by the assignee, if an assignment is considered as valid in all other respects.
Enforceability of Assignments:
Whether a right under a contract is capable of being transferred is determined by the law of the place where the contract was entered into. The validity and effect of an assignment is determined by the law of the place of assignment. The validity of an assignment of a contractual right is governed by the law of the state with the most significant relationship to the assignment and the parties.
In some jurisdictions, the traditional conflict of laws rules governing assignments has been rejected and the law of the place having the most significant contacts with the assignment applies. In Downs v. American Mut. Liability Ins. Co ., 14 N.Y.2d 266 (N.Y. 1964), a wife and her husband separated and the wife obtained a judgment of separation from the husband in New York. The judgment required the husband to pay a certain yearly sum to the wife. The husband assigned 50 percent of his future salary, wages, and earnings to the wife. The agreement authorized the employer to make such payments to the wife.
After the husband moved from New York, the wife learned that he was employed by an employer in Massachusetts. She sent the proper notice and demanded payment under the agreement. The employer refused and the wife brought an action for enforcement. The court observed that Massachusetts did not prohibit assignment of the husband’s wages. Moreover, Massachusetts law was not controlling because New York had the most significant relationship with the assignment. Therefore, the court ruled in favor of the wife.
Therefore, the validity of an assignment is determined by looking to the law of the forum with the most significant relationship to the assignment itself. To determine the applicable law of assignments, the court must look to the law of the state which is most significantly related to the principal issue before it.
Assignment of Contractual Rights:
Generally, the law allows the assignment of a contractual right unless the substitution of rights would materially change the duty of the obligor, materially increase the burden or risk imposed on the obligor by the contract, materially impair the chance of obtaining return performance, or materially reduce the value of the performance to the obligor. Restat 2d of Contracts, § 317(2)(a). This presumes that the underlying agreement is silent on the right to assign.
If the contract specifically precludes assignment, the contractual right is not assignable. Whether a contract is assignable is a matter of contractual intent and one must look to the language used by the parties to discern that intent.
In the absence of an express provision to the contrary, the rights and duties under a bilateral executory contract that does not involve personal skill, trust, or confidence may be assigned without the consent of the other party. But note that an assignment is invalid if it would materially alter the other party’s duties and responsibilities. Once an assignment is effective, the assignee stands in the shoes of the assignor and assumes all of assignor’s rights. Hence, after a valid assignment, the assignor’s right to performance is extinguished, transferred to assignee, and the assignee possesses the same rights, benefits, and remedies assignor once possessed. Robert Lamb Hart Planners & Architects v. Evergreen, Ltd. , 787 F. Supp. 753 (S.D. Ohio 1992).
On the other hand, an assignee’s right against the obligor is subject to “all of the limitations of the assignor’s right, all defenses thereto, and all set-offs and counterclaims which would have been available against the assignor had there been no assignment, provided that these defenses and set-offs are based on facts existing at the time of the assignment.” See Robert Lamb , case, above.
The power of the contract to restrict assignment is broad. Usually, contractual provisions that restrict assignment of the contract without the consent of the obligor are valid and enforceable, even when there is statutory authorization for the assignment. The restriction of the power to assign is often ineffective unless the restriction is expressly and precisely stated. Anti-assignment clauses are effective only if they contain clear, unambiguous language of prohibition. Anti-assignment clauses protect only the obligor and do not affect the transaction between the assignee and assignor.
Usually, a prohibition against the assignment of a contract does not prevent an assignment of the right to receive payments due, unless circumstances indicate the contrary. Moreover, the contracting parties cannot, by a mere non-assignment provision, prevent the effectual alienation of the right to money which becomes due under the contract.
A contract provision prohibiting or restricting an assignment may be waived, or a party may so act as to be estopped from objecting to the assignment, such as by effectively ratifying the assignment. The power to void an assignment made in violation of an anti-assignment clause may be waived either before or after the assignment. See our article on Contracts.
Noncompete Clauses and Assignments:
Of critical import to most buyers of businesses is the ability to ensure that key employees of the business being purchased cannot start a competing company. Some states strictly limit such clauses, some do allow them. California does restrict noncompete clauses, only allowing them under certain circumstances. A common question in those states that do allow them is whether such rights can be assigned to a new party, such as the buyer of the buyer.
A covenant not to compete, also called a non-competitive clause, is a formal agreement prohibiting one party from performing similar work or business within a designated area for a specified amount of time. This type of clause is generally included in contracts between employer and employee and contracts between buyer and seller of a business.
Many workers sign a covenant not to compete as part of the paperwork required for employment. It may be a separate document similar to a non-disclosure agreement, or buried within a number of other clauses in a contract. A covenant not to compete is generally legal and enforceable, although there are some exceptions and restrictions.
