Assignment vs Novation: Everything You Need to Know

Assignment vs. novation: What's the difference? An assignment agreement transfers one party's rights and obligations under a contract to another party. 4 min read

Assignment vs. novation: What's the difference? An assignment agreement transfers one party's rights and obligations under a contract to another party. The party transferring their rights and duties is the assignor; the party receiving them is the assignee. Novation is a mechanism where one party transfers all its obligations and rights under a contract to a third party, with the consent of the original counterparty.

The transfer of a benefit or interest from one party to another is referred to as an assignment. While the benefits can be transferred, the obligation or burden behind the contract cannot be. A contract assignment occurs when a party assigns their contractual rights to a third party. The benefit that 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. 

The assignor continues to carry the burden and can be held liable by the assignee for failing to fulfill their duties under the contract. Purchasing an indemnity clause from the assignee may help protect the assignor from a future liability. Unlike notation, assignment contracts do not annul the initial agreement and do not establish a new agreement. The original or initial contract continues to be enforced. 

Assignment contracts generally do not require the authorization from all parties in the agreement. Based on the terms, the assignor will most likely only need to notify the nonassigning party.

In regards to a contract being assignable, if an agreement seems silent or unclear, courts have decided that the contract is typically assignable. However, this does not apply to personal service contracts where consent is mandatory. The Supreme Court of Canada , or SCC, has determined that a personal service contract must be created for the original parties based on the special characteristics, skills, or confidences that are uniquely displayed between them. Many times, the courts need to intervene to determine whether an agreement is indeed a personal service contract.

Overall, assignment is more convenient for the assignor than novation. The assignor is not required to ask for approval from a third party in order to assign their interest in an agreement to the assignee. The assignor should be aware of the potential liability risk if the assignee doesn't perform their duties as stated in the assigned contract.

Novation has the potential to limit future liabilities to an assignor, but it also is usually more burdensome for the parties involved. Additionally, it's not always achievable if a third party refuses to give consent.

It's essential for the two parties in an agreement to appraise their relationship before transitioning to novation. An assignment is preferential for parties that would like to continue performing their obligations, but also transition some of their rights to another party.

A novation occurs when a party would like to transfer both the benefits and the burden within a contract to another party. Similar to assignment, the benefits are transferred, but unlike assignment, the burden is also transferred. When a novation is completed, the original contract is deleted and is replaced with a new one. In this new contract, a third party is now responsible for the obligations and rights. Generally, novation does not cancel any past obligations or rights under the initial contract, although it is possible to novate these as well.

Novation needs to be approved by both parties of the original contract and the new joining third party. Some amount of consideration must also be provided in the new contract in order for it to be novated, unless the novation is cited in a deed that is signed by all parties to the contract. In this situation, consideration is referring to something of value that is being gained through the contract.

Novation occurs when the purchaser to the original agreement is attempting to replace the seller of an original contract. Once novated, the original seller is released from any obligation under the initial contract. The SCC has established a three-point test to implement novation. The asserting party must prove:

  • The purchaser accepts complete liability
  • The creditor to the original contract accepts the purchaser as the official debtor, and not simply as a guarantor or agent of the seller
  • The creditor to the original contract accepts the new contract as the replacement for the old one

Also, the SSC insisted that if a new agreement doesn't exist, the court would not find novation unless the precedence was unusually compelling.

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Assignment is a legal term whereby an individual, the “assignor,” transfers rights, property, or other benefits to another known as the “ assignee .”   This concept is used in both contract and property law.  The term can refer to either the act of transfer or the rights /property/benefits being transferred.

Contract Law   

Under contract law, assignment of a contract is both: (1) an assignment of rights; and (2) a delegation of duties , in the absence of evidence otherwise.  For example, if A contracts with B to teach B guitar for $50, A can assign this contract to C.  That is, this assignment is both: (1) an assignment of A’s rights under the contract to the $50; and (2) a delegation of A’s duty to teach guitar to C.  In this example, A is both the “assignor” and the “delegee” who d elegates the duties to another (C), C is known as the “ obligor ” who must perform the obligations to the assignee , and B is the “ assignee ” who is owed duties and is liable to the “ obligor ”.

(1) Assignment of Rights/Duties Under Contract Law

There are a few notable rules regarding assignments under contract law.  First, if an individual has not yet secured the contract to perform duties to another, he/she cannot assign his/her future right to an assignee .  That is, if A has not yet contracted with B to teach B guitar, A cannot assign his/her rights to C.  Second, rights cannot be assigned when they materially change the obligor ’s duty and rights.  Third, the obligor can sue the assignee directly if the assignee does not pay him/her.  Following the previous example, this means that C ( obligor ) can sue B ( assignee ) if C teaches guitar to B, but B does not pay C $50 in return.

            (2) Delegation of Duties

If the promised performance requires a rare genius or skill, then the delegee cannot delegate it to the obligor.  It can only be delegated if the promised performance is more commonplace.  Further, an obligee can sue if the assignee does not perform.  However, the delegee is secondarily liable unless there has been an express release of the delegee.  That is, if B does want C to teach guitar but C refuses to, then B can sue C.  If C still refuses to perform, then B can compel A to fulfill the duties under secondary liability.

Lastly, a related concept is novation , which is when a new obligor substitutes and releases an old obligor.  If novation occurs, then the original obligor’s duties are wiped out. However, novation requires an original obligee’s consent .  

Property Law

Under property law, assignment typically arises in landlord-tenant situations.  For example, A might be renting from landlord B but wants to another party (C) to take over the property.   In this scenario, A might be able to choose between assigning and subleasing the property to C.  If assigning , A would be giving C the entire balance of the term, with no reversion to anyone whereas if subleasing , A would be giving C for a limited period of the remaining term.  Significantly, under assignment C would have privity of estate with the landlord while under a sublease, C would not. 

[Last updated in May of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team ]

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Government Contract Novation Vs Assignment of Contract & FAR 42.1204 Novation Clause

Assignment of Contract Clause and Government Novation Agreement Business Sales FAR 42.1204

All should be aware that the contracting officer does not have to approve every assignment of contract transactions under the FAR 42.1204 contract novation clause .

  • Avoid the costly mistake of assuming that the government must approve all novations.
  • If done improperly, contractors can be found in breach of contract terms and can even face suspension or debarment .

Novation Agreement FAR 42.1204 Definition

In federal government contracting,  developing a novation can be somewhat unique because depending on the facts of each case, the original parties may still be responsible for performance to the government.  Whereas, in the commercial sector, the contract novation definition means that a new party to the contract essential substitutes the original party. In other words in the commercial sector, the original party’s obligation is discharged and substitution of an original party to a contract with a new party, or substitution of an original contract with a new contract.

Federal Government Contract Novation vs Assignment of Contract

Business Asset Purchase Agreement and Contract Assignment  Clause Issues

What is the difference between assignment and novation? Simply executing a business asset purchase agreement and a signed novation contact agreement  when buying or selling a business is not the end of the legal analysis when there is a government contract involved.  The contracting officer must approve the assignment of government contracts and or novation agreement . Your novation letter should address critical issues that answer the contracting officer’s concerns about the risk of performance. Novating government contracts is all about minimizing the risk to the agency.

In one case , SBA OHA ignored the argument that when novating a contract, its purchase and sale contract with the buyer had the legal effect of divesting the seller of any control over the current contracts. In that case, there was no formally approved novation agreement FAR contract. As a result, the whole transaction went to waste because the parties lacked a full understanding of the rules. A Government contract may not be automatically transferred to a third party. See 41 USC 15.

  • In government contracting, if there is a performance problem, for example in construction, and a termination for default is an issue, or the surety is called upon for obligations under a performance bond, then the original party may not necessarily be discharged.
  • Assignment of government contracts decisions, when there is a purchase and sale agreement involving a company that has existing government contracts, should be met with caution.

On the issue of contract novation vs assignment , although the FAR 42.1204 assignment novation clause allows the buying and selling parties to execute a novation vs assignment agreement due to an asset purchase or stock sale, companies should still assess legal issues related to violation of SBA small business size standards. 

  • Companies should always keep the agency involved from the beginning of the process to the end.

41 USC 6305 – Contract Assignment Clause – Prohibition on transfer of contract and certain allowable assignments

Under the federal contract assignment clauses, when there are business sales that involve government contracts, the purchase and sale agreement suggests that the contracts would be transferred to the buyer either through a business asset purchase agreement sale or stock sale.

However, the reality is that although FAR 42.1204 allows for a novation of contract agreement, the contracting officer is not obligated to approve it.  A federal government contracting agency, only when it determines it to be in its interest, may accept a third party as the successor in interest when the third party’s interest in the contract arises out of the transfer of all of the contractor’s assets or the entire portion of the contractor’s assets involved in performing the contract. FAR 42.1204 (a). See also How Do Federal Government Contractors Deal With COVID-19 Problems ?

  • The contracting officer is not forced to approve the  FAR novation clause language if the transaction is not in the government’s best interest.
  • If the government declines to novate a contract, the original contractor is still responsible for performance. FAR 42.1204 (c) contract novation clause.
  • If the assignment of contract is not recognized by the contracting officer, and the original contractor does not perform, the original contractor can be terminated for default.

