I have been in a number of discussions, which the other party described the contract terms verbally in a way to convince me to proceed with the contract. I want to ask if this is not fraud, and how to handle such situations. To clarify the point, what I mean is for one of the parties to state a definition of the terms which is not the same as the intuitive meaning of the definition of the content.

An example would be a number of intellectual property contents I have seen recently. On one occasion, the HR contact told me in email that they forwarded my concerns to the corporate attorney. The person then replied inline to comments stating that the content is meant to protect the information they shared with me. Given that I was not about to work on a research and development effort, this seemed like a lie to me. Can an organization, or an attorney be liable for such action. Given that the email did not contain the person's name, I would imagine this action is not ok at some level; but how illegal is it? And what would happen if such a signed contract is used to force someone to comply? Can a non-attorney claim that they were lied to, and produce the email in support of it?

This is probably an area, which I like to learn more about. That is interpretation of a content. I think is an strength in the legal profession, and I would greatly appreciate any content or keywords you can suggest to me.

  • Where you write "content" do you often mean "contract?"
    – feetwet
    Sep 14, 2016 at 16:24
  • @freetwet - sure. I guess I used content as a subset of an entire contract and relevant to the topic of invention and patent within an employment contract.
    – maverick
    Sep 14, 2016 at 16:34

1 Answer 1


Laws vary - the answer to your question will therefore vary depending on where you live. You need legal advice. I can only share my experiences...

I've contracted/consulted since 1994 and one or two agencies (who fit between me and the client site, thus three parties named on the contract) have made various false claims/promises in the past. My understanding is that in the UK, Ireland and Germany, verbal contracts are possible but difficult to prove in court. Strangely, in the UK, in 1990s faxed orders were legally acceptable in a court of law but emails were not (I suspect the law has since revised that but I am not sure).

In Germany I have been told by a client/boss who went on an HR advisory training course, specifically related to hiring contractors that they had to be careful on how they worded things over the phone and in emails. Supposedly, asking someone to do work without agreeing a start date or pay rate can be seen by the courts as a binding contract. The contractor can technically charge an invoice and if the client refused to pay, a legal avenue can be explored which could fall to either side.

On the reverse side, I used to have contracts with HP, via a third party recruiting agency. The contract I had with the agency said that I would not work with third parties of HP which in effect meant it would have been impossible for me to seek work with any other agency. I completed my contract, but when the agency protested that I started work with an unrelated client who happened to use HP as their prefered supplier, I told them to get stuffed. They never chased me thru the courts and we did work again at a later date.

  • Thanks. A couple of comments / questions about your reply: 1- I am in the States, so any information more relevant to my case is appreciated. 2- What are the applicable laws to my case? The State I work in or the State which the company is registered in? 3- You had a very strong law on your side that no one can stop you from making a living. vs. My concern of patents and inventions. I still do not know enough about the topic to be certain about my situation. 4) My main question here is: Is the company committing fraud by lying to a non-attorney?
    – maverick
    Sep 13, 2016 at 16:16
  • I suspect you have a right to make a living so long as it does not rob someone else from making theirs. If someone makes a patent claim against you, and they win, you have to pay up. If you cannot afford it, then the law might think that you are under selling your product/service (and thus under cutting the competition and thus robbing someone else from making a living).
    – fiprojects
    Sep 13, 2016 at 20:31
  • Your OP is not exactly clear either - from what I understand, it appears you read something that your client would have prefered you had not read - or something that is covered as privilaged information. Unless you signed a contract agreeing to keeping such information private, I don't think they can demand secrecy. Two years ago I worked for a large world known brand - a single page in a power point presentation referenced a highly secretative project. I did not pick up on the reference but the client sent me the Non Disclosure Agreement afterward. I liked their money so I signed.
    – fiprojects
    Sep 13, 2016 at 20:35
  • Lastly... If you watch excellent (2001?) documentary The Corporation it might relate to your last question (clients making false claims). Within the US, you can say whatever you like even if its wrong so long as you believe it to be true. A news organisation won on appeal because they made a wildly wrong claim believing (at the time) to be correct. So... based on the little I know about your case, the company could possibly protect themselves saying they shared information believing it to be true at the time.
    – fiprojects
    Sep 13, 2016 at 20:38

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .