Contract Type:

Neither party may assign or transfer this Agreement or any rights or obligations under this Agreement without the prior written consent of the other party.

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This clause specifies that neither party is permitted to assign or transfer the agreement, or any of the rights or obligations under the agreement, to another entity without first obtaining written consent from the other party.

In short, it means the agreement binds the original parties who signed it. It cannot be assigned to other parties unless both original parties agree in writing to the assignment.

The key purposes of a clause like this are:

1) Maintaining the bargain. The agreement was negotiated and signed based on the particular parties involved and their relative positions. Assignment to other parties could disrupt this.

2) Control. Preventing unilateral assignment gives each party more control over who is bound by the agreement and any impacts of bringing in new entities. Written consent provides approval and transparency.

3) Certainty. Limiting changes to agreed parties and terms helps provide stability and predictability in the agreement. Unapproved assignments could create uncertainty.

4) Risk management. Parties often negotiate based on assessments of risks and benefits related to the particular parties involved. Assignment introduces new risks and variables that could undermine these initial assessments.

5) Practicality. Rigidly preventing any assignment may be impractical long-term as businesses change ownership or structure. But requiring written consent for assignment at least provides a mechanism to approve changes that suit both parties, with any necessary amendments to terms.

So in summary, a typical anti-assignment clause aims to maintain the stability and integrity of the original agreement by preventing either party from transferring obligations or rights to new entities without mutual, written consent. But it also provides flexibility for assignment to be permitted when suitable and essential, subject to appropriate approval and any needed changes in conditions.

The provision ultimately gives more control and certainty compared to either an absolute prohibition on assignment or fully permitting unilateral transfers of the agreement.

History of the clause (for the geeks)

Early commercial contracts placed little emphasis on restricting assignment. Business relationships were often more localized and static. Parties had greater flexibility to transfer obligations and rights without consent.

As commerce grew more sophisticated, unlimited assignment became problematic. It introduced instability and uncertainty, disrupted the original bargain, and complicated risk assessments. Parties sought more control.

Courts began recognizing that certain assignments could undermine the basis of an agreement and damage the non-assigning party's position. They enforced clauses restricting unilateral assignment without consent.

In response, anti-assignment provisions emerged as a standard mechanism for contracts to limit transfers of obligations/rights to new parties without mutual agreement. They provided stability and control.

Initial clauses took a rigid approach by prohibiting virtually any assignment. But as companies restructured more frequently, some flexibility became necessary. Clauses evolved to permit assignment with written consent, allowing approved changes.

Certain exceptions also developed, e.g. allowing assignment to closely related entities like subsidiary companies. This balanced limiting instability against commercial realities.

Anti-assignment clauses with consent provisions became widely used in commercial contracts. They give control over potential disruption from new parties, while providing a workable mechanism for change when both parties agree.  

Specific standards have emerged around factors like: what constitutes a prohibited "assignment"; the scope of rights/obligations that can be assigned; consent not being unreasonably withheld; form of consent (e.g. written vs electronic). But significant customization also exists in contracts.

Today, anti-assignment clauses remain commonplace but adapt to suit commercial environments where businesses regularly restructure. They aim to strike a balance between stability in the original agreement and flexibility for mutually agreeable change. Provisions tend to be highly tailored to parties and sectors.

In summary, the historical trend has been from little restriction on assignment to widespread use of anti-assignment clauses as a mechanism for commercial stability and control. But customization and adaptation to business dynamics has also always been key.

Contemporary clauses often seek to balance limiting disruption against enabling commercially essential change, with mutual consent playing a pivotal role. Their evolution continues in line with developing needs, relationships and practices.