Whenever a company recruits skilled employees, it invests a significant amount of time and training. For example, it often takes years before a research chemist or a design engineer develops a workable knowledge of a company’s product line, including trade secrets and highly sensitive information. Once an employee gains this knowledge and experience, however, all sorts of things can happen. The employee could work for the company until retirement, accept a better offer from a competing company or start up his or her own business.
A covenant not to compete may cover a number of potential issues between employers and former employees. Many companies spend years developing a local base of customers or clients. It is important that this customer base not fall into the hands of local competitors. When an employee signs a covenant not to compete, he or she usually agrees not to use insider knowledge of the company’s customer base to disadvantage the company. The covenant not to compete often defines a broad geographical area considered off-limits to former employees, possibly tens or hundreds of miles.
Another area of concern covered by a covenant not to compete is a potential ‘brain drain’. Some high-level former employees may seek to recruit others from the same company to create new competition. Retention of employees, especially those with unique skills or proprietary knowledge, is vital for most companies, so a covenant not to compete may spell out definite restrictions on the hiring or recruiting of employees.
A covenant not to compete may also define a specific amount of time before a former employee can seek employment in a similar field. Many companies offer a substantial severance package to make sure former employees are financially solvent until the terms of the covenant not to compete have been met.
Because the use of a covenant not to compete can be controversial, a handful of states, including California, have largely banned this type of contractual language. The legal enforcement of these agreements falls on individual states, and many have sided with the employee during arbitration or litigation. A covenant not to compete must be reasonable and specific, with defined time periods and coverage areas. If the agreement gives the company too much power over former employees or is ambiguous, state courts may declare it to be overbroad and therefore unenforceable. In such case, the employee would be free to pursue any employment opportunity, including working for a direct competitor or starting up a new company of his or her own.
It has been held that an employee’s covenant not to compete is assignable where one business is transferred to another, that a merger does not constitute an assignment of a covenant not to compete, and that a covenant not to compete is enforceable by a successor to the employer where the assignment does not create an added burden of employment or other disadvantage to the employee. However, in some states such as Hawaii, it has also been held that a covenant not to compete is not assignable and under various statutes for various reasons that such covenants are not enforceable against an employee by a successor to the employer. Hawaii v. Gannett Pac. Corp. , 99 F. Supp. 2d 1241 (D. Haw. 1999)
It is vital to obtain the relevant law of the applicable state before drafting or attempting to enforce assignment rights in this particular area.
In the current business world of fast changing structures, agreements, employees and projects, the ability to assign rights and obligations is essential to allow flexibility and adjustment to new situations. Conversely, the ability to hold a contracting party into the deal may be essential for the future of a party. Thus, the law of assignments and the restriction on same is a critical aspect of every agreement and every structure. This basic provision is often glanced at by the contracting parties, or scribbled into the deal at the last minute but can easily become the most vital part of the transaction.
As an example, one client of ours came into the office outraged that his co venturer on a sizable exporting agreement, who had excellent connections in Brazil, had elected to pursue another venture instead and assigned the agreement to a party unknown to our client and without the business contacts our client considered vital. When we examined the handwritten agreement our client had drafted in a restaurant in Sao Paolo, we discovered there was no restriction on assignment whatsoever…our client had not even considered that right when drafting the agreement after a full day of work.
One choses who one does business with carefully…to ensure that one’s choice remains the party on the other side of the contract, one must master the ability to negotiate proper assignment provisions.
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English law assignments of part of a debt: Practical considerations
United Kingdom | Publication | December 2019
Enforcing partially assigned debts against the debtor
The increase of supply chain finance has driven an increased interest in parties considering the sale and purchase of parts of debts (as opposed to purchasing debts in their entirety).
While under English law part of a debt can be assigned, there is a general requirement that the relevant assignee joins the assignor to any proceedings against the debtor, which potentially impedes the assignee’s ability to enforce against the debtor efficiently.
This note considers whether this requirement may be dispensed with in certain circumstances.
Can you assign part of a debt?
Under English law, the beneficial ownership of part of a debt can be assigned, although the legal ownership cannot. 1 This means that an assignment of part of a debt will take effect as an equitable assignment instead of a legal assignment.
Joining the assignor to proceedings against the debtor
While both equitable and legal assignments are capable of removing the assigned asset from the insolvency estate of the assignor, failure to obtain a legal assignment and relying solely on an equitable assignment may require the assignee to join the relevant assignor as a party to any enforcement action against the debtor.
