The term assignment law is used in the law of real estate and in the law of contracts. In both instances, it relates to the transfer of rights held by one party (the assignor) to another party (the assignee).

Assignment Law

In legal terms, the meaning of an assignment is a contractual obligation to transfer a property title or right from one party to another. Generally, the assignment is transferred based on an entire interest in the property, chattel, estate, or other item assigned.

A grant is different from an assignment in that an assignment refers to the right to transfer the property. This is considered an intangible right. On the other hand, the grant is concerned about the physical transfer of property. This is a tangible right. For example, a payee can assign their rights to collect a note payment to a bank. 

The terms of the contract must be analyzed to determine if the right of assignment is prohibited. For example, a property owner may allow a lease to be assigned, ordinarily along with an assumption agreement, where the new tenant is now responsible for the payments and duties of the lease.

The holder of a trademark may transfer it, either by giving or selling their interest in the trademark to another party. This is referred to as an assignment. The party that receives the benefit is called the assignee. Once transferred, the assignee has the ability to exclude others from using their trademark.

In order for the assignment to be enforceable, it must be in writing and have the goodwill of the company attached to the mark. For an assignment to be effective, it must contain the fundamental aspects of a contract, such as:

  • Parties with legal capacity
  • Legality of object
  • Consideration consent

A contract assignment occurs when a party assigns their contractual rights to a third party. The benefit the issuing party would have received from the contract is now assigned to the third party. The party appointing their rights is referred to as the assignor, while the party obtaining the rights is the assignee. Essentially, the assignor prefers that the assignee reverses roles and assumes the contractual rights and obligations as stated in the contract. Before this can occur, all parties to the original contract must be notified.

How Assignments Work

The specific language used in the contract will determine how the assignment plays out. For example, one contract may prohibit assignment, while another contract may require that all parties involved agree to it before proceeding. Remember, an assignment of contract does not necessarily alleviate an assignor from all liability. Many contracts include an assurance clause guaranteeing performance. In other words, the initial parties to the contract guarantee the assignee will achieve the desired goal.

When Assignments Will Not Be Enforced

The following situations indicate when an assignment of a contract is not enforced:

  • The contract specifically prohibits assignment
  • The assignment drastically changes the expected outcome
  • The assignment is against public policy or illegal

Delegation vs. Assignment

Occasionally, one party in a contract will desire to pass on or delegate their responsibility to a third party without creating an assignment contract. Some duties are so specific in nature that they cannot be delegated. Adding a clause in the contract to prevent a party from delegating their responsibilities and duties is highly recommended.

Three Steps to Follow if You Want to Assign a Contract

There are three main steps to take if you're looking to assign a contract:

  1. Make sure the current contract does not contain an anti-assignment clause
  2. Officially execute the assignment by transferring the parties' obligations and rights
  3. Notify the obligor of the changes made

Once the obligor is notified, the assignor will effectively be relieved of liability.

Anti-Assignment Clauses

If you'd prefer not to allow the party you're doing business with to assign a contract, you may be able to prevent this from occurring by clearly stating anti-assignment clauses in the original contract. The three most common anti-assignment clauses are:

  1. Consent required for assignment
  2. Consent not needed for new owners or affiliates
  3. Consent not unreasonably withheld

Based on these three clauses, no party in the contract is allowed to delegate or assign any obligations or rights without prior written consent from the other parties. Any delegation or assignment in violation of this passage shall be deemed void. It is not possible to write an anti-assignment clause that goes against an assignment that is issued or ordered by a court.

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