Potential SBA Size Standard Violations

When assessing government novation contract law rules, the SBA found in one case that since there was no approved assignment of the contract through an approved government novation agreement, the two businesses were deemed affiliated through the identity of interest rule.

On appeal, OHA found that since there was no formal contract novation, the seller was still responsible for the contract performance, and both companies were in the same line of business. In that case, the SBA also found that there was no clear fracture between the buyer and seller. The two businesses were therefore also affiliated with the newly organized concern rule.

Help With Government Contracting Companies for Sale

Oftentimes, buyers and sellers do not understand the complex regulations involved with government contracting companies for sale. Not only are novation agreements a potential issue, the due diligence needed and the ability to address buyers’ other business relationships that can impact their small business size status can be a huge problem. Contact Theodore Watson at 720.941.7200 for immediate help.

Legal Issues Regarding Novation Vs Assignment 

Assignment vs novation. Know the difference: There are several legal issues that arise under federal contract novation agreement FAR law during the purchase and business sales, assignment and transfer of federal contracts when government contracts are involved.  Common issues that occur with the assignment novation clause terms include: (1) whether the seller is simply trying to sell the contract with no real assets, (2) how to structure the asset purchase agreement and whether wait for contracting officer novation approval first and (3) to what degree does the contracting officer have to approve the novation. The first step is to be proactive in the early stages of the asset purchase or stock sale process.

Having the right contract clauses in the sales agreement is critical in the event that the contracting officer does not approve the contract novation. Other issues with novating a contract include the buyer maintaining its small business status in the event of recertification or option year decisions. Find out more about Signs of Being Under Investigation (Federal)

For additional questions about what is the difference between assignment and novation for federal contractors buying and selling a business that includes an assignment and FAR novation agreement or assignment of contract issues under FAR 42.1204 novation clause, or need help with government contracting companies for sale, call Watson & Associates’ government  contract novation law lawyers for immediate help. Call 1-866-601-5518. FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION.

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Understanding an assignment and assumption agreement

Need to assign your rights and duties under a contract? Learn more about the basics of an assignment and assumption agreement.

updated November 21, 2023 · 3min read

The assignment and assumption agreement

The basics of assignment and assumption, filling in the assignment and assumption agreement.

While every business should try its best to meet its contractual obligations, changes in circumstance can happen that could necessitate transferring your rights and duties under a contract to another party who would be better able to meet those obligations.

Person presenting documents to another person who is signing them

If you find yourself in such a situation, and your contract provides for the possibility of assignment, an assignment and assumption agreement can be a good option for preserving your relationship with the party you initially contracted with, while at the same time enabling you to pass on your contractual rights and duties to a third party.

An assignment and assumption agreement is used after a contract is signed, in order to transfer one of the contracting party's rights and obligations to a third party who was not originally a party to the contract. The party making the assignment is called the assignor, while the third party accepting the assignment is known as the assignee.

In order for an assignment and assumption agreement to be valid, the following criteria need to be met:

  • The initial contract must provide for the possibility of assignment by one of the initial contracting parties.
  • The assignor must agree to assign their rights and duties under the contract to the assignee.
  • The assignee must agree to accept, or "assume," those contractual rights and duties.
  • The other party to the initial contract must consent to the transfer of rights and obligations to the assignee.

A standard assignment and assumption contract is often a good starting point if you need to enter into an assignment and assumption agreement. However, for more complex situations, such as an assignment and amendment agreement in which several of the initial contract terms will be modified, or where only some, but not all, rights and duties will be assigned, it's a good idea to retain the services of an attorney who can help you draft an agreement that will meet all your needs.

When you're ready to enter into an assignment and assumption agreement, it's a good idea to have a firm grasp of the basics of assignment:

  • First, carefully read and understand the assignment and assumption provision in the initial contract. Contracts vary widely in their language on this topic, and each contract will have specific criteria that must be met in order for a valid assignment of rights to take place.
  • All parties to the agreement should carefully review the document to make sure they each know what they're agreeing to, and to help ensure that all important terms and conditions have been addressed in the agreement.
  • Until the agreement is signed by all the parties involved, the assignor will still be obligated for all responsibilities stated in the initial contract. If you are the assignor, you need to ensure that you continue with business as usual until the assignment and assumption agreement has been properly executed.

Unless you're dealing with a complex assignment situation, working with a template often is a good way to begin drafting an assignment and assumption agreement that will meet your needs. Generally speaking, your agreement should include the following information:

  • Identification of the existing agreement, including details such as the date it was signed and the parties involved, and the parties' rights to assign under this initial agreement
  • The effective date of the assignment and assumption agreement
  • Identification of the party making the assignment (the assignor), and a statement of their desire to assign their rights under the initial contract
  • Identification of the third party accepting the assignment (the assignee), and a statement of their acceptance of the assignment
  • Identification of the other initial party to the contract, and a statement of their consent to the assignment and assumption agreement
  • A section stating that the initial contract is continued; meaning, that, other than the change to the parties involved, all terms and conditions in the original contract stay the same

In addition to these sections that are specific to an assignment and assumption agreement, your contract should also include standard contract language, such as clauses about indemnification, future amendments, and governing law.

Sometimes circumstances change, and as a business owner you may find yourself needing to assign your rights and duties under a contract to another party. A properly drafted assignment and assumption agreement can help you make the transfer smoothly while, at the same time, preserving the cordiality of your initial business relationship under the original contract.

Belle Wong, J.D.

by   Belle Wong, J.D.

Belle Wong, is a freelance writer specializing in small business, personal finance, banking, and tech/SAAS. She ...


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Assignments: The Basic Law

The assignment of a right or obligation is a common contractual event under the law and the right to assign (or prohibition against assignments) is found in the majority of agreements, leases and business structural documents created in the United States.

As with many terms commonly used, people are familiar with the term but often are not aware or fully aware of what the terms entail. The concept of assignment of rights and obligations is one of those simple concepts with wide ranging ramifications in the contractual and business context and the law imposes severe restrictions on the validity and effect of assignment in many instances. Clear contractual provisions concerning assignments and rights should be in every document and structure created and this article will outline why such drafting is essential for the creation of appropriate and effective contracts and structures.

The reader should first read the article on Limited Liability Entities in the United States and Contracts since the information in those articles will be assumed in this article.

Basic Definitions and Concepts:

An assignment is the transfer of rights held by one party called the “assignor” to another party called the “assignee.” The legal nature of the assignment and the contractual terms of the agreement between the parties determines some additional rights and liabilities that accompany the assignment. The assignment of rights under a contract usually completely transfers the rights to the assignee to receive the benefits accruing under the contract. Ordinarily, the term assignment is limited to the transfer of rights that are intangible, like contractual rights and rights connected with property. Merchants Service Co. v. Small Claims Court , 35 Cal. 2d 109, 113-114 (Cal. 1950).

An assignment will generally be permitted under the law unless there is an express prohibition against assignment in the underlying contract or lease. Where assignments are permitted, the assignor need not consult the other party to the contract but may merely assign the rights at that time. However, an assignment cannot have any adverse effect on the duties of the other party to the contract, nor can it diminish the chance of the other party receiving complete performance. The assignor normally remains liable unless there is an agreement to the contrary by the other party to the contract.

The effect of a valid assignment is to remove privity between the assignor and the obligor and create privity between the obligor and the assignee. Privity is usually defined as a direct and immediate contractual relationship. See Merchants case above.

Further, for the assignment to be effective in most jurisdictions, it must occur in the present. One does not normally assign a future right; the assignment vests immediate rights and obligations.

No specific language is required to create an assignment so long as the assignor makes clear his/her intent to assign identified contractual rights to the assignee. Since expensive litigation can erupt from ambiguous or vague language, obtaining the correct verbiage is vital. An agreement must manifest the intent to transfer rights and can either be oral or in writing and the rights assigned must be certain.

Note that an assignment of an interest is the transfer of some identifiable property, claim, or right from the assignor to the assignee. The assignment operates to transfer to the assignee all of the rights, title, or interest of the assignor in the thing assigned. A transfer of all rights, title, and interests conveys everything that the assignor owned in the thing assigned and the assignee stands in the shoes of the assignor. Knott v. McDonald’s Corp ., 985 F. Supp. 1222 (N.D. Cal. 1997)

The parties must intend to effectuate an assignment at the time of the transfer, although no particular language or procedure is necessary. As long ago as the case of National Reserve Co. v. Metropolitan Trust Co ., 17 Cal. 2d 827 (Cal. 1941), the court held that in determining what rights or interests pass under an assignment, the intention of the parties as manifested in the instrument is controlling.

The intent of the parties to an assignment is a question of fact to be derived not only from the instrument executed by the parties but also from the surrounding circumstances. When there is no writing to evidence the intention to transfer some identifiable property, claim, or right, it is necessary to scrutinize the surrounding circumstances and parties’ acts to ascertain their intentions. Strosberg v. Brauvin Realty Servs., 295 Ill. App. 3d 17 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1998)

The general rule applicable to assignments of choses in action is that an assignment, unless there is a contract to the contrary, carries with it all securities held by the assignor as collateral to the claim and all rights incidental thereto and vests in the assignee the equitable title to such collateral securities and incidental rights. An unqualified assignment of a contract or chose in action, however, with no indication of the intent of the parties, vests in the assignee the assigned contract or chose and all rights and remedies incidental thereto.