An assignee of part of a debt will want to be able to sue a debtor in its own name and, if it is required to join the assignor to proceedings against the debtor, this could add additional costs and delays if the assignor was unwilling to cooperate. 2
Kapoor v National Westminster Bank plc
English courts have, in recent years, been pragmatic in allowing an assignee of part of a debt to sue the debtor in its own name without the cooperation of the assignor.
In Charnesh Kapoor v National Westminster Bank plc, Kian Seng Tan 3 the court held that an equitable assignee of part of a debt is entitled in its own right and name to bring proceedings for the assigned debt. The equitable assignee will usually be required to join the assignor to the proceedings in order to ensure that the debtor is not exposed to double recovery, but the requirement is a procedural one that can be dispensed with by the court.
The reason for the requirement that an equitable assignee joins the assignor to proceedings against the debtor is not that the assignee has no right which it can assert independently, but that the debtor ought to be protected from the possibility of any further claim by the assignor who should therefore be bound by the judgment.
Application of Kapoor
It is a common feature of supply chain finance transactions that the assigned debt (or part of the debt) is supported by an independent payment undertaking. Such independent payment undertaking makes it clear that the debtor cannot raise defences and that it is required to pay the relevant debt (or part of a debt) without set-off or counterclaim. In respect of an assignee of part of an independent payment undertaking which is not disputed and has itself been equitably assigned to the assignee, we believe that there are good grounds that an English court would accept that the assignee is allowed to pursue an action directly against the debtor without needing the assignor to be joined, as this is likely to be a matter of procedure only, not substance.
This analysis is limited to English law and does not consider the laws of any other jurisdiction.
Notwithstanding the helpful clarifications summarised in Kapoor, as many receivables financing transactions involve a number of cross-border elements, assignees should continue to consider the effect of the laws (and, potentially court procedures) of any other relevant jurisdictions on the assignment of part of a debt even where the sale of such partial debt is completed under English law.
Legal title cannot be assigned in respect of part of a debt. A partial assignment would not satisfy the requirements for a legal assignment of section 136 of the Law of Property Act 1925.
If an assignor does not consent to being joined as a plaintiff in proceedings against the debtor it would be necessary to join the assignor as a co-defendant. However, where an assignor has gone into administration or liquidation, there may be a statutory prohibition on joining such assignor as a co-defendant (without the leave of the court or in certain circumstances the consent of the administrator).
 EWCA Civ 1083
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What constitutes a valid assignment of a contract?
Published by a lexisnexis dispute resolution expert.
This Practice Note identifies what can be transferred when assigning rights under a contract and how to effect a valid assignment of a contract.
For guidance on common contract assignment scenarios, see Practice Note: Assigning contracts—common scenarios and considerations.
For guidance on the key practical and commercial considerations when assigning contracts, see Practice Note: How to assign rights under a contract.
Note also that when discussing assigning contractual rights, reference may also be made to assigning ‘ chose in action ’ in the sense that the benefit of a contract has been held to be a chose in action.
When is assignment of contracts relevant for consideration?
Contracts, or rather, rights under contracts, are frequently assigned as part of the way companies run their businesses. When advising a party in relation to a proposed or purported assignment (transfer) of a contractual right where there may be a dispute, you will need to consider:
what, when and how rights can be assigned
how an assignment can be challenged
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Practical law uk glossary 2-107-6540 (approx. 3 pages).
- The assignor can inform the assignee that he transfers a right or rights to him.
- The assignor can instruct the other party or parties to the agreement to discharge their obligation to the assignee instead of the assignor.
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UK – Legal Terms Explained: Assignment.
April 18, 2023 by Rohin Pujari
What is assignment?
An assignment is the transfer of an interest from one party (“ assignor ”) to another (“ assignee ”). Assignment allows the assignor to transfer the benefit of a contract to the assignee. For example, the tenant of recently built office premises may transfer the benefit of a collateral warranty originally granted in its favour to a subsequent tenant.
Without express words, assignment usually involves an assignment of accrued and future rights. Clear words are required to assign only future rights under a contract ( Energy Works (Hull) Ltd v MW High Tech Projects UK and others  EWHC 2537 (TCC)).
Assignment in a construction context typically refers to a legal or equitable assignment (although assignment can also occur by other means, e.g. operation of law). A key difference between legal and equitable assignments is that, in the case of a legal assignment, the assignee may enforce any assigned rights in its own name. In contrast, following an equitable assignment, the assignee would need to join the assignor in any action brought to enforce its rights.
To take effect as a legal assignment under English law, an assignment must comply with section 136(1) of the Law of Property Act 1925 (“ LPA 1925 “). This requires the assignment to be: (i) in writing; (ii) absolute; and (iii) expressly notified in writing to the other party to the contract (“ debtor “). In practice, parties tend to effect a legal assignment by way of an assignment agreement or deed of assignment to ensure that these requirements are satisfied.
