14.1 Assignment of Contract Rights
- Understand what an assignment is and how it is made.
- Recognize the effect of the assignment.
- Know when assignments are not allowed.
- Understand the concept of assignor’s warranties.
The Concept of a Contract Assignment
Contracts create rights and duties. By an assignment The passing or delivering by one person to another of the right to a contract benefit. , an obligee One to whom an obligation is owed. (one who has the right to receive a contract benefit) transfers a right to receive a contract benefit owed by the obligor One who owes an obligation. (the one who has a duty to perform) to a third person ( assignee One to whom the right to receive benefit of a contract is passed or delivered. ); the obligee then becomes an assignor One who agrees to allow another to receive the benefit of a contract. (one who makes an assignment).
The Restatement (Second) of Contracts defines an assignment of a right as “a manifestation of the assignor’s intention to transfer it by virtue of which the assignor’s right to performance by the obligor is extinguished in whole or in part and the assignee acquires the right to such performance.” Restatement (Second) of Contracts, Section 317(1). The one who makes the assignment is both an obligee and a transferor. The assignee acquires the right to receive the contractual obligations of the promisor, who is referred to as the obligor (see Figure 14.1 "Assignment of Rights" ). The assignor may assign any right unless (1) doing so would materially change the obligation of the obligor, materially burden him, increase his risk, or otherwise diminish the value to him of the original contract; (2) statute or public policy forbids the assignment; or (3) the contract itself precludes assignment. The common law of contracts and Articles 2 and 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) govern assignments. Assignments are an important part of business financing, such as factoring. A factor A person who pays money to receive another’s executory contractual benefits. is one who purchases the right to receive income from another.
Figure 14.1 Assignment of Rights
Method of Assignment
To effect an assignment, the assignor must make known his intention to transfer the rights to the third person. The assignor’s intention must be that the assignment is effective without need of any further action or any further manifestation of intention to make the assignment. In other words, the assignor must intend and understand himself to be making the assignment then and there; he is not promising to make the assignment sometime in the future.
Under the UCC, any assignments of rights in excess of $5,000 must be in writing, but otherwise, assignments can be oral and consideration is not required: the assignor could assign the right to the assignee for nothing (not likely in commercial transactions, of course). Mrs. Franklin has the right to receive $750 a month from the sale of a house she formerly owned; she assigns the right to receive the money to her son Jason, as a gift. The assignment is good, though such a gratuitous assignment is usually revocable, which is not the case where consideration has been paid for an assignment.
Acceptance and Revocation
For the assignment to become effective, the assignee must manifest his acceptance under most circumstances. This is done automatically when, as is usually the case, the assignee has given consideration for the assignment (i.e., there is a contract between the assignor and the assignee in which the assignment is the assignor’s consideration), and then the assignment is not revocable without the assignee’s consent. Problems of acceptance normally arise only when the assignor intends the assignment as a gift. Then, for the assignment to be irrevocable, either the assignee must manifest his acceptance or the assignor must notify the assignee in writing of the assignment.
Notice to the obligor is not required, but an obligor who renders performance to the assignor without notice of the assignment (that performance of the contract is to be rendered now to the assignee) is discharged. Obviously, the assignor cannot then keep the consideration he has received; he owes it to the assignee. But if notice is given to the obligor and she performs to the assignor anyway, the assignee can recover from either the obligor or the assignee, so the obligor could have to perform twice, as in Exercise 2 at the chapter’s end, Aldana v. Colonial Palms Plaza . Of course, an obligor who receives notice of the assignment from the assignee will want to be sure the assignment has really occurred. After all, anybody could waltz up to the obligor and say, “I’m the assignee of your contract with the bank. From now on, pay me the $500 a month, not the bank.” The obligor is entitled to verification of the assignment.