More examples: In Strosberg v. Brauvin Realty Servs ., 295 Ill. App. 3d 17 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1998), the court held that the assignee of a party to a subordination agreement is entitled to the benefits and is subject to the burdens of the agreement. In Florida E. C. R. Co. v. Eno , 99 Fla. 887 (Fla. 1930), the court held that the mere assignment of all sums due in and of itself creates no different or other liability of the owner to the assignee than that which existed from the owner to the assignor.

And note that even though an assignment vests in the assignee all rights, remedies, and contingent benefits which are incidental to the thing assigned, those which are personal to the assignor and for his sole benefit are not assigned. Rasp v. Hidden Valley Lake, Inc ., 519 N.E.2d 153, 158 (Ind. Ct. App. 1988). Thus, if the underlying agreement provides that a service can only be provided to X, X cannot assign that right to Y.

Novation Compared to Assignment:

Although the difference between a novation and an assignment may appear narrow, it is an essential one. “Novation is a act whereby one party transfers all its obligations and benefits under a contract to a third party.” In a novation, a third party successfully substitutes the original party as a party to the contract. “When a contract is novated, the other contracting party must be left in the same position he was in prior to the novation being made.”

A sublease is the transfer when a tenant retains some right of reentry onto the leased premises. However, if the tenant transfers the entire leasehold estate, retaining no right of reentry or other reversionary interest, then the transfer is an assignment. The assignor is normally also removed from liability to the landlord only if the landlord consents or allowed that right in the lease. In a sublease, the original tenant is not released from the obligations of the original lease.

Equitable Assignments:

An equitable assignment is one in which one has a future interest and is not valid at law but valid in a court of equity. In National Bank of Republic v. United Sec. Life Ins. & Trust Co. , 17 App. D.C. 112 (D.C. Cir. 1900), the court held that to constitute an equitable assignment of a chose in action, the following has to occur generally: anything said written or done, in pursuance of an agreement and for valuable consideration, or in consideration of an antecedent debt, to place a chose in action or fund out of the control of the owner, and appropriate it to or in favor of another person, amounts to an equitable assignment. Thus, an agreement, between a debtor and a creditor, that the debt shall be paid out of a specific fund going to the debtor may operate as an equitable assignment.

In Egyptian Navigation Co. v. Baker Invs. Corp. , 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30804 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 14, 2008), the court stated that an equitable assignment occurs under English law when an assignor, with an intent to transfer his/her right to a chose in action, informs the assignee about the right so transferred.

An executory agreement or a declaration of trust are also equitable assignments if unenforceable as assignments by a court of law but enforceable by a court of equity exercising sound discretion according to the circumstances of the case. Since California combines courts of equity and courts of law, the same court would hear arguments as to whether an equitable assignment had occurred. Quite often, such relief is granted to avoid fraud or unjust enrichment.

Note that obtaining an assignment through fraudulent means invalidates the assignment. Fraud destroys the validity of everything into which it enters. It vitiates the most solemn contracts, documents, and even judgments. Walker v. Rich , 79 Cal. App. 139 (Cal. App. 1926). If an assignment is made with the fraudulent intent to delay, hinder, and defraud creditors, then it is void as fraudulent in fact. See our article on Transfers to Defraud Creditors .

But note that the motives that prompted an assignor to make the transfer will be considered as immaterial and will constitute no defense to an action by the assignee, if an assignment is considered as valid in all other respects.

Enforceability of Assignments:

Whether a right under a contract is capable of being transferred is determined by the law of the place where the contract was entered into. The validity and effect of an assignment is determined by the law of the place of assignment. The validity of an assignment of a contractual right is governed by the law of the state with the most significant relationship to the assignment and the parties.

In some jurisdictions, the traditional conflict of laws rules governing assignments has been rejected and the law of the place having the most significant contacts with the assignment applies. In Downs v. American Mut. Liability Ins. Co ., 14 N.Y.2d 266 (N.Y. 1964), a wife and her husband separated and the wife obtained a judgment of separation from the husband in New York. The judgment required the husband to pay a certain yearly sum to the wife. The husband assigned 50 percent of his future salary, wages, and earnings to the wife. The agreement authorized the employer to make such payments to the wife.

After the husband moved from New York, the wife learned that he was employed by an employer in Massachusetts. She sent the proper notice and demanded payment under the agreement. The employer refused and the wife brought an action for enforcement. The court observed that Massachusetts did not prohibit assignment of the husband’s wages. Moreover, Massachusetts law was not controlling because New York had the most significant relationship with the assignment. Therefore, the court ruled in favor of the wife.

Therefore, the validity of an assignment is determined by looking to the law of the forum with the most significant relationship to the assignment itself. To determine the applicable law of assignments, the court must look to the law of the state which is most significantly related to the principal issue before it.

Assignment of Contractual Rights:

Generally, the law allows the assignment of a contractual right unless the substitution of rights would materially change the duty of the obligor, materially increase the burden or risk imposed on the obligor by the contract, materially impair the chance of obtaining return performance, or materially reduce the value of the performance to the obligor. Restat 2d of Contracts, § 317(2)(a). This presumes that the underlying agreement is silent on the right to assign.

If the contract specifically precludes assignment, the contractual right is not assignable. Whether a contract is assignable is a matter of contractual intent and one must look to the language used by the parties to discern that intent.

In the absence of an express provision to the contrary, the rights and duties under a bilateral executory contract that does not involve personal skill, trust, or confidence may be assigned without the consent of the other party. But note that an assignment is invalid if it would materially alter the other party’s duties and responsibilities. Once an assignment is effective, the assignee stands in the shoes of the assignor and assumes all of assignor’s rights. Hence, after a valid assignment, the assignor’s right to performance is extinguished, transferred to assignee, and the assignee possesses the same rights, benefits, and remedies assignor once possessed. Robert Lamb Hart Planners & Architects v. Evergreen, Ltd. , 787 F. Supp. 753 (S.D. Ohio 1992).

On the other hand, an assignee’s right against the obligor is subject to “all of the limitations of the assignor’s right, all defenses thereto, and all set-offs and counterclaims which would have been available against the assignor had there been no assignment, provided that these defenses and set-offs are based on facts existing at the time of the assignment.” See Robert Lamb , case, above.

The power of the contract to restrict assignment is broad. Usually, contractual provisions that restrict assignment of the contract without the consent of the obligor are valid and enforceable, even when there is statutory authorization for the assignment. The restriction of the power to assign is often ineffective unless the restriction is expressly and precisely stated. Anti-assignment clauses are effective only if they contain clear, unambiguous language of prohibition. Anti-assignment clauses protect only the obligor and do not affect the transaction between the assignee and assignor.

Usually, a prohibition against the assignment of a contract does not prevent an assignment of the right to receive payments due, unless circumstances indicate the contrary. Moreover, the contracting parties cannot, by a mere non-assignment provision, prevent the effectual alienation of the right to money which becomes due under the contract.

A contract provision prohibiting or restricting an assignment may be waived, or a party may so act as to be estopped from objecting to the assignment, such as by effectively ratifying the assignment. The power to void an assignment made in violation of an anti-assignment clause may be waived either before or after the assignment. See our article on Contracts.

Noncompete Clauses and Assignments:

Of critical import to most buyers of businesses is the ability to ensure that key employees of the business being purchased cannot start a competing company. Some states strictly limit such clauses, some do allow them. California does restrict noncompete clauses, only allowing them under certain circumstances. A common question in those states that do allow them is whether such rights can be assigned to a new party, such as the buyer of the buyer.

A covenant not to compete, also called a non-competitive clause, is a formal agreement prohibiting one party from performing similar work or business within a designated area for a specified amount of time. This type of clause is generally included in contracts between employer and employee and contracts between buyer and seller of a business.

Many workers sign a covenant not to compete as part of the paperwork required for employment. It may be a separate document similar to a non-disclosure agreement, or buried within a number of other clauses in a contract. A covenant not to compete is generally legal and enforceable, although there are some exceptions and restrictions.

Whenever a company recruits skilled employees, it invests a significant amount of time and training. For example, it often takes years before a research chemist or a design engineer develops a workable knowledge of a company’s product line, including trade secrets and highly sensitive information. Once an employee gains this knowledge and experience, however, all sorts of things can happen. The employee could work for the company until retirement, accept a better offer from a competing company or start up his or her own business.

A covenant not to compete may cover a number of potential issues between employers and former employees. Many companies spend years developing a local base of customers or clients. It is important that this customer base not fall into the hands of local competitors. When an employee signs a covenant not to compete, he or she usually agrees not to use insider knowledge of the company’s customer base to disadvantage the company. The covenant not to compete often defines a broad geographical area considered off-limits to former employees, possibly tens or hundreds of miles.

Another area of concern covered by a covenant not to compete is a potential ‘brain drain’. Some high-level former employees may seek to recruit others from the same company to create new competition. Retention of employees, especially those with unique skills or proprietary knowledge, is vital for most companies, so a covenant not to compete may spell out definite restrictions on the hiring or recruiting of employees.