However, if the parties fail to meet any of the requirements set out in LPA 1925 the assignment will usually have equitable effect. Equitable assignments may arise orally or in writing, and whilst recommended, there is no need to notify the debtor, provided a clear intention to assign can be established. Neither legal nor equitable assignments generally require the debtor’s consent.
Assignment v novation
Although both terms are sometimes used interchangeably, assignment should be distinguished from novation. The most notable difference is that assignment only transfers the benefit of a contract (e.g. a warranty that works have been carried out to the required standard), whereas a novation transfers both the benefit and the burden (e.g. an obligation to pay for a service). As novation also requires the consent of all parties, it will typically be effected by a tripartite agreement between the novating party, the party to whom the contract is to be novated, and the counterparty to the relevant contract.
Some issues concerning assignment
- Restrictions on assignment – Unless there is an express prohibition in the contract, the parties will usually be free to assign the benefit of a contract. However, many standard form building contracts, including the JCT Design and Build Contract, prohibit assignment, or allow it only subject to certain conditions. In this regard, a developer may seek to amend the contract to reduce any restrictions on their ability to assign. In contrast, a contractor may seek to limit any rights to assign, for example by specifying the number of permitted assignments. This is often linked to the contractor’s professional indemnity insurance terms which may provide for restricted cover in respect of successive assignments.
- Ineffective assignment where prohibited – If a party purports to assign a right in contravention of an assignment clause, the assignment will only be effective as between the assignee and the assignor, and will not be enforceable against the debtor.
- Means of assignment – A clause in a contract permitting assignment is not sufficient to effect an assignment. There must be a separate document or oral agreement to show the assignor’s intention to assign ( Allied Carpets Group Plc v Macfarlane (t/a Whicheloe Macfarlane Partnership)  EWHC 1155 (TCC)).
* This is an updated version of an article originally published as part of the ‘Legal Terms Explained’ series of Construction Law .
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Assignments: why you need to serve a notice of assignment
It's the day of completion; security is taken, assignments are completed and funds move. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief. At this point, no-one wants to create unnecessary paperwork - not even the lawyers! Notices of assignment are, in some circumstances, optional. However, in other transactions they could be crucial to a lender's enforcement strategy. In the article below, we have given you the facts you need to consider when deciding whether or not you need to serve notice of assignment.
What issues are there with serving notice of assignment?
Assignments are useful tools for adding flexibility to banking transactions. They enable the transfer of one party's rights under a contract to a new party (for example, the right to receive an income stream or a debt) and allow security to be taken over intangible assets which might be unsuitable targets for a fixed charge. A lender's security net will often include assignments over contracts (such as insurance or material contracts), intellectual property rights, investments or receivables.
An assignment can be a legal assignment or an equitable assignment. If a legal assignment is required, the assignment must comply with a set of formalities set out in s136 of the Law of Property Act 1925, which include the requirement to give notice to the contract counterparty.
The main difference between legal and equitable assignments (other than the formalities required to create them) is that with a legal assignment, the assignee can usually bring an action against the contract counterparty in its own name following assignment. However, with an equitable assignment, the assignee will usually be required to join in proceedings with the assignor (unless the assignee has been granted specific powers to circumvent that). That may be problematic if the assignor is no longer available or interested in participating.
Why should we serve a notice of assignment?
The legal status of the assignment may affect the credit scoring that can be given to a particular class of assets. It may also affect a lender's ability to effect part of its exit strategy if that strategy requires the lender to be able to deal directly with the contract counterparty.
The case of General Nutrition Investment Company (GNIC) v Holland and Barrett International Ltd and another (H&B) provides an example of an equitable assignee being unable to deal directly with a contract counterparty as a result of a failure to provide a notice of assignment.
The case concerned the assignment of a trade mark licence to GNIC . The other party to the licence agreement was H&B. H&B had not received notice of the assignment. GNIC tried to terminate the licence agreement for breach by serving a notice of termination. H&B disputed the termination. By this point in time the original licensor had been dissolved and so was unable to assist.
At a hearing of preliminary issues, the High Court held that the notices of termination served by GNIC , as an equitable assignee, were invalid, because no notice of the assignment had been given to the licensee. Although only a High Court decision, this follows a Court of Appeal decision in the Warner Bros Records Inc v Rollgreen Ltd case, which was decided in the context of the attempt to exercise an option.