Effect of Assignment
An assignment of rights effectively makes the assignee stand in the shoes of An assignee takes no greater rights than his assignor had. the assignor. He gains all the rights against the obligor that the assignor had, but no more. An obligor who could avoid the assignor’s attempt to enforce the rights could avoid a similar attempt by the assignee. Likewise, under UCC Section 9-318(1), the assignee of an account is subject to all terms of the contract between the debtor and the creditor-assignor. Suppose Dealer sells a car to Buyer on a contract where Buyer is to pay $300 per month and the car is warranted for 50,000 miles. If the car goes on the fritz before then and Dealer won’t fix it, Buyer could fix it for, say, $250 and deduct that $250 from the amount owed Dealer on the next installment (called a setoff). Now, if Dealer assigns the contract to Assignee, Assignee stands in Dealer’s shoes, and Buyer could likewise deduct the $250 from payment to Assignee.
The “shoe rule” does not apply to two types of assignments. First, it is inapplicable to the sale of a negotiable instrument to a holder in due course. Second, the rule may be waived: under the UCC and at common law, the obligor may agree in the original contract not to raise defenses against the assignee that could have been raised against the assignor. Uniform Commercial Code, Section 9-206. While a waiver of defenses Surrender by a party of legal rights otherwise available to him or her. makes the assignment more marketable from the assignee’s point of view, it is a situation fraught with peril to an obligor, who may sign a contract without understanding the full import of the waiver. Under the waiver rule, for example, a farmer who buys a tractor on credit and discovers later that it does not work would still be required to pay a credit company that purchased the contract; his defense that the merchandise was shoddy would be unavailing (he would, as used to be said, be “having to pay on a dead horse”).
For that reason, there are various rules that limit both the holder in due course and the waiver rule. Certain defenses, the so-called real defenses (infancy, duress, and fraud in the execution, among others), may always be asserted. Also, the waiver clause in the contract must have been presented in good faith, and if the assignee has actual notice of a defense that the buyer or lessee could raise, then the waiver is ineffective. Moreover, in consumer transactions, the UCC’s rule is subject to state laws that protect consumers (people buying things used primarily for personal, family, or household purposes), and many states, by statute or court decision, have made waivers of defenses ineffective in such consumer transactions A contract for household or domestic purposes, not commercial purposes. . Federal Trade Commission regulations also affect the ability of many sellers to pass on rights to assignees free of defenses that buyers could raise against them. Because of these various limitations on the holder in due course and on waivers, the “shoe rule” will not govern in consumer transactions and, if there are real defenses or the assignee does not act in good faith, in business transactions as well.
When Assignments Are Not Allowed
The general rule—as previously noted—is that most contract rights are assignable. But there are exceptions. Five of them are noted here.
Material Change in Duties of the Obligor
When an assignment has the effect of materially changing the duties that the obligor must perform, it is ineffective. Changing the party to whom the obligor must make a payment is not a material change of duty that will defeat an assignment, since that, of course, is the purpose behind most assignments. Nor will a minor change in the duties the obligor must perform defeat the assignment.
Several residents in the town of Centerville sign up on an annual basis with the Centerville Times to receive their morning paper. A customer who is moving out of town may assign his right to receive the paper to someone else within the delivery route. As long as the assignee pays for the paper, the assignment is effective; the only relationship the obligor has to the assignee is a routine delivery in exchange for payment. Obligors can consent in the original contract, however, to a subsequent assignment of duties. Here is a clause from the World Team Tennis League contract: “It is mutually agreed that the Club shall have the right to sell, assign, trade and transfer this contract to another Club in the League, and the Player agrees to accept and be bound by such sale, exchange, assignment or transfer and to faithfully perform and carry out his or her obligations under this contract as if it had been entered into by the Player and such other Club.” Consent is not necessary when the contract does not involve a personal relationship.
