28 Mar

Introduction / Clear and Comprehensive Agreement / Governance and management / 50:50 deadlock contractual joint venture / Resolving deadlocks / Defined Roles and Responsibilities / Financial Contributions / Intellectual Property Rights / Confidentiality and Non-Compete Clauses / Dispute Resolution Mechanisms / Duration and Termination / Avoiding partnership / Advantages of a contractual joint venture / Disadvantages of a contractual joint venture / Conclusion 

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When two or more parties come together to collaborate on a specific project or venture, they may choose to establish a contractual joint venture. 

Unlike a partnership or a limited company, a contractual joint venture does not create a separate legal entity. 

Instead, it is an agreement between the parties that outlines their rights, obligations, and responsibilities. 

This article looks at the essential elements of a contractual joint venture, where there is no partnership or corporate entity being formed. 

Clear and Comprehensive Agreement:

The foundation of a contractual joint venture is a well-drafted and comprehensive agreement. This agreement should clearly outline the purpose, scope, and objectives of the joint venture. 

It should also include provisions for the termination of the venture, dispute resolution mechanisms, and any other relevant terms and conditions. 

Governance and management: 

The governance of a contractual joint venture is established through the terms and provisions outlined in the joint venture agreement (JVA). 

The JVA specifies the decision-making process, management structure, reporting and communication requirements, and dispute resolution mechanisms. 

It also outlines the financial and non-financial contributions of each party involved, as well as their obligations. 

The goal of the governance structure is to provide a framework for decision-making, accountability, and dispute resolution, ensuring the successful operation of the joint venture. 

A 50:50 deadlock contractual joint venture:

This refers to a joint venture where two parties have an equal ownership stake and decision-making power. In this type of joint venture, both parties hold a 50% share and must agree on major decisions. 

While this structure ensures equal participation and influence, it also carries the risk of deadlocks when disagreements arise. To address this, the joint venture agreement should include deadlock resolution procedures such as mediation, arbitration, or the appointment of a neutral third party. 

These mechanisms are crucial for resolving disputes and ensuring the smooth operation of the venture.

Resolving deadlocks: 

Deadlocks in 50:50 deadlock contractual joint ventures can be resolved through various methods, including mediation, arbitration, expert determination, buyout or sale, and revisiting the joint venture agreement. 

Mediation involves a neutral third party facilitating discussions, while arbitration involves a neutral third party making a binding decision. Expert determination involves an independent expert providing a binding decision based on their expertise. Buyout or sale allows one party to buy out the other's interest or dissolve the joint venture and sell the assets. 

Revisiting the joint venture agreement involves renegotiating or amending the agreement to address the deadlock issue. If a deadlock in a contractual joint venture cannot be resolved, the joint venture may be wound up. 

The winding up process involves the dissolution and liquidation of the joint venture's assets and liabilities. The specific steps and procedures will be outlined in the joint venture agreement and may include appointing a liquidator, selling assets, settling debts, and distributing proceeds to the parties according to their agreed-upon shares. 

It is important to follow the procedures outlined in the agreement and seek legal advice when necessary. 

Defined Roles and Responsibilities:

To ensure smooth operation and effective decision-making, each party involved in the joint venture should have clearly defined roles and responsibilities. This includes specifying the tasks, duties, and obligations of each party, as well as any limitations or restrictions on their actions.  

Financial Contributions:

Parties entering into a contractual joint venture will typically make financial contributions to support the venture. The agreement should specify the amount and timing of these contributions, as well as any conditions or requirements for additional funding in the future. It is important to establish a fair and equitable financial arrangement to avoid disputes or imbalances. 

Intellectual Property Rights:

If the joint venture involves the creation or use of intellectual property, it is crucial to address the ownership, licensing, and protection of these rights in the agreement. This includes determining who owns the intellectual property developed during the venture and how it can be used or commercialised. 

Confidentiality and Non-Compete Clauses:

To protect the interests of all parties involved, a contractual joint venture should include provisions for confidentiality and non-compete. 

These clauses prevent the parties from disclosing sensitive information to third parties and competing with the joint venture during and after its duration. 

Dispute Resolution Mechanisms:

In the event of disagreements or disputes, it is essential to have clear mechanisms for resolving conflicts. 

The agreement should outline the process for dispute resolution, such as negotiation, mediation, or arbitration. Including these provisions can help prevent costly and time-consuming legal battles. 

Duration and Termination:

The agreement should specify the duration of the joint venture and the circumstances under which it can be terminated. 

