TECHNOLOGY, OUTSOURCING, AND COMMERCIAL TRANSACTIONS
NEWS FOR LAWYERS AND SOURCING PROFESSIONALS

The audit section in a services agreement contains the provisions that specify a party’s right to access and review another party’s information in order to determine such party’s compliance with the agreement. Depending on the scope of audit rights, the audit section can range from a single paragraph to an entire exhibit to the contract.

Many considerations go into drafting appropriate audit rights, including the types of services that the customer is receiving, and the industry in which the customer’s business operates. In many cases, the customer is the auditing party and the service provider is the audited party, but there are situations where the roles will be reversed. Below is an overview of several key issues to consider when drafting audit rights for services agreements.

The Hatch-Goodlatte Music Modernization Act was signed into law on October 11, 2018. The act has been termed a music industry peace treaty of sorts, as it is designed to address years of issues and compromise between music streaming technology companies, such as Spotify, and artists and record labels. The act had unanimously passed the US House of Representatives and Senate earlier in 2018.

As 2018 comes to a close, we have once again compiled all the links to our Contract Corner blog posts, a regular feature of Tech & Sourcing @ Morgan Lewis. In these posts, members of our global technology, outsourcing, and commercial transactions practice highlight particular contract provisions, review the issues, and propose negotiating and drafting tips. If you don’t see a topic you are interested in below, please let us know, and we may feature it in a future Contract Corner.

In Part 1 of this series, we provided an overview of data (or knowledge) commons and some key issues to consider, but how does one actually create and manage a data commons? To find your feet in this budding field, build on the theoretical foundation; address the specific context (including perceived objectives and constraints); deal with the thorny issues (including control and change); establish a core set of principles and rules; and, perhaps most importantly, plan for and enable change.

You may have heard of the “tragedy of the commons,” where a resource is depleted through collective action, but knowledge is different from other resources—knowledge can be duplicated, aggregated, integrated, analyzed, stored, shared, and disseminated in countless ways. Given that knowledge is a critical resource for seemingly intractable problems, the opportunity of the commons (or the tragedy of the lack of commons) is worth thoughtful consideration.

Imagine that you or a loved one is suffering from a terminal or debilitating disease and that data and knowledge are out there, waiting to be combined and harnessed for a cure or a transformational treatment. Imagine that self-interest (including attribution), legal restrictions (including intellectual property protections), inertia, complexity and difficulty of collective action, and other weighty forces are between you and that breakthrough discovery. Though not a new concept, commons have been garnering attention lately as an alternative framework for catalyzing groundbreaking research and development, particularly when relevant data and knowledge are scattered and particularly in the life sciences community. But before we all throw away our patents and data-dump our trade secrets, there are some thorny aspects to governing a data (or knowledge) commons. For example:

  • A commons is essentially its own society. Anyone who has been part of a homeowners’ association knows that collective governance is almost always muddy. Aligning incentives, objectives, and values can be challenging.
  • Founders may have trouble relinquishing control or enabling change. Participants may become confused or upset if rules or priorities change.
  • Commons are not as well understood and tested. They must coexist with, and within, other systems that may be more rigid and rules-based. Participants may be logistically, intellectually, and otherwise tied to traditional methods and may prefer semi-exclusive zones rather than open collaboration.
  • It may be difficult to measure the effectiveness or value of commons.
  • Policing activities (e.g., authentications or restrictions) may be burdensome. And once the cat is out of the bag, it’s difficult to undo uses or disclosures.
  • Commons managers may not be willing to take on certain responsibilities or liabilities that would make participants more comfortable.
  • Different types of information and tools have different levels of sensitivity and protection. Certain information, like personal data, is highly regulated.

Scholars have taken theoretical frameworks built for natural resources and adapted them to the data commons setting. Key findings include that data commons must be designed to evolve and that communities with high levels of shared trust and values are most likely to succeed. Whereas governance through exclusivity (e.g., patents) is useful when trust levels are low, a resource sharing governance model (e.g., commons) can be effective when trust levels are high.

If you’d like to know more:

  • We will be hosting a webinar with one of the aforementioned scholars—Professor Michael J. Madison, faculty director at PittLaw—on Tuesday, December 18, 2018, from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm ET. Register and join us for the discussion.
  • In a subsequent post, we will provide some tips and considerations with respect to drafting policies, standard terms, data contribution agreements, and other governing documents for data commons.

Picking up where we left off last week, we continue our refresher on common issues to consider when entering into a transaction that will include royalties. Today’s entry focuses on timing and reporting considerations for the calculation and payment of royalties.

It's one of the most commonly utilized commercial structures in various technology and intellectual property licensing deals: the royalty. As everyone's go-to payment mechanism for licensing deals, you may think that the nuances of royalty calculation and payment are well-defined and understood universally. But, time and again, we find that walking through a list of potential royalty "pain points" uncovers certain components of a contemplated royalty-based deal that have neither been considered nor agreed by the parties.

For that reason, we think it's a good time for a refresher on common points to be considered when entering into a transaction that will include royalties. While the specific terms governing a royalty will vary based on numerous factors, including the nature of the products and the underlying licensed materials and the contemplated commercialization structure, many concepts are useful across the board. Today’s entry focuses on issues related to defining the relevant scope of royalty calculations, while a forthcoming post will address issues related to royalty timing and reporting considerations.

Washington, DC partners Giovanna M Cinelli, Kenneth J. Nunnenkamp, and Stephen Paul Mahinka and Boston partner Carl A. Valenstein recently published a LawFlash on the recent action taken by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to implement a pilot program under the Foreign Investment Risk Review and Modernization Act (FIRRMA). FIRRMA, which was enacted in August 2018, reformed the CFIUS screening process for foreign investment in the United States and, among other things, permits CFIUS to establish pilot programs to test the viability of certain of its provisions. The LawFlash addresses the objectives and the scope of the announced pilot program, including the countries and types of investments covered by the program. It also describes the new requirement for mandatory declarations "for certain transactions involving investments by foreign persons in certain U.S. businesses that produce, design, test, manufacture, fabricate, or develop one or more critical technologies" implemented by the pilot program. The pilot program becomes effective November 10, 2018.

For more information on the pilot program, please read the LawFlash.

When in-house lawyers start thinking about how to support a business client that is looking to implement a new or replacement enterprise resource platform (or more commonly known as an ERP system), we often suggest that they first discuss these 10 framework issues to get a sense of the scale, complexity, and timing of the potential transaction. While the below list certainly does not cover all of the issues that will need to be considered, it is intended to help in-house lawyers understand the objectives, parameters, and potential risk areas of a transaction.

Authored by Barbara Murphy Melby, Christopher C. Archer, and Jay Preston

In Part 1 of this Contract Corner on Software as a Service (SaaS) agreements, we discussed ownership and use issues in SaaS transactions where the application is provided and hosted as a dedicated instance with common base software (sometimes with customization or variation) but running as a separate instance in a dedicated environment.

In this Part 2, we will look at ownership and use issues in transactions where the application is provided and hosted in a multitenant environment, with one common application layer and hosting environment that is logically partitioned by customer.

As noted in Part 1, when thinking about ownership and other intellectual rights in SaaS deals, we generally consider the following categories, discussed in more detail below. As with any solution there can be variations and customer-specific needs that drive different requirements.