Assignment of Personal Rights
When it matters to the obligor who receives the benefit of his duty to perform under the contract, then the receipt of the benefit is a personal right The right or duty of a particular person to perform or receive contract duties or benefits; cannot be assigned. that cannot be assigned. For example, a student seeking to earn pocket money during the school year signs up to do research work for a professor she admires and with whom she is friendly. The professor assigns the contract to one of his colleagues with whom the student does not get along. The assignment is ineffective because it matters to the student (the obligor) who the person of the assignee is. An insurance company provides auto insurance covering Mohammed Kareem, a sixty-five-year-old man who drives very carefully. Kareem cannot assign the contract to his seventeen-year-old grandson because it matters to the insurance company who the person of its insured is. Tenants usually cannot assign (sublet) their tenancies without the landlord’s permission because it matters to the landlord who the person of their tenant is. Section 14.4.1 "Nonassignable Rights" , Nassau Hotel Co. v. Barnett & Barse Corp. , is an example of the nonassignability of a personal right.
Assignment Forbidden by Statute or Public Policy
Various federal and state laws prohibit or regulate some contract assignment. The assignment of future wages is regulated by state and federal law to protect people from improvidently denying themselves future income because of immediate present financial difficulties. And even in the absence of statute, public policy might prohibit some assignments.
Contracts That Prohibit Assignment
Assignability of contract rights is useful, and prohibitions against it are not generally favored. Many contracts contain general language that prohibits assignment of rights or of “the contract.” Both the Restatement and UCC Section 2-210(3) declare that in the absence of any contrary circumstances, a provision in the agreement that prohibits assigning “the contract” bars “only the delegation to the assignee of the assignor’s performance.” Restatement (Second) of Contracts, Section 322. In other words, unless the contract specifically prohibits assignment of any of its terms, a party is free to assign anything except his or her own duties.
Even if a contractual provision explicitly prohibits it, a right to damages for breach of the whole contract is assignable under UCC Section 2-210(2) in contracts for goods. Likewise, UCC Section 9-318(4) invalidates any contract provision that prohibits assigning sums already due or to become due. Indeed, in some states, at common law, a clause specifically prohibiting assignment will fail. For example, the buyer and the seller agree to the sale of land and to a provision barring assignment of the rights under the contract. The buyer pays the full price, but the seller refuses to convey. The buyer then assigns to her friend the right to obtain title to the land from the seller. The latter’s objection that the contract precludes such an assignment will fall on deaf ears in some states; the assignment is effective, and the friend may sue for the title.
The law distinguishes between assigning future rights under an existing contract and assigning rights that will arise from a future contract. Rights contingent on a future event can be assigned in exactly the same manner as existing rights, as long as the contingent rights are already incorporated in a contract. Ben has a long-standing deal with his neighbor, Mrs. Robinson, to keep the latter’s walk clear of snow at twenty dollars a snowfall. Ben is saving his money for a new printer, but when he is eighty dollars shy of the purchase price, he becomes impatient and cajoles a friend into loaning him the balance. In return, Ben assigns his friend the earnings from the next four snowfalls. The assignment is effective. However, a right that will arise from a future contract cannot be the subject of a present assignment.
An assignor may assign part of a contractual right, but only if the obligor can perform that part of his contractual obligation separately from the remainder of his obligation. Assignment of part of a payment due is always enforceable. However, if the obligor objects, neither the assignor nor the assignee may sue him unless both are party to the suit. Mrs. Robinson owes Ben one hundred dollars. Ben assigns fifty dollars of that sum to his friend. Mrs. Robinson is perplexed by this assignment and refuses to pay until the situation is explained to her satisfaction. The friend brings suit against Mrs. Robinson. The court cannot hear the case unless Ben is also a party to the suit. This ensures all parties to the dispute are present at once and avoids multiple lawsuits.
It may happen that an assignor assigns the same interest twice (see Figure 14.2 "Successive Assignments" ). With certain exceptions, the first assignee takes precedence over any subsequent assignee. One obvious exception is when the first assignment is ineffective or revocable. A subsequent assignment has the effect of revoking a prior assignment that is ineffective or revocable. Another exception: if in good faith the subsequent assignee gives consideration for the assignment and has no knowledge of the prior assignment, he takes precedence whenever he obtains payment from, performance from, or a judgment against the obligor, or whenever he receives some tangible evidence from the assignor that the right has been assigned (e.g., a bank deposit book or an insurance policy).
Some states follow the different English rule: the first assignee to give notice to the obligor has priority, regardless of the order in which the assignments were made. Furthermore, if the assignment falls within the filing requirements of UCC Article 9, the first assignee to file will prevail.
Figure 14.2 Successive Assignments
An assignor has legal responsibilities in making assignments. He cannot blithely assign the same interests pell-mell and escape liability. Unless the contract explicitly states to the contrary, a person who assigns a right for value makes certain assignor’s warranties Promises, express or implied, made by an assignor to the assignee about the merits of the assignment. to the assignee: that he will not upset the assignment, that he has the right to make it, and that there are no defenses that will defeat it. However, the assignor does not guarantee payment; assignment does not by itself amount to a warranty that the obligor is solvent or will perform as agreed in the original contract. Mrs. Robinson owes Ben fifty dollars. Ben assigns this sum to his friend. Before the friend collects, Ben releases Mrs. Robinson from her obligation. The friend may sue Ben for the fifty dollars. Or again, if Ben represents to his friend that Mrs. Robinson owes him (Ben) fifty dollars and assigns his friend that amount, but in fact Mrs. Robinson does not owe Ben that much, then Ben has breached his assignor’s warranty. The assignor’s warranties may be express or implied.
Generally, it is OK for an obligee to assign the right to receive contractual performance from the obligor to a third party. The effect of the assignment is to make the assignee stand in the shoes of the assignor, taking all the latter’s rights and all the defenses against nonperformance that the obligor might raise against the assignor. But the obligor may agree in advance to waive defenses against the assignee, unless such waiver is prohibited by law.
There are some exceptions to the rule that contract rights are assignable. Some, such as personal rights, are not circumstances where the obligor’s duties would materially change, cases where assignability is forbidden by statute or public policy, or, with some limits, cases where the contract itself prohibits assignment. Partial assignments and successive assignments can happen, and rules govern the resolution of problems arising from them.
When the assignor makes the assignment, that person makes certain warranties, express or implied, to the assignee, basically to the effect that the assignment is good and the assignor knows of no reason why the assignee will not get performance from the obligor.
- If Able makes a valid assignment to Baker of his contract to receive monthly rental payments from Tenant, how is Baker’s right different from what Able’s was?
- Able made a valid assignment to Baker of his contract to receive monthly purchase payments from Carr, who bought an automobile from Able. The car had a 180-day warranty, but the car malfunctioned within that time. Able had quit the auto business entirely. May Carr withhold payments from Baker to offset the cost of needed repairs?
- Assume in the case in Exercise 2 that Baker knew Able was selling defective cars just before his (Able’s) withdrawal from the auto business. How, if at all, does that change Baker’s rights?
- Why are leases generally not assignable? Why are insurance contracts not assignable?
§ 9-405. MODIFICATION OF ASSIGNED CONTRACT.
(a) [Effect of modification on assignee.]
A modification of or substitution for an assigned contract is effective against an assignee if made in good faith . The assignee acquires corresponding rights under the modified or substituted contract. The assignment may provide that the modification or substitution is a breach of contract by the assignor. This subsection is subject to subsections (b) through (d).
(b) [Applicability of subsection (a).]
Subsection (a) applies to the extent that:
(1) the right to payment or a part thereof under an assigned contract has not been fully earned by performance; or
(2) the right to payment or a part thereof has been fully earned by performance and the account debtor has not received notification of the assignment under Section 9-406(a) .
(c) [Rule for individual under other law.]
This section is subject to law other than this article which establishes a different rule for an account debtor who is an individual and who incurred the obligation primarily for personal, family, or household purposes.
(d) [Inapplicability to health-care-insurance receivable.]
This section does not apply to an assignment of a health-care-insurance receivable .