In both cases, an equitable assignee attempted to exercise a contractual right that would change the contractual relationship between the parties (i.e. by terminating the contractual relationship or exercising an option to extend the term of a licence). The judge in GNIC felt that "in each case, the counterparty (the recipient of the relevant notice) is entitled to see that the potential change in his contractual position is brought about by a person who is entitled, and whom he can see to be entitled, to bring about that change".
In a security context, this could hamper the ability of a lender to maximise the value of the secured assets but yet is a constraint that, in most transactions, could be easily avoided.
Why not serve notice?
Sometimes it's just not necessary or desirable. For example:
- If security is being taken over a large number of low value receivables or contracts, the time and cost involved in giving notice may be disproportionate to the additional value gained by obtaining a legal rather than an equitable assignment.
- If enforcement action were required, the equitable assignee typically has the option to join in the assignor to any proceedings (if it could not be waived by the court) and provision could be made in the assignment deed for the assignor to assist in such situations. Powers of attorney are also typically granted so that a lender can bring an action in the assignor's name.
- Enforcement is often not considered to be a significant issue given that the vast majority of assignees will never need to bring claims against the contract counterparty.
Care should however, be taken in all circumstances where the underlying contract contains a ban on assignment, as the contract counterparty would not have to recognise an assignment that is made in contravention of that ban. Furthermore, that contravention in itself may trigger termination and/or other rights in the assigned contract, that could affect the value of any underlying security.
What about acknowledgements of notices?
A simple acknowledgement of service of notice is simply evidence of the notice having been received. However, these documents often contain commitments or assurances by the contract counterparty which increase their value to the assignee.
Best practice for serving notice of assignment
Each transaction is different and the weighting given to each element of the security package will depend upon the nature of the debt and the borrower's business. The service of a notice of assignment may be a necessity or an optional extra. In each case, the question of whether to serve notice is best considered with your advisers at the start of a transaction to allow time for the lender's priorities to be highlighted to the borrowers and captured within the documents.
For further advice on serving notice of assignment please contact Kirsty Barnes or Catherine Phillips from our Banking & Finance team.
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Assignments overview and pitfalls to beware!
03 December 2012
Many patents will see a change in ownership at some stage in their lives. Assignments are commonplace and occur for a variety of reasons; for example, in the context of a business sale where a buyer purchases all of the assets (including intellectual property assets) of a business from the vendor. Another is in the context of intra-group reorganisations.
Assignments can also occur as part of settlement of a dispute. This article outlines some of the pitfalls of which you should be aware when assigning patents; many of which can be averted by careful drafting of the assignment agreement.
Unless the assignment is intra-group, there will usually be some distance between what the assignee wants (typically, a variety of representations, warranties and indemnities in respect of the assigned rights) and what the assignor is prepared to give. This is a commercial decision and hence no two negotiated patent assignments will be identical.
Under English law, to be a valid contract there must be consideration which is either money or money's worth. This is often overlooked but a key point required for the assignment agreement to be legally binding. Whilst the acceptance of mutual obligations may suffice, it is simplest to have a sum of money (even if only for £1). An alternative is to execute the assignment as a deed, though there are specific formalities which must be followed for the agreement to be a deed. Of course, if the parties agree to nominal consideration (eg, £1), it is important that this small amount is actually paid to the assignor.
An assignment of a UK patent (or application) must be in writing and signed by the assignor. It used to be the case that an assignment of a UK patent (or application) would need to be signed by both parties, however the law was changed in 2005. In reality, both parties will usually sign the assignment agreement. Where one or both of the parties is an individual in their personal capacity or a foreign entity, special 'testimonial' provisions are required; for example the signature to the assignment may need to be witnessed.
English law distinguishes two types of assignment: legal and equitable. To assign the legal interest in something means that you have assigned simply the title to that property and not the right to exercise the rights inherent in it. This is the equitable (beneficial) interest and if this is not also assigned with the legal title, this can result in a split in ownership. Unless the parties specifically agree otherwise, legal and beneficial ownership should always be assigned together. It is possible to have co-assignees (ie, co-owners) but the terms of the co-ownership will need to be carefully considered.
It is possible to assign the right to bring proceedings for past infringements in the UK, but not in some other jurisdictions. Where non-UK rights are involved, local advice may be required as to whether such an assignment would be enforceable as against a prior infringer. This potential uncertainty makes a robust further assurance clause even more desirable (see below), to ensure the assignor's co-operation after completion of the assignment.
The assignee will also typically argue for (and the assignor will typically resist) a transfer with 'full title guarantee', as this implies as a matter of law certain covenants: that the assignor is entitled to sell the property; that the assignor will do all it reasonably can, at its own expense, to vest title to the property in the assignee; and that the property is free from various third party rights.
In terms of European patents (EP), it is important to remember that ownership of an EP application is determined under by the inventor/applicant's local law, rather than under European patent law. This means that a formal, written assignment agreement should be executed to ensure that the applicant is entitled to ownership of the patent application, for example in cases where the work undertaken was done by a consultant or where local law dictates that the owner is the inventor(s). An assignment should include assignment of the right to claim priority, as well as the right to the invention and any patent applications. This need to obtain an effective assignment of the application (and right to claim priority) is particularly important where a priority application has been made in the name of the inventor. If such an assignment is not executed before applications which claim priority from earlier cases (for example, PCT applications) are filed, the right to ownership and/or the right to claim priority may be lost.
Don't forget tax
Currently, there is no stamp duty payable on the assignment of intellectual property in the UK. However, particularly for assignments which include foreign intellectual property rights, there can be considerable tax implications in transferring ownership of intellectual property rights in some countries and it is always prudent to check that the transfer will not result in excessive tax liabilities for you.
Update the register
Registered rights need to be updated at the patent offices. You will need to decide who pays for this: in the case of one patent, it is a simple process, however in the case of a whole portfolio, the costs can be considerable. Remember, if you ever need to take any action on a patent you own, you need to ensure you are the registered owner of that right at the applicable office.
In the UK, assignments can be registered but there is no statutory requirement to do so. In the case of international assignments, local offices may require recordal of the assignment. In any event, it is desirable for an assignee to ensure that the transaction is recorded. Section 68 of the UK Patents Act provides that an assignee who does not register the assignment within six months runs the risk of not being able to claim costs or expenses in infringement proceedings for an infringement that occurred before registration of the assignment, although recent case-law has reduced this risk somewhat.
The assignee will typically take charge of recordals to the Patents Offices; however they will often need the assignor's help in doing so. A 'further assurance' clause is a key element of the assignment from an assignee's point of view both for this purpose and for assisting in the defence and enforcement of patents or applications for registration. On the other hand, the assignor will typically seek to qualify its further assurance covenant by limiting it to what the assignee may reasonably require, and that anything done should be at the assignee's expense. An assignor should also require that recordals are done promptly to minimise their future correspondence from patent offices.
In transactions which involve the transfer of patents in various countries, the parties can execute a global assignment which covers all the patents being transferred, or there can be separate assignments for each country. The former, global assignment, is usually preferred however this will frequently need to be supplemented by further confirmatory assignments in forms prescribed by the relevant international patent registries. As noted above, the preparation and execution of such assignments can be time-consuming and costly, hence the need to decide in advance who bears the cost of such recordals, and the assignee should insist on a further assurance provision.
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Assignment is a legal term whereby an individual, the “assignor,” transfers rights, property, or other benefits to another known as the “ assignee .” This concept is used in both contract and property law. The term can refer to either the act of transfer or the rights /property/benefits being transferred.
Under contract law, assignment of a contract is both: (1) an assignment of rights; and (2) a delegation of duties , in the absence of evidence otherwise. For example, if A contracts with B to teach B guitar for $50, A can assign this contract to C. That is, this assignment is both: (1) an assignment of A’s rights under the contract to the $50; and (2) a delegation of A’s duty to teach guitar to C. In this example, A is both the “assignor” and the “delegee” who d elegates the duties to another (C), C is known as the “ obligor ” who must perform the obligations to the assignee , and B is the “ assignee ” who is owed duties and is liable to the “ obligor ”.
(1) Assignment of Rights/Duties Under Contract Law
There are a few notable rules regarding assignments under contract law. First, if an individual has not yet secured the contract to perform duties to another, he/she cannot assign his/her future right to an assignee . That is, if A has not yet contracted with B to teach B guitar, A cannot assign his/her rights to C. Second, rights cannot be assigned when they materially change the obligor ’s duty and rights. Third, the obligor can sue the assignee directly if the assignee does not pay him/her. Following the previous example, this means that C ( obligor ) can sue B ( assignee ) if C teaches guitar to B, but B does not pay C $50 in return.
(2) Delegation of Duties
If the promised performance requires a rare genius or skill, then the delegee cannot delegate it to the obligor. It can only be delegated if the promised performance is more commonplace. Further, an obligee can sue if the assignee does not perform. However, the delegee is secondarily liable unless there has been an express release of the delegee. That is, if B does want C to teach guitar but C refuses to, then B can sue C. If C still refuses to perform, then B can compel A to fulfill the duties under secondary liability.
Lastly, a related concept is novation , which is when a new obligor substitutes and releases an old obligor. If novation occurs, then the original obligor’s duties are wiped out. However, novation requires an original obligee’s consent .
Under property law, assignment typically arises in landlord-tenant situations. For example, A might be renting from landlord B but wants to another party (C) to take over the property. In this scenario, A might be able to choose between assigning and subleasing the property to C. If assigning , A would be giving C the entire balance of the term, with no reversion to anyone whereas if subleasing , A would be giving C for a limited period of the remaining term. Significantly, under assignment C would have privity of estate with the landlord while under a sublease, C would not.
[Last updated in May of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team ]
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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification published assignment groups for 8,817 H-2B applications submitted from Jan. 2-4 with an April 1 start date.
- The published assignment groups for 8,817 H-2B applications covered 138,847 worker positions. Last year, OFLC received 8,693 H-2B applications covering 142,796 worker positions.
- OFLC completed the randomization process on Jan. 4. The National Processing Center subsequently issued notices of acceptance or deficiency to all employers with H-2B applications in group A.
- On Jan. 5, OFLC informed employers and their authorized representatives of the assignment group for their applications.
- The specified assignment groups are available here. The randomized list includes applications in alphabetical order by employer name, including group assignment.
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The case for disqualifying trump is strong.
By David French
It’s been just over two weeks since the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment disqualifies Donald Trump from holding the office of president of the United States, and I spent way too much of my holiday vacation reading the legal and political commentary around the decision, and as I did so, I found myself experiencing déjà vu. Since the rise of Trump, he and his movement have transgressed constitutional, legal and moral boundaries at will and then, when Americans attempt to impose consequences for those transgressions, Trump’s defenders and critics alike caution that the consequences will be dangerous or destabilizing.
There is already a surge in violent threats against the justices of the Colorado Supreme Court. The Yale Law School professor Samuel Moyn has argued that “rejecting Mr. Trump’s candidacy could well invite a repeat of the kind of violence that led to the prohibition on insurrectionists in public life in the first place.” Ian Bassin, a Protect Democracy co-founder, has suggested — and I agree — that even legal analysis of the 14th Amendment “is being colored by the analyst’s fear of how Trump and his supporters would react” to an adverse ruling.
This is where we are and have now been for years: The Trump movement commits threats, violence and lies. And then it tries to escape accountability for those acts through more threats, more violence and more lies. At the heart of the “but the consequences” argument against disqualification is a confession that if we hold Trump accountable for his fomenting violence on Jan. 6, he might foment additional violence now.
Enough. It’s time to apply the plain language of the Constitution to Trump’s actions and remove him from the ballot — without fear of the consequences. Republics are not maintained by cowardice.
To understand the necessity of removing Trump, let’s go first to the relevant language from the 14th Amendment and then to some basic rules of legal interpretation. Here’s the language :
“No person shall be a senator or representative in Congress, or elector of president and vice president, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”
You don’t have to be a lawyer to comprehend those words. You simply need some basic familiarity with American civics, the English language and a couple of common-sense rules of thumb. First, when interpreting the Constitution, text is king. If the text is clear enough, there is no need for historical analysis. You don’t need to know a special legal version of the English language. Just apply the words on the page.
Second, it’s crucial to understand that many of the Constitution’s provisions are intentionally antidemocratic. The American republic is a democracy with guardrails. The Bill of Rights, for example, is a check on majoritarian tyranny. The American people can’t vote away your rights to speak, to exercise your religion or to due process. The Civil War Amendments, including the 14th Amendment, further expanded constitutional protections against majoritarian encroachment. Majorities can’t reimpose slavery, for example, nor can they take away your right to equal protection under the law.
So when a person criticizes Section 3 as undemocratic or undermining democracy, your answer should be simple: Yes, it is undemocratic, exactly as it was intended to be. The amendments’ authors were worried that voters would send former Confederates right back into public office. If they had believed that the American electorate was wise enough not to vote for insurrectionists, they never would have drafted Section 3.
Moreover, you’ll note that the plain text of the amendment doesn’t require a court conviction for insurrection or rebellion. Again, this is intentional. The 14th Amendment originally applied to countless Confederate soldiers and continued to apply to them even after they were pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in 1868. It was not until the Amnesty Act of 1872 that most former Confederates were permitted to serve in office again.
Which brings us to Donald Trump, who is currently facing a host of federal and state criminal charges related to his plot to overturn a lawful election and retain power illegitimately. He wasn’t merely involved in legal subterfuge, including by pressuring public officials to alter vote totals. He summoned the mob, told them to march to the Capitol and enlisted them to “ fight like hell. ” (At the same event, Rudy Giuliani urged “ trial by combat. ”) When the attack on the Capitol was underway, he inflamed the crowd in real time by tweeting that “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.”