A covenant not to compete may also define a specific amount of time before a former employee can seek employment in a similar field. Many companies offer a substantial severance package to make sure former employees are financially solvent until the terms of the covenant not to compete have been met.

Because the use of a covenant not to compete can be controversial, a handful of states, including California, have largely banned this type of contractual language. The legal enforcement of these agreements falls on individual states, and many have sided with the employee during arbitration or litigation. A covenant not to compete must be reasonable and specific, with defined time periods and coverage areas. If the agreement gives the company too much power over former employees or is ambiguous, state courts may declare it to be overbroad and therefore unenforceable. In such case, the employee would be free to pursue any employment opportunity, including working for a direct competitor or starting up a new company of his or her own.

It has been held that an employee’s covenant not to compete is assignable where one business is transferred to another, that a merger does not constitute an assignment of a covenant not to compete, and that a covenant not to compete is enforceable by a successor to the employer where the assignment does not create an added burden of employment or other disadvantage to the employee. However, in some states such as Hawaii, it has also been held that a covenant not to compete is not assignable and under various statutes for various reasons that such covenants are not enforceable against an employee by a successor to the employer. Hawaii v. Gannett Pac. Corp. , 99 F. Supp. 2d 1241 (D. Haw. 1999)

It is vital to obtain the relevant law of the applicable state before drafting or attempting to enforce assignment rights in this particular area.


In the current business world of fast changing structures, agreements, employees and projects, the ability to assign rights and obligations is essential to allow flexibility and adjustment to new situations. Conversely, the ability to hold a contracting party into the deal may be essential for the future of a party. Thus, the law of assignments and the restriction on same is a critical aspect of every agreement and every structure. This basic provision is often glanced at by the contracting parties, or scribbled into the deal at the last minute but can easily become the most vital part of the transaction.

As an example, one client of ours came into the office outraged that his co venturer on a sizable exporting agreement, who had excellent connections in Brazil, had elected to pursue another venture instead and assigned the agreement to a party unknown to our client and without the business contacts our client considered vital. When we examined the handwritten agreement our client had drafted in a restaurant in Sao Paolo, we discovered there was no restriction on assignment whatsoever…our client had not even considered that right when drafting the agreement after a full day of work.

One choses who one does business with carefully…to ensure that one’s choice remains the party on the other side of the contract, one must master the ability to negotiate proper assignment provisions.

Founded in 1939, our law firm combines the ability to represent clients in domestic or international matters with the personal interaction with clients that is traditional to a long established law firm.

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Legal briefing - Novation and assignment of contracts

Publication date: 19 May 2017

In this issue:

What is the difference between novation and assignment?

When is a novation or assignment required and which one do you use, issues to consider when deciding whether to agree to a novation or assignment, executing the novation or assignment.

Commonwealth entities encounter a variety of situations where contractual rights and obligations may need to be transferred from one legal entity to another. This can arise where a supplier is restructuring its operations or as part of a sale of a business. In these situations, there are 2 legal tools available to achieve a transfer of rights or obligations: novation and assignment. This legal briefing sets out some key considerations for Commonwealth entities when considering a novation or assignment.

While this legal briefing looks at novation and assignment of contracts generally, additional issues can arise in the context of interests in land, such as leases – these issues are beyond the scope of this legal briefing.

The following table compares the general principles that distinguish novation from assignment. 1

Table 1: Differences between novation and assignment

A novation is the mechanism by which a contract is terminated and a new contract is made between different or additional parties. 2 The new contract is generally on the same terms as the original contract. A novation has the effect of substituting one party for another party without necessarily changing the rights and obligations under the original contract. The rights and obligations under the original contract can be transferred to the new party.

A novation requires the consent of all the parties to the original contract as well as the consent of the new party. 3 It is a tripartite agreement between the original parties and the new party. Consent of all the parties to enter into the agreement is therefore crucial. 4 A novation usually takes the form of a deed.

Example of novation

The Commonwealth and B have a contract under which B provides certain services.

B is proposing to sell its business to C. C is prepared to take on B’s obligation under the contract with the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth undertakes its due diligence and agrees to the substitution of B with C. For the substitution to occur, a novation is needed. Once the novation is signed, C is responsible to the Commonwealth for the services under the contract.

The following diagram demonstrates this novation.

Diagram 1: Transfer of both rights and obligations

Diagram 1: Transfer of both rights and obligations

An assignment is the mechanism by which a party to a contract (the assignor) transfers its existing rights and benefits under that contract to a third party (the assignee). 5 Importantly, the assignor cannot transfer its burdens, obligations or liabilities to the assignee through an assignment. 6 This means that the assignor is not released from its obligations under the contract. Further, the assignee does not become a party to the original contract but can enforce their right to receive the assigned benefits.

An assignment does not require a new contract. The assignor must only record the assignment in writing, 7 sign it and provide written notice of the assignment to the other party to the contract. At law it is possible for an assignment of rights to take place without the consent of the other party to the contract. 8 This can be problematic if the other party to the contract prefers to deal with the assignor rather than the new third party. For this reason, most Commonwealth contracts contain a clause which prevents the contractor from assigning its rights under the contract, in whole or in part, without first obtaining the written consent of the Commonwealth. Sometimes the contract will also provide that the Commonwealth is not obliged to give its consent. Sometimes, this clause will refer to the consent not being ‘unreasonably withheld’.

Example of assignment

The Commonwealth and B have a contract under which B provides consultancy services to the Commonwealth. B wants to transfer its right to receive payment for the services to a third party, C. For this to occur, B can assign its rights to receive payment under the contract to C. This can be achieved through a deed of assignment between B and C. At law, the assignment can occur without any involvement of or consent from the Commonwealth. Importantly, B continues to remain a party to the contract with the Commonwealth, so B is still obliged to perform the services and B’s contractual liabilities remain unchanged. However, the third party, C, will have a legally enforceable right to receive the Commonwealth’s payment for the services that B performs.

Although C is not made a party to the original contract between the Commonwealth and B, the practical result of the assignment is that C can enforce the right to receive payment under the contract against the Commonwealth.

The following diagram demonstrates this arrangement.

Diagram 2: Transfer of rights only

Diagram 2: Transfer of rights only

Commonwealth entities are often asked to consider requests to novate or assign agreements. These requests can arise with funding agreements, contracts for goods and services and other agreements for a variety of reasons.

Where a change to the underlying contractual arrangements is requested, the Commonwealth entity will need to consider whether the proposed change is acceptable and determine whether a novation or an assignment is most appropriate. 9

Do I use a novation or an assignment?

Is the new party taking over both rights and obligations , with the existing contractor not to have an ongoing role under the contract?

  • a novation will usually be required.

Is the new party taking over contractual rights only , with the existing contractor continuing to be responsible for performing obligations?

  • an assignment will usually be required.

The table below outlines some common situations in which the question of novation or assignment might arise.

Table 2: Circumstances that may result in a novation or assignment

When an agency is considering whether to agree to a novation or assignment, there will be a range of matters that will need to be addressed. In some cases, it may be appropriate to terminate the existing contract and undertake a new procurement or funding process.

First, the terms of the existing contract should be considered. The contract may include provisions dealing directly with novation or assignment. Many Commonwealth contracts prohibit novation or assignment without the consent of the Commonwealth entity. This allows the Commonwealth entities to carefully select their suppliers, contractors, funding recipients and other parties that they are dealing with. It is common for these contractual provisions to specify that the Commonwealth will not unreasonably withhold approval for novation or assignment. Conversely, the contract may include a standing consent 11  by the Commonwealth to certain kinds of novation or assignment (for example, within the same corporate group). Even in this case, a formal deed of novation will usually still be required.

Second, when an agency is deciding whether to agree to a novation or assignment, it may need to consider a range of approval processes and risk management requirements that apply to this commitment of relevant money. It may be necessary to check the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (in particular, s 15, s 16 and ss 25–29), the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rules 2014 (in particular, rule 18), the accountable authority instructions and other applicable legislation that may specifically apply to the contract.

Third, although strictly not directly relevant to the novation or assignment, it is common for variations to the contract to be raised at the same time. Agencies should approach any request for a variation as part of a novation or assignment in the same way they would at any other point in the contract period.

Due diligence

The information you need will vary from case to case but might include the following.

Background entity information on the new party

  • What are the management capabilities of the entity?
  • Has the Commonwealth previously dealt with the entity?
  • Is the body a foreign entity? If so, advice may be required as to whether it has executed a binding contract.
  • Is the body a partnership or unincorporated association? If so, who will be bound by the contract following the novation?
  • Is the body the trustee of a trust? If so, does the trustee have the requisite authority under the trust deed?
  • Do you have information on any relevant ‘fit and proper person’ considerations?

Financial status information

  • How does the financial status of the new contractor compare with that of the existing contractor?
  • Should you seek a parent guarantee or other security (is the body a $2 company)?
  • Do you require independent financial advice on any figures that the new party has provided?
  • Can the new party meet the insurance requirements specified in the contract?