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Assignment of a Contract - Explained
What is Assignment and Delegation of a Contract?
Written by Jason Gordon
Updated at April 5th, 2023
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What is assignment and delegation of contracts?
Assignment is the transfer by one party of her right to receive performance from the other party to the contract. Delegation is the transfer by one party of her duties to perform under a contract.
Next Article: Duty of Performance Back to: CONTRACT LAW
How do you Assign or Delegate a Contract?
The rights under a contract can be assigned or the duties delegated through agreement between the assignor and assignee. Assignments/delegations can be a gift or an exchange for other value. In general, unless the contract deems otherwise, obligees may assign their rights or delegate their duties under the contract to third parties.
- Note : The assignor/delegator must give notice to the other party immediately upon assignment/delegation.
Writing Requirement - Assignments and delegations of common law contracts do not have to be in writing. Assignments of contracts for the sale of goods, however, must be in writing if the original contract was subject to the statute of frauds.
Non-Assignable/Delegable Contracts : Unless the agreement limits assignment of rights, most contracts are assignable. Delegation of duties pursuant to contract is more limited. The following contracts are not capable of delegation:
Material Changes of Responsibility - A contract that materially alters the obligors duties under the agreement is not transferable. Particularly, an assignment that greatly increases a partys delivery requirements cannot be assigned. Doing so may detriment the obligor who has to meet a new (and possibly more taxing) delivery schedule.
- Example : I sign a contract to supply all of the cement that your company needs. You are a small construction business with about $1 million per year in revenue. You attempt to assign the contract to ABC Corp, which is a large company with $10 million per year in revenue. If this will dramatically increase my supply requirements, it cannot be assigned without my consent.
Increases Burden or Risk - Generally, any contract that materially increases the other partys burden, risk, or ability to receive return performance is not delegable. As such, requirement contracts generally cannot be delegated because the producers duty depends on the individual output requirements of the purchaser.
- Example : I sign a contract to supply all of the cement that your company needs. You signed the contract with my company because of my reputation and ability to perform. I cannot then delegate the duties under the contract to another company without your consent. This could increase your risk of not receiving performance.
Special Skills - A party to a contract cannot delegate performance of duties under a contract when performance depends on the character, skill, or training of that party.
- Example : One singer cannot transfer her obligations under a contract to another singer if the other party depended upon the skill of that particular vocalist.
Multiple Assignments - A party can partially assign a contract or assign the same contract to multiple parties. Different jurisdictions follow different rules regarding the priority of the assignees. Some jurisdictions allow that the first assignee of a contract who gives notice to the obligor has priority over other assignees. Other jurisdictions follow the rule that the first assignee to receive assignment of a contract has priority to performance by the obligor. Still other jurisdictions follow the rule that the first assignee has priority, unless:
Purchaser in Good Faith for Value - If an assignee pays value for the assignment in good faith without notice of a prior assignment (and the prior assignee did not receive the assignment in good faith and for value), she has priority over prior assignments.
- Example : ABC Corp has a duty to deliver goods to me. I assign the right to receive the goods to 123 Corp as a gift. I later decide to assign the right to receive goods to XYZ Corp in exchange for $1,000. XYZ Corp has no knowledge of my prior assignment to 123 Corp. ABC Corp will have priority over 123 Corp, as 123 Corp did not pay anything for receiving the assignment.
Court Action - If an assignee receives a judgment against the obligor. If a court adjudicates the matter, the assignee winning at court may be vested with the authority to establish priority in performance of assigned rights.
- Example : I am a party to a contract with ABC Corp. I assign my rights under a contract to Tammy and later to June. Tammy sues me and ABC Corp to establish her priority regarding performance of the contract. The court may award priority to Tammy or June.
Novations - If the assignee executes a novation, the novation establishes priority. A novation is a new contract between individuals that replaces a party to the contract or obligations or rights under the agreement.