Yes, he also asked the crowd to protest “peacefully and patriotically.” But as the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed, this “isolated reference” does not “inoculate” Trump, given “his exhortation, made nearly an hour later, to ‘fight like hell’ immediately before sending rallygoers to the Capitol.”
What do you call the effort to overthrow a lawfully elected government through a combination of violence and legal subterfuge? In its ruling, the Colorado Supreme Court reviewed a variety of colloquial and legal definitions of insurrection and reached a common-sense conclusion “that any definition of ‘insurrection’ for purposes of Section 3 would encompass a concerted and public use of force or threat of force by a group of people to hinder or prevent the U.S. government from taking the actions necessary to accomplish a peaceful transfer of power in this country.”
I have respect for those who argue that Jan. 6 was merely a riot and not a true “insurrection or rebellion,” but the clear and undisputed aims of the Trump scheme are what elevate his misconduct to rebellious status. The effort to steal the election wasn’t a mere protest. It was an effort to change the government of the United States. I was open to Jonathan Chait’s argument that the term “insurrection” is not the “most precise” way to describe Jan. 6, but he lost me with this distinction: “Trump was not trying to seize and hold the Capitol nor declare a breakaway republic.”
It’s true that Trump wasn’t declaring a breakaway republic, but he was attempting to seize and hold far more than the Capitol. He was trying to illegally retain control of the executive branch of the government. His foot soldiers didn’t wear gray or deploy cannons, but they did storm the United States Capitol, something the Confederate Army could never accomplish.
There are also respectable arguments that the reference to “any office, civil or military, under the United States” does not include the president. As Kurt Lash wrote last month in The Times , “It would be odd to stuff the highest office in the land into a general provision that included everything from postmasters to toll takers.” He called the text “ambiguous.”
But is it, really? As Steven Portnoy wrote in an excellent piece for ABC News , the question of whether the section applied to the president and vice president was raised in the ratification debates, and Senator Lot Morrill of Maine provided the answer: “Let me call the senator’s attention to the words ‘or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States.’”
Remember, when reading the Constitution, words still retain their ordinary meaning, and the president is an officer under the United States by any conventional meaning of the term. In many ways, it would be fantastical to conclude otherwise. Is it really the case that insurrectionists are excluded from every office except the most powerful? One should not read constitutional provisions in a way that reaches facially absurd results.
Moreover, it’s important to note that none of the legal analysis I’ve offered above relies on any sort of progressive or liberal constitutional analysis. It’s all text and history, the essence of originalism. In fact, the most influential law review article arguing that Trump is disqualified is by William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen, two of the most respected conservative legal minds in the United States.
So no, it would not be a stretch for a conservative Supreme Court to apply Section 3 to Trump. Nor is it too much to ask the court to intervene in a presidential contest or to issue decisions that have a profound and destabilizing effect on American politics. In 2000 the Supreme Court effectively decided a presidential election at the finish line, ending Al Gore’s bid in a narrow decision that was criticized by some as partisan in nature.
Moreover, in decisions ranging from Brown v. Board of Education to Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the court has been quite willing to issue sweeping rulings that both inflame dissent and trigger political backlash. Fear of a negative public response cannot and must not cause the Supreme Court to turn its back on the plain text of the Constitution — especially when we are now facing the very crisis the amendment was intended to combat.
Indeed, the principal reason the fear of negative backlash is so strong and so widely articulated is the seditious nature of the Trump movement itself. When the Supreme Court ruled against Gore, there was no meaningful concern that he’d try to engineer a violent coup. But if the court rules against Trump, the nation will be told to brace for violence. That’s what seditionists do.
Republicans are rightly proud of their Civil War-era history. The party of Lincoln, as it was known, helped save the Union, and it was the party of Lincoln that passed the 14th Amendment and ratified it in statehouses across the land. The wisdom of the old Republican Party should now save us from the fecklessness and sedition of the new.
An earlier version of this article misstated the status of the Colorado Supreme Court ruling that bars Donald Trump from the state’s primary ballot. The ruling has been stayed while it is being appealed; the stay has not expired.
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David French is an Opinion columnist, writing about law, culture, religion and armed conflict. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and a former constitutional litigator. His most recent book is “Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation .” You can follow him on Threads ( @davidfrenchjag ).
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Trump Blasts Judge, New York Attorney General as $370 Million Fraud Trial Nears End
During closing arguments, former president calls civil case illegitimate and directly criticizes presiding judge.
Updated Jan. 11, 2024 5:45 pm ET
Lawyers for Trump and the state of New York clashed a final time in a Manhattan courtroom over whether the former president and his business should face steep financial penalties and other restrictions for allegedly misrepresenting his wealth for financial gain .
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