Evidence of the company’s ability to perform the contract

  • What is happening to any key personnel under the contract? Are they moving to the new party?
  • Will the new party have access to all relevant facilities and specialist equipment?
  • Does the new party hold all relevant licences and registrations?
  • Do you have evidence that the company will satisfy the conditions or requirements of the contract – for example, will it hold funding in a special account or satisfy milestone requirements or any relevant eligibility criteria for funding?

Proposed transitional arrangements

If it is decided that a novation or assignment will be agreed to then it may be necessary to put transitional arrangements in place. Matters that may need to be considered will include the following:

  • What are the interim arrangements for performance of the activity (for example, arrangements between the time the novation is agreed to and the deed of novation is executed)?
  • Is there a transition plan?
  • What resources will be needed to manage the transition? Who will bear the cost?

Novations: matters to consider

  • Is the Commonwealth satisfied that the new contractor can perform the obligations under the contract and manage risk? Is the new contractor an acceptable entity to contract with in terms of due diligence process on probity issues, financial viability and capability?
  • Who will be liable for past performance or defaults before the new contractor takes over? Will the existing contractor remain liable for its performance or will the new contractor take on responsibility for any problems with the original contractor’s performance?
  • Will the novation have any impact on subcontracts or other contracts – for example, contracts with other parties working on the same site?
  • Are there any issues with the existing contractor’s performance that should be addressed and finalised before agreeing to the deed of novation? Make sure that you do not inadvertently make unintended amendments to the contract. For example, an acknowledgement of correspondence about a proposed novation which mentions a related delay in delivery may be taken to be acceptance of the delay.
  • Are there specific issues for the particular type of contract? For example, where a grant agreement deals with assets purchased with the grant, you may need to ensure those assets are being transferred to the new contractor (unless otherwise agreed).
  • Are there any existing securities or financial arrangements under the original contract that need to be replaced or updated? For example, even if both the existing and new contractor are subsidiaries of the same parent entity, an existing parent guarantee or other security may need to be amended to cover the new contractor. There may also be Personal Property Security Register entries that need to be updated.
  • At what point will the new contractor take over from the existing contractor: the date the novation deed is signed or a different date?
  • Are there any additional costs and who will bear these costs? Usually the party that is seeking the novation is required to meet the other party’s costs.

Assignments: matters to consider

  • Is the Commonwealth satisfied that the assignor can continue to perform its obligations under the contract without receiving payment?
  • Does the assignor have financial viability issues? Has the assignor sold its right to receive payment from the Commonwealth as part of a settlement of a debt with a creditor?
  • What is the underlying reason for the proposed assignment?
  • Is the proposed assignment detrimental to the Commonwealth?
  • Does the contract between the Commonwealth and the proposed assignor propose to create a confidential relationship or an enduring relationship? Does the Commonwealth want to have any engagement with the proposed assignee?

Once an agency has decided to accept a novation or assignment, the new arrangements must be recorded. The original contract may establish the form of instrument required to execute the novation or assignment. 12 In any event, the instrument may need to reflect the following.

A deed of novation will typically:

  • substitute one party for another
  • include mutual release of future obligations under the original contract between the Commonwealth and the original contractor
  • clearly specify responsibilities and liability of the original contractor and the new contractor for the pre-novation period – often supported by indemnities
  • include representations and warranties with respect to the power of the original contractor and the new contractor to enter into the deed of novation
  • include an agreement as to costs that the parties will bear in connection with the preparation, execution and completion of the novation – it is common for the other parties to pay the Commonwealth’s costs.

A deed of assignment will typically:

  • unconditionally transfer the relevant benefit to the assignee, giving the assignee complete control of that benefit, including the right to take legal action to enforce it
  • clearly specify whether there will be a redemption or reassignment in the future – for example, upon repayment of a loan
  • confirm arrangements for the ongoing performance of the contract by the assignee
  • include agreement as to costs to be borne by the parties in connection with the preparation, execution and completion of the assignment – it is common for the other parties to pay the Commonwealth’s costs.

1 See generally Olsson v Dyson (1969) 120 CLR 365, 388.

2 See Olsson v Dyson (1969) 120 CLR 365, 388.

3 See Olsson v Dyson (1969) 120 CLR 365, 388. Note that, in Leveraged Equities Ltd v Goodridge (2011) 191 FCR 71, the Full Federal Court held that it is possible for a contracting party to prospectively authorise a novation to be made by another party unilaterally. See also CSG Ltd v Fuji Xerox Australia Pty Ltd [2011] NSWCA 335,134.

4 See F ightvision Pty Ltd v Onisforou (1999) 47 NSWLR 473, 491–492; and Vickery v Woods (1952) 85 CLR 33, 345.

5 Norman v Federal Commissioner of Taxation (1963) 109 CLR 9, 26.

6 ALH Group Property Holdings Pty Ltd v Chief Commissioner of State Revenue (2012) 245 CLR 338, 346 [12].

7 This is a legislative requirement in each state: see, for example, Property Law Act 1958 (Vic) s 134.

8 See Olsson v Dyson (1969) 120 CLR 365, 388.

9 In CSG Limited v Fuji Xerox Australia Pty Ltd [2011] NSWCA 335, [133], Sackville AJA (Bathurst CJ and Campbell JA agreeing) observed that the end result in a case of novation and a case of assignment may be similar.

10 In some cases the contract may require agency approval to some of these changes or other amendments to the contract. This is different from a novation or assignment.

11 See note 3.

12 In Leveraged Equities Ltd v Goodridge (2011) 191 FCR 71, the Court stressed the importance of drafting novation and assignment clauses in the original contract clearly to avoid ambiguity when one or more parties later seek to novate or assign.

Deputy General Counsel Commercial

Senior Lawyer

The material in this briefing is provided to AGS clients for general information only and should not be relied upon for the purpose of a particular matter. Please contact AGS before any action or decision is taken on the basis of any of the material in this briefing.

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What Is Novation?

How novation works, novation vs. assignment.

  • Novation FAQs

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Novation: Definition in Contract Law, Types, Uses, and Example

assignment vs contract

Investopedia / Julie Bang

Novation is the replacement of one of the parties in an agreement between two parties, with the consent of all three parties involved. To novate is to replace an old obligation with a new one.

For example, a supplier who wants to relinquish a business customer might find another source for the customer. If all three agree, the contract can be torn up and replaced with a new contract that differs only in the name of the supplier. The old supplier relinquishes all rights and obligations of the contract to the new supplier.

Key Takeaways

  • To novate is to replace an old obligation with a new one.
  • In contract law, a novation replaces one of the parties in a two-party agreement with a third party, with the agreement of all three parties.
  • In a novate, the original contract is void. The party that drops out has given up its benefits and obligations.
  • In the financial markets, using a clearinghouse to vet a transaction between two parties is known as a novation.
  • Novation is different than an assignment, where the original party to the agreement retains ultimate responsibility. Therefore, the original contract remains in place.

In legal language, novation is a transfer of both the "benefits and the burdens" of a contract to another party. Contract benefits may be anything. For example, the benefit could be payments for services. The burdens are the obligations taken on to earn the payment—in this example, the services. One party to the contract is willing to forgo the benefits and relinquish the duties.

Canceling a contract can be messy, expensive, and bad for an entity's reputation. Arranging for another party to fulfill the contract on the same terms, with the agreement of all parties, is better business.

Novations are often seen in the construction industry, where subcontractors may be juggling several jobs at once. Contractors may transfer certain jobs to other contractors with the client's consent.

Novations are most frequently used when a business is sold, or a corporation is taken over. The new owner may want to retain the business's contractual obligations, while the other parties want to continue their agreements without interruption. Novations smooth the transition.

Types of Novations

There are three types of novations:

  • Standard : This novation occurs when two parties agree that new terms must be added to their contract, resulting in a new one.
  • Expromissio : Three parties must be involved in this novation; a transferor, a counterparty, and a transferee. All three must agree to the new terms and make a new contract.
  • Delegation : One of the parties in a contract passes their responsibilities to a new party, legally binding that party to the terms of the contract.

A novation is an alternative to the procedure known as an assignment .

In an assignment, one person or business transfers rights or property to another person or business. But the assignment passes along only the benefits, while any obligations remain with the original contract party. Novations pass along both benefits and potential liabilities to the new party.

For example, a sub-lease is an assignment. The original rental contract remains in place. The landlord can hold the primary leaseholder responsible for damage or non-payment by the sub-letter.

Novation gives rights and the obligations to the new party, and the old one walks away. The original contract is nullified.

In property law, novation occurs when a tenant signs a lease over to another party, which assumes both the responsibility for the rent and the liability for any subsequent damages to the property, as indicated in the original lease.

Generally, an assignment and a novation require the approval of all three parties involved.

A sub-lease agreement is usually an assignment, not a novation. The primary leaseholder remains responsible for non-payment or damage.

Novation Uses

Because a novation replaces a contract, it can be used in any business, industry, or market where contracts are used.

Financial Markets

In financial markets, novations are generally used in credit default swaps, options, or futures when contracts are transferred to a derivatives  market clearinghouse. A bilateral transaction is completed through the clearinghouse , which functions as an intermediary.

