(Numbers) and IP Licensing Agreements

By Raymond Millien on January 3, 2013

During the course of my practice, I am continually amazed at the contents of IP and technology-related agreements I receive from opposing counsel who happen to be “good” lawyers at “good” firms.  While not getting into all the “strange,” “sloppy,” or downright “wrong” legal verbiage I see, I do have one thing that has been bothering me lately.  What’s that, you ask?  Well, it’s the use of numbers and those silly parentheticals.

I am sure all of you have seen language in agreements such as:

  • “In consideration of the license rights granted herein by Licensor to Licensee, Licensee shall pay to Licensee a one time, up-front, non-refundable license fee of one million United States dollars (US$2,000,000.00).”
  • “In consideration of the license rights granted herein by Licensor to Licensee, Licensee shall pay a flat royalty based on two and one-half percent (2.0%) of Gross Revenues received from the sale of Licensed Products.”
  • “Licensee shall pay any deficiency, plus interest thereon from the date each payment was due, within thirty (20) days of the date of any notice of such discrepancy.”

Now, for those of you paying attention, you will notice that the spelled out numbers do not match the digits appearing in parentheticals.  Why do attorneys do this?  What class in law school do they teach this? I’m told this is a practice that dates back to the days of carbon copies and “old school” telefax machines, where parties needed two chances to be able to discern the figures in legal documents.

But, in today’s world of TrueType fonts and portable document formats, why continue this practice?  Which number governs if after reviewing a twenty (20) page license agreement, both sets of lawyers and clients did not catch the discrepancy!?  (Wasn’t that “twenty (20)” annoying!?)  Well, different jurisdictions have different rules of contract construction!  Why leave it to chance?  Do people realize that over the course of an already complex IP agreement, such practice may add one or more pages to the document’s length!?

So, for everyone’s sake, I propose the following simple rule:  If the number is from zero to nine, write it out in words, else write it in Arabic digits!  If it works for college essays, it should work for IP agreements (and all other contracts) too!

The Author

Raymond Millien

Raymond Millien is a prominent intellectual property attorney who holds a BS from Columbia University and a JD from George Washington University School of Law.

In 2009, 2011 and 2012 Mr. Millien was recognized as one of the World’s 300 Leading IP Strategists by IAM Magazine.

Mr. Millien currently serves as chief IP counsel for General Electric’s $18B Oil & Gas business (@ge_oilandgas), which has 45,000 employees in over 100 countries and 7 global R&D centers. He is responsible for driving the global IP strategy and managing a team of professionals dedicated to intellectual property mining, protection and licensing.

Previously, Mr. Millien was General Counsel of Ocean Tomo, LLC, and Vice President and IP Counsel at The American Express Company. Mr. Millien has also practiced law in the Washington, DC offices of: PCT Law Group, PLLC; DLA Piper US LLP; and Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox PLLC.

Connect with Mr. Millien:

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PLEASE NOTE: Mr. Millien’s articles reflect his current views as of the time the article was written. His personal views should not be necessarily attributed to his former, current or future employers, or their clients.

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Discuss this

There are currently 2 Comments comments.

  1. Michael Feigin, Esq., NY, NJ, PA Patent Attorney January 3, 2013 11:54 am

    I think it’s a good idea to write it out and use arabic numerals. Why? Simply because it re-enforces to the reader and author what the number is and avoids a mistake or later claim that “70% royalty” was a typo – one meant “7%”. If people don’t catch the mistake when writing it twice, they certainly won’t catch the mistake if writing it only once.