- Example : I am a party to a contract with ABC Corp. I assign my rights under a contract to Tammy and later to June. June enters into a novation agreement with ABC Corp that replaces me under the contract and establishes her as the obligee. June will have priority of performance above Tammy.
Written Assignment - If a later assignee receives a written assignment capable of transfer that is not in writing, she will have rights superior to those of an earlier assignee. Some agreements, such as assignments that are subject to the statute of frauds, are only capable of being assigned via a valid writing. If a prior assignment does not satisfy the statute of frauds, a subsequent transfer could take precedent. It is important to review the specific rules applicable to the specific jurisdiction when determining ones rights under an assigned contract.
- Example : I am party to a written contract to sell goods to ABC Corp. I verbally transfer my right to receive payment to Amy. I later transfer the right to receive payment to Zora in a written agreement. Zora may have priority over Amy.
Revoking an Assignment - A gratuitous (gift) assignment cannot be revoked if the assignment is made pursuant to a written document signed by the assignor. If no writing exists, revoking a gratuitous assignment that has not been performed is extremely easy (because no physical transfer has taken place). It can be revoked by an assignor later assigning the same right (the last assignment controls), the death or incapacity of the assignor, or by the delivery of notification of revocation to the assignee or obligor.
- Example : I verbally assign to you my rights to receive payment under a contract. I later tell you that I am revoking the assignment. This is effect to revoke the assignment because the original assignment was a gift and I did not make the assignment in writing.
Modification after Assignment - Generally, a contract cannot be modified after assignment. As previously discussed, once a contract has vested, the parties generally cannot modify the contract in a way that impairs the assignees rights. If, however, a modification does not affect the assignees rights, it may be modified.
- Example : I have the right under a contract with ABC Corp to receive payment. I transfer the right to receive payment to you. I later approach ABC Corp and alter my obligation to deliver goods on a specific date. If the alteration of my duties does not affect your rights as assignee, the alteration is not prohibited.
- Note : There is an exception in commercial contracts under the UCC that allows for modifications or substitutions in accordance with commercially acceptable standards. This allows for slight modifications that are within the expectations of the parties.
Continued Delegator Responsibilities - The party delegating the contract is still potentially liable under the contract if the delegatee fails to perform. If, however, the delegatee and the obligee under the contract enter into a novation, the delegator is relieved of responsibility.
- Example : I am obligated to perform services to ABC Corp. I delegate my responsibilities to you. If you fail to perform the consulting duties, ABC Corp can still sue me. If, however, you enter into a novation with ABC Corp that substitutes you for me in the original contract, your failure to perform does not affect me.
- Note : If the delegator expresses her intent to repudiate the contract upon assignment to the delegatee, there is an implied novation if the obligee does not object. Also, the delegatee will be liable under the contract if she expressly or impliedly accepts responsibility for performance.
Most of the above rules regarding assignment and delegation are capable of modification in a contract between the parties.
How do you feel about treating assignments of rights and delegation of duties under contracts differently? Which of the assignment priority rules do you believe is most fair to the parties? Why? Should a party be able to modify a contract after assigning her benefits?
Cleo is a party to a contract with ABC Corp to provide consulting services. Cleo verbally assigns her rights to receive payment to Austin. Cleo later verbally assigns her rights to receive payment to Steve. Austin complains to Cleo about her subsequent assignment. What can Austin do to establish his priority to receive payment from ABC Corp?
- A party to a contract may at any given time transfer their rights in the contract to another person or to multiple people. This transfer of rights by a party to a third party is referred to novation. However, the transfer of rights to multiple people works on the principle of priority, meaning that the first person to receive the rights from the party to the contract holds priority to the others who received the rights after them. In the event of a dispute arising from how to allocate the benefits of the transferred right, the person to whom the rights were transferred to first has a right to sue. In this scenario, if Austin does not receive payment from ABC Corp, he can sue the company. If he is a creditor beneficiary, he could also sue Cleo.