The sellers transfer the rights to and obligations of their securities to the clearinghouse. The clearinghouse, in turn, sells the securities to the buyers. Both the transferor (the seller) and transferee (the buyer) must agree to the terms of the novation, and the remaining party (the clearinghouse) must consent by a specific deadline. If the remaining party doesn't consent, the transferor and transferee must book a new trade and go through the process again.

Real Estate

Contracts are a part of real estate transactions, so novation is a valuable tool in the industry. If buyers and sellers enter into a contract, novation allows them to change it when issues arise during due diligence, inspection, or closing.

Commercial and residential rental contracts can be changed using novation if tenants or renters experience changes that affect their needs or ability to make payments.

Government Contracting

Federal, state, and local governments find it cheaper and beneficial for the economy to contract specific tasks rather than create an official workforce. Contracts are critical components for private or public companies who win a bid to do work for governments. If the contractor suddenly can't deliver on the contract or other issues prevent it from completing its task, the contractor can ask the government to recognize another party to complete the project.

A novation is not a unilateral contract mechanism. All concerned parties may negotiate the terms until a consensus is reached.

Banks use novation to transfer loans or other debts to different lenders. This typically involves canceling the contract and creating a new one with the exact terms and conditions of the old one.

Example of Novation

Novation can occur between any two parties. Consider the following example—Maria signed a contract with Chris to buy a cryptocurrency for $200. Chris has a contract with Uni for the same type of cryptocurrency for $200. These debt obligations may be simplified through a novation. By agreement of all three parties, a novation agreement is drawn, with a new contract in which Chris transfers the debt and its obligations to Maria. Maria pays Uni $200 in crypto. Chris receives (and pays) nothing.

Novations also allow for revisions of payment terms as long as the parties involved agree. For example, say Uni decided not to accept crypto but wanted cash instead. If Maria agrees, a novation occurs, and new payment terms are entered on a contract.

What Is a Novation?

In novation, one party in a two-party agreement gives up all rights and obligations outlined in a contract to a third party. As a result, the original contract is canceled.

What Is The Meaning of Novation Agreement?

In novation, the rights and obligations of one party to a two-party contract are transferred to a third party, with the agreement of all three parties.

Is Novation a New Contract?

Yes, because the old contract is invalidated or "extinguished" when the new contract is signed.

In a novation, when all parties agree, one party in a two-party agreement gives up all rights and obligations outlined in a contract to a third party. As a result, the original contract is canceled.

Novation differs from an assignment, where one party gives up all rights outlined in the contract but remains responsible for fulfilling its terms. The original contract remains in place.

International Swaps and Derivatives Association. " ISDA Novation Protocol ."

General Services Administration. " Subpart 42.12 - Novation and Change-of-Name Agreements ."

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What Is the Difference Between Assignment and Novation?

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By Jordan Bramis Lawyer

Updated on November 7, 2023 Reading time: 5 minutes

This article meets our strict editorial principles. Our lawyers, experienced writers and legally trained editorial team put every effort into ensuring the information published on our website is accurate. We encourage you to seek independent legal advice. Learn more .


Other differences between an assignment and novation, choosing between assignment and novation, key takeaways.

To further your commercial endeavours, you may wish to transfer your rights under a contract to another party. The primary legal mechanisms for transferring the rights or obligations under a contract to a third party are assignment, which involves transferring benefits or rights and novation, which facilitates the transfer of both rights/benefits and obligations. It is crucial to understand that these concepts are different. Unfortunately, many people tend to confuse the two, leading to unwanted consequences in relation to legal contracts. This article will explore the key differences between the two.

Under a contract, where a party (the original party to the contract) is initiating an ‘assignment’, they are transferring some or all of their contractual rights to a third party, known as the “assignor”. The recipient of those contractual rights is known as the “assignee”. For instance, a party can transfer the right to receive payment or benefits under the contract through an assignment.

Following an assignment, the assignee gains the right to the benefits of the contract that the assignor has assigned. Furthermore, they gain the authority to initiate legal proceedings, either individually or in conjunction with the assignor. It is important to note, however, that the assignee does not become a contracting party to the original agreement. Under assignment, contractual burdens and liabilities cannot be transferred. Therefore, the assignor retains responsibility for fulfilling any remaining contractual obligations that still need to be discharged.

In most cases, assignment necessitates the consent of the obligor (the party obligated to fulfil the contract). The obligor needs to agree to the assignee taking over the rights held by the assignor. Additionally, the assignor must provide notice to the obligor about the assignment. This notice serves to inform the obligor that they should now deal with the assignee regarding the assigned rights.

By comparison, a novation agreement achieves the transfer of both rights and obligations to a third party. Here, the new party (the “novatee”) steps into the shoes of the original party (the “novator”) and assumes both the rights and obligations. 

A novation agreement essentially terminates the contract with the original party and creates a new contract with the new party. A novation agreement means you can substitute one party for another without changing the obligations agreed to in the original contract. 

Novation most often arises in big corporate takeovers or on the sale of a business. On takeover, deeds of novation are used to transfer contracts from the seller to the buyer and allow the buyer to carry on the seller’s business.

All involved parties, including the remaining contractual party, the novator, and the novatee, must unanimously agree to the novation. It is a collective decision to replace the old contract with a new one.

Novation creates an entirely new legal relationship. The old contract is set aside, and the new contract, which includes the novatee, comes into effect. Following novation, the novator is released from all obligations and liabilities associated with the original contract.

The choice between assignment and novation depends on various factors.

If a party wishes to maintain some level of involvement and responsibility in the original contract, assignment is often the better choice. It enables the transfer of specific rights while retaining some obligations. For a complete break from the original contract, where a party wishes to shed all obligations and liabilities, novation may be preferential.

One of the most important and sometimes overlooked steps is to document what you have agreed to in writing. Have your agreement written up, signed and stored safely. The area where most disputes and disagreements arise is where parties have not written down what they agree to. This results in a conflict that could have been easily avoided.

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When you are ready to sell your business and begin the next chapter, it is important to understand the moving parts that will impact a successful sale.

This How to Sell Your Business Guide covers all the essential topics you need to know about selling your business.

If you intend to assign your rights under a contract to a third party, you can do so through an assignment or a novation. However, be aware that these differ. An assignment gives some rights to a third party, whereas a novation transfers both rights and obligations to a third party. Ensure that whichever method you choose, you document this in a written agreement.

If you need further assistance with an assignment or novation, our experienced contract lawyers can assist you as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 1300 544 755 or visit our membership page .

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United States: When Is An "Assignment" Clause Worth Fighting For?

View Megan M. Coneeny Biography on their website

Q. My small business is negotiating with a vendor who has asked to remove our contract’s “assignment” clause entirely. Is it worth the time to argue over whether to include an assignment clause?

A.  First, it’s important to understand the purpose of the assignment clause. “Assignment” occurs when a party transfers its rights and obligations under a contract to another party. Generally, unless the parties have agreed otherwise, each can assign its rights and obligations freely.

Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code, a set of laws governing the sale of goods that has been adopted by 49 states, including New Hampshire, provides that a party can freely assign its rights and obligations to another unless such assignment would materially change the duties of the other party, burden the other party, or decrease the other party’s chances of receiving performance under the contract.

If your vendor eliminates the assignment clause and no agreement on the topic is provided in the contract, your vendor will be free to transfer its obligations to another person or company without giving you notice or obtaining your approval.

Parties do have the ability, however, to mutually decide against the free assignability of a contract and this is often accomplished through an assignment clause. An assignment clause spells out which, if any, of a party’s obligations and rights under a contract are able to be assigned, or transferred, to another party. Free assignability and no assignability are not the only options, and you and your vendor can negotiate terms for assignment that are amenable to both of you.

For example, some clauses allow for assignment with the other party’s consent, meaning, the vendor would have to obtain your approval of the assignee prior to assigning any of its rights or obligations under the contract. Other times, assignment clauses allow for free assignment only to certain persons or entities, such as the vendor’s subsidiaries and affiliates, provided that the vendor gives you notice of such permitted assignment. Another option is to allow for assignment by the vendor provided that it guaranties the assignee’s performance.

Consider potential situations in which the vendor may want to assign the contract and determine whether it’s important to you to have control over assignment in each instance.

Consider discussing situations in which it may be important for the vendor to have freedom of assignment and, instead of removing the provision all together, specify those situations in which assignment is permitted, list those rights or obligations that are assignable, and consider whether, when assignment is permitted, notice, consent or a guaranty will be required.

Published in the Union Leader (2/25/2019)

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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What Is an Assignment of Contract?

Assignment of Contract Explained

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Assignment of contract allows one person to assign, or transfer, their rights, obligations, or property to another. An assignment of contract clause is often included in contracts to give either party the opportunity to transfer their part of the contract to someone else in the future. Many assignment clauses require that both parties agree to the assignment.

Learn more about assignment of contract and how it works.

What Is Assignment of Contract?

Assignment of contract means the contract and the property, rights, or obligations within it can be assigned to another party. An assignment of contract clause can typically be found in a business contract. This type of clause is common in contracts with suppliers or vendors and in intellectual property (patent, trademark , and copyright) agreements.

How Does Assignment of Contract Work?

An assignment may be made to anyone, but it is typically made to a subsidiary or a successor. A subsidiary is a business owned by another business, while a successor is the business that follows a sale, acquisition, or merger.

