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There is much excitement globally about smart contracts and distributed ledger technologies that support them. Properly funded technology vendors and consortia have emerged which are now able to give tangible expression to that sense of excitement in the form of new and innovative smart contract and distributed ledger products and services.
It has become apparent to us, however, that when industry stakeholders (both buyers of the new technologies and vendors) speak of smart contracts, they can mean very different things. As any contracts lawyer will tell you, words matter. Consistency of language is vital if clear lines of communication are to be achieved in a rapidly evolving industry. What do we mean by a smart contract? Is it smart? Is it a contract? Do lawyers and technologists understand each other when they use these terms?
Recognising the imperative for clarity on these issues, R3 and Norton Rose Fulbright offer this White Paper as a step forward in forging a consensus of understanding between industry stakeholders, lawyers and technologists in relation to smart contracts.
The White Paper considers whether a smart contract can constitute a legally binding contract under the law of a number of key jurisdictions. It also examines the practicalities of enforceability and provides some suggestions for dispute resolution within a smart contract context.
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