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Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) serve as the cornerstone for protecting sensitive information in a myriad of business contexts, from preliminary partnership discussions to finalising major contracts. Given their role, the negotiation of NDA terms is a critical process, ensuring that the interests of all parties are adequately safeguarded.

At the heart of these negotiations are several key clauses that frequently become focal points due to their implications for both the discloser and the recipient of confidential information. This article delves into five of the most negotiated clauses in NDA reviews, offering insights into the complexities of these negotiations and strategies for reaching a balanced agreement. 

The negotiation process in for an NDA review is not just about legal formalities; it's an intricate dance of aligning business interests, risk management, and trust-building. As such, understanding these commonly negotiated clauses is essential for anyone involved in drafting, reviewing, or negotiating NDAs. There are also ways to make this a lot easier and faster by using the likes of NDATriage. But this list will give you an insight to what we see the most of:

1. Confidentiality Scope 

One of the most critical components of any NDA is the scope of confidentiality, which defines what information is considered confidential and, therefore, protected under the agreement. Negotiations around this clause centre on ensuring that the definition is broad enough to cover all necessary information while being specific enough to be enforceable. 

Common negotiation points include: 

  • Inclusions and Exclusions: Parties negotiate over what specific types of information are included as confidential, such as written and oral communications, designs, prototypes, and data. Equally, exclusions might cover publicly available information or knowledge the recipient already possesses.

  • Balancing Breadth and Specificity: The challenge lies in crafting a clause that is sufficiently comprehensive to protect the discloser's interests without being so broad that it becomes unreasonable or unenforceable. 

Negotiating the confidentiality scope often requires a delicate balance, protecting crucial information without overburdening the agreement with overly broad or vague terms. 

2. Duration of Confidentiality 

The duration clause specifies how long the confidentiality obligations last. This period can significantly impact both parties, affecting how information is used long-term. 

Standard terms and variations: 

  • Negotiations often revolve around finding a reasonable timeframe that protects the discloser's information adequately while not unduly restricting the recipient. While some NDAs stipulate a fixed number of years, others may tie the duration to events, such as the conclusion of a project or business relationship.

  • Renewal and Termination Clauses: Discussions may also include provisions for renewing the confidentiality period or specific conditions under which the agreement can be terminated early. 

This clause is a common negotiation point because it directly affects how long sensitive information must be guarded, with significant implications for both parties' operational flexibility and strategic planning. 

3. Obligations and Use of Information 

This clause delineates the receiving party's obligations regarding the handling and use of the confidential information. It's vital for ensuring that the information is used solely for the purposes agreed upon and not for any unauthorised or competitive advantage. 

Key aspects include: 

  • Permitted Uses of the Confidential Information: Negotiations will specify the precise purposes for which the information can be used, typically tied to the pursuit of a potential business relationship or specific project.

  • Restrictions and Obligations on the Receiving Party: Parties will discuss limitations on how the information is used, including prohibitions on copying, reverse engineering, or using the information for any purpose not explicitly authorized in the agreement.

  • Common Areas of Dispute and Compromise: Disputes often arise over the breadth of restrictions, with disclosers seeking broad limitations and recipients advocating for more freedom. Compromises usually involve clearly delineating allowed uses and specifying prohibited actions. 

The negotiation of these terms is crucial for protecting the discloser’s interests without unduly hampering the recipient's ability to evaluate and engage with the potential opportunity.

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4. Disclosure to Third Parties

Often, the recipient of the confidential information may need to share it with third parties, such as subcontractors, consultants, or affiliates, to fulfil the purpose of the NDA. This clause addresses the conditions under which such sharing is permissible. 

Important considerations include: 

  • Conditions for Third-Party Sharing: The clause should specify that disclosure to third parties is allowed only when necessary and under conditions of confidentiality equivalent to those stipulated in the original NDA.

  • Requirements for Third-Party Confidentiality Agreements: Typically, the recipient is required to ensure that any third party to whom the information is disclosed signs a confidentiality agreement with similar protections.

  • Balancing Collaboration with Protection: The negotiation focuses on allowing necessary collaboration without compromising the security of the confidential information. 

This clause requires careful negotiation to ensure that third-party disclosures do not dilute the protections afforded by the NDA, while still enabling productive collaboration. 

5. Return or Destruction of Information

At the conclusion of the NDA's term or upon the request of the disclosing party, the receiving party is often required to either return or destroy the confidential information. This clause ensures that the discloser regains control over their information, minimizing the risk of unauthorized use or disclosure after the agreement ends. 

Aspects to negotiate include: 

  • Protocols for Handling Information Post-Agreement: The agreement should clearly outline the steps the recipient must take to either return or destroy the confidential information, including any copies made.

  • Negotiating Terms for Return vs. Destruction: Some disclosers prefer the return of information, especially physical prototypes, or samples, while destruction may be more appropriate for sensitive documents or data.

  • Ensuring Compliance and Verification: Discussions may also cover how compliance with these terms will be verified, including the possibility of certificates of destruction or other forms of confirmation. 

Negotiating this clause is essential for ensuring that confidential information is appropriately safeguarded or disposed of, reflecting the importance of securing sensitive information even after the primary purpose of the NDA has been fulfilled. 

The negotiation of NDA clauses is a nuanced process that requires a careful balance between protecting sensitive information and fostering mutual business opportunities. The clauses covering the confidentiality scope, duration of confidentiality, obligations and use of information, disclosure to third parties, and the return or destruction of information are among the most frequently negotiated.

Understanding the intricacies of these clauses and approaching negotiations with a clear strategy can lead to more effective NDAs that serve the interests of all parties involved. By prioritising clear communication, specificity, and mutual respect, businesses can craft NDAs that not only protect their assets but also lay the groundwork for successful partnerships. 


What is the most important clause in an NDA? 

The confidentiality clause is often considered the most critical, as it defines the scope of what information is protected, ensuring sensitive details are kept secret. However, the importance of a clause can vary depending on the specific context and the nature of the information being protected. 

How long should the confidentiality period in an NDA last? 

The ideal duration varies depending on the type of information being protected and the industry standards. Typically, confidentiality periods can range from 2 to 5 years, but some may extend longer if the information remains commercially sensitive. 

Can I disclose confidential information to my employees under an NDA? 

Yes, confidential information can be disclosed to employees or third parties if they need to know the information for the purpose outlined in the NDA. However, they must be informed that the information is confidential and bound by the NDA's terms, often through a written agreement. 

What happens if someone breaches an NDA? 

If an NDA is breached, the non-breaching party can seek legal remedies, which may include injunctions to stop further breaches, monetary damages for losses incurred due to the breach, and, in some cases, punitive damages. 

How can AI (Artificial Intelligence) tools help in reviewing NDAs? 

AI tools such as NDATriage can streamline the NDA review process by quickly analysing documents for key clauses, identifying potential risks, and ensuring consistency across agreements. They can significantly reduce review times and improve accuracy by highlighting areas that need human attention. 

Is it necessary to negotiate an NDA, or can I use a standard template? 

While standard templates can serve as a starting point, it's often necessary to negotiate NDAs to address the specific needs and risks associated with the information being shared. Tailoring the NDA helps ensure both parties are adequately protected and understand their obligations.