This may include completion of a specific project, expiration of a fixed term, or mutual agreement between the parties. Clearly defining the termination process can help avoid misunderstandings and ensure a smooth transition. 

Avoiding partnership:

It is important to avoid creating a partnership when establishing a contractual joint venture for several reasons. 

By avoiding a partnership structure, the parties can limit their liability, maintain more control and decision-making power, have more flexibility in terms of duration and exit strategies, manage tax implications more effectively, preserve separate business identities, and ensure adaptability and efficiency in the collaboration. 

To avoid creating a partnership when establishing a contractual joint venture, the following steps can be taken:  

  1. Emphasise separate and independent businesses.
  2. Separate accrual of profits.
  3. Restrict participants' authority.
  4. Avoid joint executive committees.
  5. Clearly define roles and responsibilities.
  6. Address confidentiality and non-compete.
  7. Establish dispute resolution mechanisms.
  8. Clearly define the intention.
  9. Maintain separate identities.
  10. Limit decision-making authority.
  11. Avoid joint liability.
  12. Use a written agreement.

Advantages of a contractual joint venture:

  1. Flexibility: One of the chief advantages of a joint venture is its flexibility. The parties involved have the freedom to decide how the joint venture is conducted, as they are not constrained by partnership law, company law, or trust law.
  2. Shared resources and skills: Joint ventures allow parties to combine their resources and skills to carry out a shared activity. This pooling of resources can lead to increased efficiency and effectiveness in achieving the joint venture's objectives.
  3. Shared risks and rewards: In a contractual joint venture, the parties' interests are aligned, and they each stand to gain from achieving the objective. If one party loses, they all lose, and if one party gains, they all gain. This shared risk and reward structure can incentivise collaboration and cooperation among the participants.
  4. Customisation: Joint venture agreements can be tailored to the specific needs and objectives of the participants. The terms of the agreement, including the contributions of each participant, the allocation of profits and losses, decision-making processes, and dispute resolution mechanisms, can be negotiated and agreed upon by the parties.
  5. Access to new markets and opportunities: Joint ventures can provide access to new markets, technologies, distribution channels, or expertise that may not be available to the participants individually. By partnering with another party, a company can expand its reach and tap into new growth opportunities.
  6. Risk sharing: By entering into a joint venture, companies can share the financial and operational risks associated with a particular project or venture. This can help mitigate individual company's exposure to potential losses and provide a more balanced risk profile.

Disadvantages of a contractual joint venture:

Lack of control: In a joint venture, the participants must work together and make decisions collectively. This can result in a loss of individual control over certain aspects of the venture, as decisions need to be made by consensus or according to the terms of the joint venture agreement. 

Potential for conflicts: Collaborating with other parties in a joint venture can lead to conflicts and disagreements. Differences in management styles, strategic priorities, or decision-making processes can create tensions among the participants and hinder the smooth operation of the joint venture. 

Sharing of income: In a joint venture, the income generated from the venture are typically shared among the participants according to the agreed-upon terms. This means that each participant may not receive the full benefit of their individual efforts and investments. 

Allocation of effort and costs: Costs sharing and non-cash contributions to a joint venture need to be carefully considered to avoid later misunderstanding and the risk of disputes. Transparency between the parties is usually the key here.

Limited duration: Joint ventures are often established for a specific project or a finite period of time. Once the objective of the joint venture is achieved or the agreed-upon duration expires, the joint venture may be dissolved. This limited duration can create uncertainty for the participants, especially if they have made long-term investments or commitments. 

Potential for unequal contributions: In some cases, one participant may contribute more resources, expertise, or capital to the joint venture than the others. This imbalance in contributions can lead to disputes or perceived inequities in the distribution of profits or decision-making power. 


A contractual joint venture offers a flexible and collaborative approach for parties to work together on a specific project or venture.  

By establishing a clear and comprehensive agreement, defining roles and responsibilities, addressing financial contributions and intellectual property rights, and including provisions for confidentiality, non-compete, and dispute resolution, parties can navigate the joint venture successfully.  

It is crucial to consult legal professionals to ensure that the agreement meets all legal requirements and protects the interests of all parties involved.  

See also: Shareholders' Agreements- Introduction, Understanding Shareholders' Agreements, Shareholders' Agreement Checklist (downloadable), Cross-options in shareholders' agreements and Joint Ventures.

Legal Notice: Publisher: Atkins-Shield Ltd: Company No. 11638521
Registered Office: 71-75, Shelton Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9JQ

Note: This publication does not necessarily deal with every important topic nor cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not designed to provide legal or other advice. The information contained in this document is intended to be for informational purposes and general interest only. 


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