Chances are, at some point in your life, you’ve signed a contract.
Heck, if you’ve submitted an idea to Edison Nation, you’ve signed one. Contracts, whether they are physically signed on paper or done digitally, are everywhere, and they can be daunting and in some cases downright intimidating.
Contrary to popular belief, contracts are not created to give you stress. They are written to create realistic expectations, for each side to know his or her responsibilities and plan for what will happen if something goes awry. In many cases, more than I would like to see as the Community Manager at Edison Nation, it is obvious that people signed on the dotted line without really researching and/or reading about what they are getting into.
Now, at Edison Nation, it is our policy to never give legal advice, that’s not our business. That being said, it IS our goal to provide your ideas the best chance at success. While we want you to submit your ideas, the first thing I ALWAYS tell new folks is to review our terms and conditions before submitting. We acknowledge that we may not be the best fit for everyone, and the only way you can make that determination is to do your research not just with us, but with ANY company with whom you chose to share your idea.
These ideas are your babies, they are a product of you – your “BING” moment, your research, in some cases, your hard earned money. If they are SO important to you, why would you blindly sign something without knowing what you were getting into? Sounds silly, but it happens.
In this InvENting 101 post, we’re going to dive into some hints on how to navigate contracts BEFORE signing. This is not specific to Edison Nation, this is any contract, anywhere for any type of service.
Print the contract
Yes, we are in the digital age, but sometimes the content can become clearer to read (and jot down your questions) when on paper.
Read the contract
It may not be as exciting as the next great American novel, but it dictates the business relationship you are looking to enter into. Read actively, make notes, write down questions and concerns.
Pay attention to the language
- Breach: What responsibilities do you have? What responsibilities does the other party have? If something goes wrong or someone fails to do something required in the contract, what will happen?
- Confidentiality: Is this agreement, or its details, a secret? Who needs to keep it a secret?
- Exclusivity: Is this the only agreement you will have about this specific situation? What if you want to enter into similar agreements?
- Fees/Payment: If money is exchanging hands, how much? When is the money exchanging hands? How is the payment conducted?
- Indemnity: In the event there is a lawsuit, will you protect the other company? Will they protect you?
- Renew: What happens at the end of the agreement? For many contracts, there is only one Term (the contract is good for a finite amount of time). For others, there are automatic renewals.
- Term/Termination: When does the contract begin and when does it end? How long will you have this agreement? What happens if either side wants to end the agreement?
If the document mentions another document, read that other document. Make sure its inclusion makes sense and is appropriate. If there is a list of attachments, make sure all of the attachments are included.
Review any FAQs that may exist from the company you’re working with (for us, check out the Edison Nation Help Page). If you still can’t find the answer to your question, ask!
Save a signed copy
If you physically sign a document, make sure you get a fully executed (both parties signed) copy for your records. If you agreed digitally to the terms and conditions, a copy is likely emailed to you (at EN, once you successfully submit your idea, you’ll receive an email with a digital copy of the innovator agreement) – print/save it for your records.
When in doubt, hire a lawyer.
While most companies do try to keep the “legalese” to a minimum, there still may be language that you do not understand that the company/contracting party cannot answer – in these cases, consult an attorney to get clarity.
I cannot recount how many times I have had conversations with folks who have been “taken” because they did not know what they were getting into. We never want that to be the case. If you are new to Edison Nation or getting ready to submit your first idea, we always encourage you to review the innovator agreement on the Edison Nation Help Page.
Then, if you still have questions, please ask. There are no stupid questions, and I don’t care how many times they are asked – you’re asking and that in and of itself puts you ahead of the game. The fastest, most efficient way of getting answers you can’t find on the Help page is to send an email to email@example.com. These questions are answered within 24/48 business hours of receipt and are answered by real people who are members of the EN team.
We hope this post was helpful and that you are not only inspired to do thorough research on ANY company you choose to partner with, but that you are inspired to submit your next idea!