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“I ACCEPT” “I ACCEPT” – License Agreements for real businesses

EULAImage by [Brian] via Flickr

Scroll through the 5000 words and click “I accept the terms”. Most likely, you just entered a license agreement.

A license grants someone (licensee) permission via contract to engage in an activity or to use property owned by the person granting the license (licensor). These prolific interactions are part of daily transactions. Obtaining a hotel room for a night is a license. Franchise agreements involve a license. The computer on which I am typing this has software licenses from Microsoft, Apple, Intel, and HP.

My iTunes license agreement is 4,289 words long.

For personal use, license agreements are often reasonable. What about when you click through for business? Sometimes not. There may be specific provisions stating you cannot use certain programs, images or words for business. The license agreements may reserve a fair amount of control for the licensor. Additionally, various other terms are working their way into license agreements. (See my prior two posts: nondisclosure agreements and indemnity agreements).

The licensor will request the licensee not share business secrets obtained through the license agreement and will also ask the licensee to indemnify, or hold harmless, the licensor in the event of injury or damage from the licensed item.

What does this mean? If you post a Microsoft Word document on your website, are you violating your Microsoft License Agreement? What if your link allows the user to access Word through your server?

Step 1: Read that long long long boring license agreement.

Step 2: Decide if you are engaging in any activities that may extend beyond the term of the license (e.g. making copies of a program for other business computers or using the source code for your own custom program or simply using images for which you have no license. Yes, they will sue you even if you are a “little” business.

Step 3: Ask yourself whether your business property, such as your website, would benefit from a license agreement, which should not be 7,000 words long.

Is the license for exclusive use of the licensee or is it non-exclusive – can it be used by multiple people at once? What is the term of the license? Can you charging a fee or a royalty for use?

If your business owns a patent, trademark or has a business model that works, a license is one way that you may be able to protect your asset. Or perhaps earn money from that asset. It is a wise, and sometimes mandated, decision to work closely with a licensee to be sure that your business property is not used in a manner that is inconsistent with your business.


Getting sued for violating an agreement is not fun. The best way to avoid that lawsuit is to read the agreement before clicking "I agree". Reading the agreement may give you ideas about which of your products you wish to protect and how you will create that protection.

- Christine Branstad
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