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- Security Interest in Assignment of Accounts Receivable or Contract Rights - Explained
- Unilateral and Bilateral Contracts - Explained
- Interpreting What a Contract Means
- Blank Endorsement - Explained
§ 28:2–210. Delegation of performance; assignment of rights.
(1) A party may perform his duty through a delegate unless otherwise agreed or unless the other party has a substantial interest in having his original promisor perform or control the acts required by the contract. No delegation of performance relieves the party delegating of any duty to perform or any liability for breach.
(2) Except as otherwise provided in section 28:9-406, unless otherwise agreed all rights of either seller or buyer can be assigned except where the assignment would materially change the duty of the other party, or increase materially the burden or risk imposed on him by his contract, or impair materially his chance of obtaining return performance. A right to damages for breach of the whole contract or a right arising out of the assignor’s due performance of his entire obligation can be assigned despite agreement otherwise.
(2A) The creation, attachment, perfection, or enforcement of a security interest in the seller’s interest under a contract is not a transfer that materially changes the duty of or increases materially the burden or risk imposed on the buyer or impairs materially the buyer’s chance of obtaining return performance within the purview of subsection (2) unless, and then only to the extent that, enforcement actually results in a delegation of material performance of the seller. Even in that event, the creation, attachment, perfection, and enforcement of the security interest remain effective, but (a) the seller is liable to the buyer for damages caused by the delegation to the extent that the damages could not reasonably be prevented by the buyer; and (b) a court having jurisdiction may grant other appropriate relief, including cancellation of the contract for sale or an injunction against enforcement of the security interest or consummation of the enforcement.
(3) Unless the circumstances indicate the contrary a prohibition of assignment of “the contract” is to be construed as barring only the delegation to the assignee of the assignor’s performance.
(4) An assignment of “the contract” or of “all my rights under the contract” or an assignment in similar general terms is an assignment of rights and unless the language or the circumstances (as in an assignment for security) indicate the contrary, it is a delegation of performance of the duties of the assignor and its acceptance by the assignee constitutes a promise by him to perform those duties. This promise is enforceable by either the assignor or the other party to the original contract.
(5) The other party may treat any assignment which delegates performance as creating reasonable grounds for insecurity and may without prejudice to his rights against the assignor demand assurances from the assignee (section 28:2-609).
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2022 New York Laws UCC - Uniform Commercial Code Article 2 - Sales Part 2 - Form, Formation and Readjustment of Contract 2-210 - Delegation of Performance; Assignment of Rights.
(1) A party may perform his duty through a delegate unless otherwise agreed or unless the other party has a substantial interest in having his original promisor perform or control the acts required by the contract. No delegation of performance relieves the party delegating of any duty to perform or any liability for breach.
(2) Except as otherwise provided in Section 9--406, unless otherwise agreed, all rights of either seller or buyer can be assigned except where the assignment would materially change the duty of the other party, or increase materially the burden or risk imposed on him by his contract, or impair materially his chance of obtaining return performance. A right to damages for breach of the whole contract or a right arising out of the assignor's due performance of his entire obligation can be assigned despite agreement otherwise.
(3) Unless the circumstances indicate the contrary a prohibition of assignment of "the contract" is to be construed as barring only the delegation to the assignee of the assignor's performance.
(4) An assignment of "the contract" or of "all my rights under the contract" or an assignment in similar general terms is an assignment of rights and unless the language or the circumstances (as in an assignment for security) indicate the contrary, it is a delegation of performance of the duties of the assignor and its acceptance by the assignee constitutes a promise by him to perform those duties. This promise is enforceable by either the assignor or the other party to the original contract.
(5) The other party may treat any assignment which delegates performance as creating reasonable grounds for insecurity and may without prejudice to his rights against the assignor demand assurances from the assignee (Section 2--609).
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CORPORATE TRANSACTIONS & COMPLIANCE BLOG
Ucc assignment and federal uspto assignment: one word, two meanings.
Fairly frequently, I am asked the following question:
“Do assignment filings made with the USPTO have the same effect as assignment filings made under Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code?”
