Articles Posted in Legal and Contracting Issues


You’ve managed to agree the deal; all that’s left is to sign the documents.  That’s the easy bit, correct?  So you might think, but it is important to be careful not to slip up at this final stage, particularly when contracting with foreign entities and considering using electronic signatures.

Which law applies when contracting with overseas entities?

In the recent case of Integral Petroleum SA v Scu-Finanz AG [2015] EWCA Civ 144 the English Court of Appeal considered whether a supply contract governed by English law and entered into by two Swiss oil companies was binding.  The defendant successfully argued that the contract was not binding as it had been signed only by one representative of the Swiss company, rather than two representatives, as required by Swiss law.


Part 2: How are Limits of Liability Evolving, with Respect to the Issue of Data Breaches?

Ten years ago, most “buyers/customers” expected their suppliers to absorb unlimited contractual liability if the supplier was responsible for a breach affecting the customer’s data. Today, while customers may continue to insist upon such a position at the beginning of negotiations, they frequently expect that market-leading suppliers will ask for some sort of limit to the supplier’s potential liability for data breaches.

When customers are forced to negotiate a liability cap applicable to breaches of data (including PII and PHI), they usually insist that such liability cap be an amount that is greater than the “standard” limit of liability under the Agreement (i.e., greater than the standard financial cap applicable other contract breaches).


Part 1: Contractual Protections With Respect to Data Breaches

Given the unrelenting, it seems, news reports of cyber attacks and data breaches affecting customer records and data, the issue of what are the appropriate contractual provisions that should govern data breaches in a contract between customers and suppliers remains timely, sticky, and constantly-evolving. Below are several observations regarding contractual language and protections with respect to data breaches, where a supplier has access to and/or could cause or allow a customer’s data to be breached.

  • Customers continue to insist upon strict terms and conditions requiring their suppliers to protect the customer’s confidential information, including with respect to the customer’s (i) data (i.e., information stored in equipment and software), (ii) Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and (iii) Protected Health Information (PHI).


There is no shortage of commentary on why mergers and acquisitions fail or do not live up to their projected potential. The percentage of failed or underachieving deals is astounding with some placing the failure rate over eighty percent.The reasons for this dismal outlook range from ill-advised strategic vision, misaligned expectations and poor execution to cultural clashes, fumbled integration, and (some would say) misguided management objectives.

Over the past decade I’ve observed another factor that contributes to these suboptimal results: poorly planned, constructed and executed transition services, especially in connection with divestitures and carve-outs. The two main factors contributing to deficient transition service arrangements fall into two general categories: (1) a flawed perspective on the importance of transition services; and (2) errant development and execution of the transition service regime.

Let’s explore each of these factors both in terms of how they arise and how they can be avoided, focusing first on what I refer to as the flawed perspective.


News of Alibaba’s cloud investment and a recent software park tour indicate that China’s IT services industry is evolving in its own way.

Alibaba Invades Silicon Valley

The “Amazon of China” is following Amazon’s playbook yet again with their investment in the cloud. Aliyun, Alibaba’s technology arm, already operates five Chinese data centers supporting 1.4 million customers. They cite high performance specs, such as the ability to process 80,000 orders per second during peak shopping season, and a successful defense against the largest recorded DDoS attack in China, which lasted 14 hours with a peak onslaught of 453.8 gigabytes per second.


This is the second of two postings that outline key pricing protections you should consider negotiating with licensors of ERP software to provide flexibility and predictability in managing the ongoing license and maintenance costs associated with the software.  In the earlier posting, we discussed future option discounts, exchange rights, and maintenance locks and caps.  In this posting, we focus on shelving and termination rights, acquisitions and divestitures, and successor products.

Shelving / Termination Rights

Shelving and termination rights provide the ability to reduce annual maintenance spend on unused licenses by either “putting them on the shelf” until needed or terminating unneeded licenses altogether.  There are three basic approaches to shelving and termination rights.  In descending order of desirability, they are:


The licensing and implementation of ERP software is a major long-term investment for any company.  In addition to negotiating favorable upfront pricing for the software, it is important to build in pricing mechanisms that provide flexibility and predictability in managing the ongoing license and maintenance costs associated with the software.  This is the first of two postings that outline key pricing protections that you should consider negotiating with licensors of ERP software.

Future Option Discount

A future option discount provides a right to purchase additional software licenses at a specified price or at a specified discount off the licensor’s then current list price.  This right has a number of benefits:


As a thin guy, I used to subscribe to the philosophy of wearing large clothes to look bigger than I was.  What I actually looked like was a scrawny guy in ill-fitting clothes that were not overly comfortable.

Sourcing of IT and associated services may be falling into a similar trap.  Rather than using agreements that are the right shape or size, purchasing organizations are developing and rolling out standard templates that are supposedly broad enough to cover everything–unfortunately, they often do not cover any particularly purchase properly.  Specifically, we are seeing a proliferation of master service agreements (MSAs) that, largely speaking, come from an IT development context.  These are then begin applied to software licensing, professional services; and cloud services agreements–all of which are different transactions with different needs.

To illustrate, let’s review the application of an MSA to a Software as a Service (SAAS) offering.  As a threshold, the MSA contemplates project style initiatives, whereas the SAAS offering is by its nature on ongoing, recurring offering over a specified term.  Under an MSA, the buyer typically attempts to assert ownership of all developments; this is antithetical to the SAAS model where the supplier contributes IP to continually improve its offering.  Under the MSA, the buyer heavily negotiates the service levels; in SAAS, the service levels are the same for all like buyers–without such consistency, there is no shared offering and no cost benefit of the SAAS model.  We could go on, but the point is clear–a customer MSA is not likely to be a good fit for a SAAS offering.


The trend in Big Data analytics among companies shows no sign in abating, with companies covetously collecting vast amounts of data with the hopes of harvesting market differentiators.  A study by open-source research firm Wikibon, for instance, forecasts an annual Big Data software growth rate of 45% through 2017.  But what tools are companies using to implement Big Data solutions? For purposes of this article, let’s set aside for a moment the intended outcome of whatever Big Data project your company has planned in the coming year (whether it be predicting the outcome of Supreme Court cases or helping a baffled spouse pick out the right lingerie set), and instead let’s focus on the tools available in the industry (and some of the associated pitfalls) in getting your company from concept to solution.

First, consider how you are going store and analyze the data.  For companies with significant internal resources and focus on Big Data, it may make sense to hire an in-house analytics team and invest in the requisite infrastructure and tools.  However, there are many options in the marketplace that require less investment in order to gain actionable insights:

§ Database Marketing Outsourcing: An end to end service often used by retailers in which a supplier licenses data and provides data mining analytics, marketing campaign sales management and analysis, and other ancillary functions.


It isn’t often that a supplier “fires” its customer, but it’s not unknown. I have worked with two clients recently whose suppliers have given notice of termination without cause.

How can you avoid or, if it does happen, manage through a supplier-initiated termination?

Obviously, the best position from a customer’s perspective is not to give your supplier a contractual right to terminate, except if there is an uncured material breach. However, in many negotiations in which I have been involved over recent years, suppliers are demanding a right to terminate for convenience, or a right to give notice of non-renewal at the end of an initial term, or a subsequent renewal term (which pretty much amounts to a termination for convenience).

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