Let’s suppose Ken owns a lawn mowing service and he has a contract with a real estate firm to mow at each of their offices every week in the summer. The contract includes an assignment clause, so when Ken goes out of business, he assigns the contract to his sister-in-law Karrie, who also owns a lawn mowing service.

Before you try to assign something in a contract, check the contract to make sure it's allowed, and notify the other party in the contract.

Assignment usually is included in a specific clause in a contract. It typically includes transfer of both accountability and responsibility to another party, but liability usually remains with the assignor (the person doing the assigning) unless there is language to the contrary.

What Does Assignment of Contract Cover?

Generally, just about anything of value in a contract can be assigned, unless there is a specific law or public policy disallowing the assignment.

Rights and obligations of specific people can’t be assigned because special skills and abilities can’t be transferred. This is called specific performance.   For example, Billy Joel wouldn't be able to transfer or assign a contract to perform at Madison Square Garden to someone else—they wouldn't have his special abilities.

Assignments won’t stand up in court if the assignment significantly changes the terms of the contract. For example, if Karrie’s business is tree trimming, not lawn mowing, the contract can’t be assigned to her.

Assigning Intellectual Property

Intellectual property (such as copyrights, patents, and trademarks) has value, and these assets are often assigned. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) says patents are personal property and that patent rights can be assigned. Trademarks, too, can be assigned. The assignment must be registered with the USPTO's Electronic Trademark Assignment System (ETAS) .  

The U.S. Copyright Office doesn't keep a database of copyright assignments, but they will record the document if you follow their procedure.

Alternatives to Assignment of Contract

There are other types of transfers that may be functional alternatives to assignment.

Licensing is an agreement whereby one party leases the rights to use a piece of property (for example, intellectual property) from another. For instance, a business that owns a patent may license another company to make products using that patent.  

Delegation permits someone else to act on your behalf. For example, Ken’s lawn service might delegate Karrie to do mowing for him without assigning the entire contract to her. Ken would still receive the payment and control the work.

Do I Need an Assignment of Contract?

Assignment of contract can be a useful clause to include in a business agreement. The most common cases of assignment of contract in a business situation are:

  • Assignment of a trademark, copyright, or patent
  • Assignments to a successor company in the case of the sale of the business
  • Assignment in a contract with a supplier or customer
  • Assignment in an employment contract or work for hire agreement

Before you sign a contract, look to see if there is an assignment clause, and get the advice of an attorney if you want to assign something in a contract.

Key Takeaways

  • Assignment of contract is the ability to transfer rights, property, or obligations to another.
  • Assignment of contract is a clause often found in business contracts.
  • A party may assign a contract to another party if the contract permits it and no law forbids it.

Legal Information Institute. " Assignment ." Accessed Jan. 2, 2021.

Legal Information Institute. " Specific Performance ." Accessed Jan. 2, 2021.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. " 301 Ownership/Assignability of Patents and Applications [R-10.2019] ." Accessed Jan. 2, 2021.

Licensing International. " What is Licensing ." Accessed Jan. 2, 2021.

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Contract Assignments

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  What is a Contract Assignment?

In a contract assignment, one of the two parties to a contract may transfer their right to the other’s performance to a third party. This is known as “contract assignment.” Generally, all rights under a contract may be assigned. A provision in the contract that states the contract may not be assigned usually refers to the delegation of the assignor’s (person who assigns) duties under that contract, not their rights under the contract. 

In modern law, the phrase “assignment of contract” usually means assignment of both rights and duties under a contract.

Who are the Various Parties Involved in a Contract Assignment?

How is a contract assignment created, when is a contract assignment prohibited, which parties are liable to each other in a contract assignment, are there issues with multiple assignments, should i hire a lawyer for contract assignments.

In a contract, there are two parties to the agreement, X and Y. The parties may agree to let X assign X’s rights to a third party . Once the third party enters the picture, each party has a special name. For instance, suppose X, a seller of bookmarks, contracts with Y, a purchaser of bookmarks. Y desires to have Y’s right to X’s performance (the sale of bookmarks on a monthly basis) to another person. 

This third person, Z, is called the assignee. X is called the obligor , and Y is called the assignor , since Y has assigned its right to X’s performance . X, the obligor, is obligated to continue to perform its duties under the agreement.

There are no “magic words” needed to create an assignment. The law simply requires that the would-be assignor have an intent to immediately and completely transfer their rights in the agreement. In addition, writing is typically not required to create an assignment. As long as X and Y both adequately understand what right is being assigned, an assignment is created. 

Words that indicate a transfer is to take place suffice, such as “I intend to transfer my rights under this agreement,” or, “I intend to give my rights to Z,” or “I intend to confer an assignment on Z.” In addition,consideration,which is a bargained-for exchange required for a contract to be valid, is not required for assignment.

In certain instances, an assignment of contract rights can be prohibited. If the contract contains a clause prohibiting assignment of “the contract,” without specifying more, the law construes this language as barring only delegation of the assignor’s duties, not their rights. If the assignment language states “assignment of contractual rights are prohibited,” the obligor may sue for damages if the assignor attempts to assign the agreement. If the contract language states that attempts to assign “will be void,” the parties can bar assignment.of rights.

Under modern contract law, the phrase “I assign the contract” is usually interpreted to mean that one is assigning rights and duties. What is an assignment of duties? An assignment of duties occurs where Y, called the obligor or delegator, promises to perform for X, the obligee. Y then delegates their duty to perform to Z, the delegate. Under the law, most duties can be delegated. 

There are exceptions to this rule. Delegation can be prohibited when:

  • The duties to be performed involve personal judgment and special skill (e.g., a portrait, creation of a custom-made dress). 
  • “Personal judgment” is the exercise of some kind of superior judgment when it comes to determining how, when, or where to do something. Examples of individuals who exercise personal judgment include talent scouts and financial advisors.  Special skill is the unique ability to create a good or perform a service. A delegator can be prohibited from delegating duties when it is that specific delegator’s services are sought. For example, if the services of a specific famous chef are sought, and the original agreement was entered into on the understanding that the chef was hired for their specific talent, the delegator may not delegate the services;
  • The assignment fundamentally changes risks or responsibilities under the agreement;
  • The assignment is over future rights associated with a future contract that does not currently exist;
  • Delegation would increase the obligation of the obligee. For example, if a shoe manufacturer contracts to deliver soles to a store in the same town as the shoe factory, the other party cannot assign the delivery to a different store in another state. Doing so would impose a greater obligation on the obligee than was originally contemplated;
  • The obligee had placed special trust in the delegator. For example, assume that you have hired a patent attorney, based on that attorney’s significant skill and expertise, to obtain a valuable patent. You have placed special trust in this person, hiring them instead of other patent attorneys, because of their unique expertise. In such a situation, the attorney may not delegate his duties to another attorney (delegate), since the attorney was hired because of one person’s special capabilities;
  • The delegation is of a promise to repay a debt; or
  • The contract itself restricts or prohibits delegation. If the contract states, “any attempt to delegate duties under this contract is void,” a delegation will not be permitted.

In a contract involving assignment of rights, the assignee may sue the obligor. This is because the assignee, once the assignee has been assigned rights, is entitled to performance under the contract. If the obligor had a defense that existed in the original contract between obligor and assignor, the obligor may assert that defense against the assignee. Examples of such defenses include the original contract was not valid because of lack of consideration, or because there was never a valid offer or acceptance).

An assignee may also sue an assignor. Generally, if an assignment is made for consideration,it is irrevocable. Assignments not made for consideration, but under which an obligor has already performed, are also irrevocable. If an assignor attempts to revoke an irrevocable assignment,the assignee may sue for “wrongful revocation.” 

In circumstances involving delegation of duties,an obligee must accept performance from the delegate of all duties that may be delegated. The delegator remains liable on the agreement. Therefore, the obligee may sue the delegator for nonperformance by the delegate. The obligee may sue the delegate for nonperformance, but can only require the delegate to perform if there has been an assumption by the delegate. An assumption by the delegate is a promise that the delegate will perform the delegated duty, which promise is supported by consideration. 

Assignments that are not supported by consideration are revocable. If an initial assignment is revocable, a subsequent assignment can revoke it. If a first assignment is irrevocable, because consideration was present,the first assignment will usually prevail over a subsequent assignment. This means the person who can claim the assignment was first made to them will prevail over someone who claims a subsequent assignment. 

If, however, the second person paid value for the assignment, and entered into the assignment without knowing of the first assignment, the “subsequent”assignee is entitled to proceeds the first judgment against the obligor (the original party who still must perform), in the event such a judgment is issued,

If you have an issue with assignment of rights or duties under a contract, you should contact a contract lawyer  for advice. An experienced business lawyer near you can review the facts of your case, advise you of your rights, and represent you in court proceedings.

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Prior to joining LegalMatch, Daniel worked as a legal editor for a large HR Compliance firm, focusing on employer compliance in numerous areas of the law including workplace safety law, health care law, wage and hour law, and cybersecurity. Prior to that, Daniel served as a litigator for several small law firms, handling a diverse caseload that included cases in Real Estate Law (property ownership rights, residential landlord/tenant disputes, foreclosures), Employment Law (minimum wage and overtime claims, discrimination, workers’ compensation, labor-management relations), Construction Law, and Commercial Law (consumer protection law and contracts). Daniel holds a J.D. from the Emory University School of ... Read More

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Assignment And Novation Agreement

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What is an Assignment And Novation Agreement?