While in certain situations the answer is yes, the more helpful and short answer is no . UCC assignments are typically filed centrally or locally in each state, IP filings are made at the federal level. Moreover, the word ‘assignment’ may have a different meaning.
I’ll explore some of the similarities and differences between Article 9 assignments and assignments made with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to explain why.
What is an Assignment?
Let's start with setting the scope of what we mean by the term ‘assignment’. When used with respect to property, particularly in the legal world, assignment is defined as “the act of transferring an interest in property or some right (such as contract benefits) to another”.
Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) allows a secured party (SP) to file assignments via UCC3 amendments. In the UCC Article 9 world, an assignment (UCC3) is linked to the initial financing statement (UCC1) in the public record so that the relationship between the two filings is clear. Both filings, the UCC1 and UCC3, are indexed together so that a search of the public record by a debtor name will reveal both the financing statement and the amendment in one search.
There are several types of UCC assignment filings a secured party may make with the appropriate central filing office and/or local filing office:
- The secured party (assignor) may assign all of its rights to another party (assignee). (This is considered a full assignment.)
- The secured party may assign the rights to some portion or percentage of all the collateral covered by the initial UCC financing statement to another party. (A partial assignment.)
- The secured party may assign the rights of the 100% interest in a portion of the collateral to another party. (Also a partial assignment.)
Like the rights to security interests that may be fully or partially assigned under the UCC, intellectual property (IP) , such as patents and trademarks, may also have ownership rights transferred in full or in part on the public record at the USPTO. In both cases, when an IP or UCC assignment filing is made, the filings end up in the public record so that searchers can find them.
At the USPTO, however, assignments and other changes are not directly linked on one index when searching by name, which is ordinarily how due diligence searching is conducted. A name search of the USPTO index will not yield one set of complete results containing both trademark applications and registrations and all trademark assignment filings. Separate searches are needed in different sections of the USPTO website. Once those searches are completed, a searcher may need to manually review the results in order to determine if there is a parent-child relationship between the records.
This is also important to note because an IP assignment can be filed before a patent is granted or a trademark application and registration appears on the USPTO records, because it might still be going through the review process at the USPTO.
On top of that, some filings categorized as ‘assignments’ at the USPTO, because they are indexed in the assignments database, are not assignments by definition. In other words, a filing on the USPTO assignment database may NOT be transferring rights in full or in part . This means that search results will include actual assignments and other records that are not assignments in the true sense of the rights of transfer.
USPTO Assignment Recordation Examples
So, what other filings are included as ‘assignments’ at the USPTO that are not really assignments? As an example, let’s say that the owner of IP changes their name while retaining ownership in their IP. Searching either of the assignment indexes at the USPTO may include name change results. Technically, this is not an assignment by definition – there was no transfer of rights – but the name change is filed on the assignment index. A security interest in IP is another example of a type of lien filing found on the USPTO assignments database but is not, by definition, an assignment.
Adding to the confusion, IP filers can choose to file using the option of ‘Other’ and can enter a conveyance type not already provided as a standard selection, which means that almost anything can be included on the ‘assignment’ records at the USPTO.
A Rule of Thumb for UCC and IP Assignments
The main point to take away from this discussion is that while assignments of UCCs are always assignments, assignments of IP are not as clear. Assignments of UCCs are always linked to the initial financing statements and are usually reflected in a single search, but assignments of IP filings are found on a different USPTO database from the trademark application and registration database, and patent grant and published pending patent databases, which all require separate searches (and thus, yield separate search results) on the USPTO website. It is necessary for the searcher to match up IP assignments to the parent record, if there is a parent record available.
The terminology may appear the same, but the meaning – and the search processes – for USPTO assignments and UCC assignments are completely different.
For insight on how intellectual property due diligence dovetails with more traditional types of searches, access our free webinar below:
This content is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered, or relied upon, as legal advice.
Topics: Article 9 Filing, Searching and Due Diligence , UCC , Intellectual Property Due Diligence
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