Binding on Successors or Assigns

Contract Type:

This Agreement shall be binding upon and inure to the benefit of the parties hereto and their respective successors and assigns.


This clause specifies that the agreement and its terms will be binding not just on the original parties who sign the contract but also on their respective successors and assigns.

This means:

1) Successors: The rights and obligations under the agreement will continue to apply if either of the parties go through a corporate change that alters their structure or ownership, e.g. a merger, acquisition, change of company form. The agreement will remain effective and enforceable by or against the new or restructured organization that succeeds the original party.

2) Assigns: The agreement will also bind and apply to any entities that either party assigns their rights, responsibilities or interest in the contract to. If a party transfers any part of their role or entitlements under the agreement to another organization, that new organization takes on the duty to abide by existing terms. Rights of enforcement also transfer to the new party.

3) Respective: The binding effect applies only between either party and their own individual successors and assigns. Successors or assigns of one party do not automatically gain rights to enforce the agreement or claim entitlements against the other party's separate, distinct successors. Rights and duties are linked to the direct relationships of succession or assignment from each original party.

The key purposes of this type of provision are:

1) Providing continuity and avoiding uncertainty if there are fundamental changes to either party's status or corporate makeup during the term of the agreement. Contracts remain in effect and transfer automatically to replacement or restructured entities taking over relevant functions.

2) Allowing either party to assign rights or delegate duties under the agreement if needed to enable commercial flexibility. But with the safeguard that any such transfer also binds the new party taking on responsibilities to existing terms - there is no escape from the agreement through assignment or succession.

3) Protecting both parties from rights or duties under the agreement passing to unintended or incompatible third parties outside of their contemplation or control without consent. Succession and assignment only apply as expressly set out within the defined relationships between each original party and their own direct successors/assigns.

In summary, a successors and assigns clause aims to provide security that agreements and established terms will continue uninterrupted if there are significant corporate changes, while allowing controlled transfer of rights/obligations where commercially reasonable but only within the precise relationships defined and permitted in the clause. It protects from disruption through continuity but also limits succession/assignment to strictly what is expressly allowed to suit parties' intention.

History of the clause (for the geeks)

Early commercial contracts typically made no express provision for changes to parties' corporate structures or transfer of rights/ obligations. They assumed continuity of the specific entities that entered into agreements. As the corporate landscape became more complex, this rigidity proved problematic. Fundamental changes like mergers or bankruptcies could end contracts abruptly or create uncertainty, while restrictions on assignment hindered commercial flexibility.

By the 19th century, clauses addressing succession and assignment emerged to remedy these shortcomings. They provided security that contracts would bind replacement organizations or those accepting transferred rights/duties. However, courts were initially wary of provisions seeming to permit uncontrolled perpetual transfer that could bind parties to unsuitable relationships without consent. For enforceability, limitations were required around scope/identity of permissible successors/assignees.

Clauses developed stipulating that succession/assignment were only effective between original parties and their "respective" direct successors/assignees. This limited their effect and obliged successors/assignees to abide by original terms, suiting parties' intent but avoiding uncontrolled "padding" of contracts. "Respective" successors/assignees of one party gained no rights against the other without their succession/assignment. Courts upheld provisions framed around continuation of the overall contractual relationship in its "essence", not broad rights transfer without restrictions.

By the early-mid 20th century, a balance emerged. Standard clauses made agreements broadly binding on responsible successors (e.g. post-merger entities) and assignees (for limited commercial purposes) but as expressly defined and limited to each party's own direct relationships. This provided contractual continuity yet control, enabling a degree of flexibility aligned with commercial norms of the time regarding permissible corporate changes/restructuring and limited rights delegation on notice. Certain standard formulations also developed around specifying types of successors (merged entities/restructured companies) and purposes of assignment (e.g. internal reorganization).

Today, successors and assigns clauses remain almost ubiquitous but also highly tailored. Standard language around binding "respective" direct successors and qualified assignees for limited purposes endures, but specific terms are heavily negotiated depending on corporate structures/relationships and sector. For example, clauses may be broad where continuity is most critical (M&A agreements), but narrow where assignment could radically impact obligations (e.g. IP licenses). They aim to balance stability, flexibility and control, suiting agreements to precise commercial expectations.

In summary, recognition that corporations and commerce change evolved clauses addressing succession/assignment from somewhat crude and inflexible tools into tailored mechanisms for managing transition. They uphold contractual continuity and security but with scope limited through "respective" relationships, acknowledging that not all corporate shifts should end or radically alter deals. Negotiation around specific language seeks terms suited to sector, deal, and parties, but certain broad principles around safeguarding stability yet enabling limited flexibility have endured. The trend has been toward more sophisticated management of change, not less, but working within defined relationships not uncontrolled transfer or "perpetual" obligation.