An assignment and novation agreement is a contract between two parties where one gives up their rights and responsibilities under an original contract. An assignment cancels the original contract and transfers the rights and responsibilities of one of the parties to another, third party. In novation, one of the parties surrenders their rights but retains the duties they took on under the original contract.

Each of these agreements allow a contract party to give up their rights if they desire. The specific type of agreement necessary depends on whether both parties can agree to removing both rights and responsibilities and canceling the original agreement

Common Sections in Assignment And Novation Agreements

Below is a list of common sections included in Assignment And Novation Agreements. These sections are linked to the below sample agreement for you to explore.

Assignment And Novation Agreement Sample

Reference : Security Exchange Commission - Edgar Database, EX-10.4 5 ex10-4.htm ASSIGNMENT AND NOVATION AGREEMENT , Viewed September 18, 2022, View Source on SEC .

Who Helps With Assignment And Novation Agreements?

Lawyers with backgrounds working on assignment and novation agreements work with clients to help. Do you need help with an assignment and novation agreement?

Post a project  in ContractsCounsel's marketplace to get free bids from lawyers to draft, review, or negotiate assignment and novation agreements. All lawyers are vetted by our team and peer reviewed by our customers for you to explore before hiring.

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Phocus L. on ContractsCounsel

G'day, my name is Michele! I work with startups, entrepreneurs and small/medium-sized businesses across the country in a wide array of industries. I help them with all of their ongoing, daily legal needs. This includes entity formation, M&A, contract drafting and review, employment, asset sale & acquisition, and business sales or shareholder exits. I'm half-Australian, half-Italian, and I've lived the last 20+ years of my life in America. I've lived all over the USA, completing high school in the deep south, graduating cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis, and then cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center. After law school I worked for the Los Angeles office of Latham & Watkins, LLP. After four intense and rewarding years there, I left to become General Counsel and VP of an incredible, industry-changing start-up called Urban Mining Company (UMC) that manufactures rare earth permanent magnets. I now work for Phocus Law where I help run our practice focused on entrepreneurs, startups, and SMEs. I love what I do, and I'd love to be of help! My focus is on providing stress-free, enjoyable, and high-quality legal service to all of my clients. Being a good lawyer isn't enough: the client experience should also be great. But work isn't everything, and I love my free time. I've been an avid traveler since my parents put me on a plane to Italy at 9-months old. I'm also a music nut, and am still looking for that perfect client that will engage me to explain why Dark Side Of The Moon is the greatest album of all time. Having grown up in a remote, and gorgeous corner of Australia, I feel a strong connection to nature, and love being in the elements.

David W. on ContractsCounsel

The Law Office of David Watson, LLC provides comprehensive and individualized estate-planning services for all stages and phases of life. I listen to your goals and priorities and offer a range of estate-planning services, including trusts, wills, living wills, durable powers of attorney, and other plans to meet your goals. And for convenience and transparency, many estate-planning services are provided at a flat rate.

Samuel R. on ContractsCounsel

My career interests are to practice Transactional Corporate Law, including Business Start Up, and Mergers and Acquisitions, as well as Real Estate Law, Estate Planning Law, Tax, and Intellectual Property Law. I am currently licensed in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Utah, after having moved to Phoenix from Philadelphia in September 2019. I am currently General Counsel for a bioengineering company. I handle everything from their Mergers & Acquisitions, Private Placement Memorandums, and Corporate Structures to Intellectual Property Assignments, to Employment Law and Beach of Contract settlements. Responsibilities include writing and executing agreements, drafting court pleadings, court appearances, mergers and acquisitions, transactional documents, managing outside expert legal counsel, legal research and anticipating unique legal issues that could impact the Company. Conducted an acquisition of an entire line of intellectual property from a competitor. In regards to other clients, I am primarily focused on transactional law for clients in a variety of industries including, but not limited to, real estate investment, property management, and e-commerce. Work is primarily centered around entity formation and corporate structure, corporate governance agreements, PPMs, opportunity zone tax incentives, employee retention credits, and all kinds of business to business agreements. I have also recently gained experience with Estate Planning law, drafting numerous Estate Planning documents for people such as Wills, Powers of Attorney, Healthcare Directives, and Trusts. I was selected to the 2024 Super Lawyers Southwest Rising Stars list. Each year no more than 2.5% of the attorneys in Arizona and New Mexico are selected to the Rising Stars. I am looking to further gain legal experience in these fields of law as well as expand my legal experience assisting business start ups, mergers and acquisitions and also trademark registration and licensing.

Atilla B. on ContractsCounsel

Atilla Z. Baksay is a Colorado-based attorney practicing corporate and securities attorney. Atilla represents clients in the negotiation and drafting of transactional (e.g. master service, purchase and sale, license, IP, and SaaS agreements) and corporate (e.g. restricted stock transfers, stock options plans, convertible notes/SAFE/SAFT agreements, bylaws/operating agreements, loan agreements, personal guarantees, and security agreements) contracts, in-house documents (e.g. employment policies, separation agreements, employment/independent contractor/consultant agreements, NDAs, brokerage relationship policies, and office policy memoranda), and digital policies (e.g. terms of service, privacy policies, CCPA notices, and GDPR notices). Atilla also reviews, and issues legal opinions concerning, the security status of digital currencies and assets. Following law school, Atilla practiced international trade law at the Executive Office of the President, Office of the United States Trade Representative, where his practice spanned economic sanctions enacted against goods originating in the People’s Republic of China valued at $500 billion. Afterwards, Atilla joined a Colorado law firm practicing civil litigation, where the majority of his practice comprised of construction defect suits. Today, Atilla's practice spans all corporate matters for clients in Colorado and the District of Columbia.

Gregory B. on ContractsCounsel

I love contracts - and especially technology-related contracts written in PLAIN ENGLISH! I've worked extensively with intellectual property contracts, and specifically with IT contracts (SaaS, Master Subscriptions Agreements, Terms of Service, Privacy Policies, License Agreements, etc.), and I have built my own technology solutions that help to quickly and thoroughly draft, review and customize complex contracts.

Clara D. on ContractsCounsel

After graduating from The University of Chicago Law School in 2002, Clara spent eight years in private practice representing clients in complex commercial real estate, merger and acquisition, branding, and other transactional matters. Clara then worked as in-house counsel to a large financial services company, handling intellectual property, vendor contracts, technology, privacy, cybersecurity, licensing, marketing, and otherwise supporting general operations. She opened her own practice in September of 2017 and represents hedge funds, financial services companies, and technology companies in a range of transactional matters.

Grant P. on ContractsCounsel

Founder and owner of Grant Phillips Law.. Practicing and licensed in NY, NJ & Fl with focus on small businesses across the country that are stuck in predatory commercial loans. The firm specializes in representing business owners with Merchant Cash Advances or Factoring Arrangments they can no longer afford. The firms clients include restaurants, truckers, contractors, for profit schools, doctors and corner supermarkets to name a few. GRANT PHILLIPS LAW, PLLC. is at the cutting edge of bringing affordable and expert legal representation on behalf of Merchants stuck with predatory loans or other financial instruments that drain the companies revenues. Grant Phillips Law will defend small businesses with Merchant Cash Advances they can no longer afford. Whether you have been sued, a UCC lien filed against your receivables or your bank account is levied or frozen, we have your back. See more at

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  19. Assignment And Novation Agreement: Definition & Sample

    An assignment and novation agreement is a contract between two parties where one gives up their rights and responsibilities under an original contract. An assignment cancels the original contract and transfers the rights and responsibilities of one of the parties to another, third party. In novation, one of the parties surrenders their rights ...

  20. Novation vs Assignment: Which One Is The Correct One?

    Novation is the act of replacing one party in a contract with another party, while assignment is the act of transferring rights or obligations from one party to another. Novation is the proper term when a new party is being substituted for an existing party in a contract.

  21. Contract Assignment vs. Novation in Real Estate

    An assignment of a contract means that one party transfers the rights and benefits they have under the contract to a third party, but the burden and obligations will remain with the assignor ...

  22. Assign vs Contract

    As nouns the difference between assign and contract is that assign is an assignee while contract is an agreement between two or more parties, to perform a specific job or work order, often temporary or of fixed duration and usually governed by a written agreement. As a adjective contract is (obsolete) contracted; affianced; betrothed.

  23. Agreement vs Assignment

    Once you receive the assignment in the post, be sure to sign it and send it back as soon as possible. (computing) An operation that assigns a value to a variable. As nouns the difference between agreement and assignment is that agreement is (countable) an understanding between entities to follow a specific course of conduct while assignment is...

  24. PDF HUD Multifamily Housing Policy Quick Reference Guide November 2023

    For purposes of this guide, entities converting assistance to PBRA HAP Contracts are referred to as owners. 1.2 Background RAD is authorized by the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2012 (Pub. L. No. 112-55, approved November 18, 2011), as amended by the