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What Is a SaaS Agreement?
A SaaS agreement, or a software as a service agreement, lays out terms and conditions of a software delivery model. In this type of model, software and data will be centrally hosted and users will access the software and data over the internet.
A SaaS agreement may include heavy service elements, or it may just give end users access to products that can alternatively be licensed in a traditional way. No additional software or hardware is needed in the SaaS model, as data is uploaded into a system and then saved in the cloud.
Is a SaaS Agreement Different From a Licensing Agreement?
A SaaS agreement differs from a licensing agreement.
Under a licensing agreement, a company will usually deliver the actual software for use, typically for a single or monthly fee. Software and relevant hardware must be physically installed.
In a SaaS agreement, on the other hand, customers get access to software and other technology through the cloud, but no physical goods are exchanged. A SaaS agreement will give end users access to the products involved online. As a result, the structure of a SaaS agreement focuses on permitting the use of a product instead of allowing product use as a service.
Important Clauses Found in a SaaS Agreement
An individual SaaS agreement will have unique needs and therefore different clauses. The specific clauses in an agreement will depend on the following relevant information:
However, all cloud service agreements will share certain terms and agreements. This includes:
Access right and users:
Most SaaS agreements will have a metric to limit access to either a certain number of users or a certain amount of data. Your agreement should:
- Detail that metric
- Define what a user is
- Establish penalties for abuse
Customer service and support:
Provisions should establish:
- How you will provide support for your services
- Response time
- Any additional guarantees in terms of expected service
- Data ownership: This vital component of a cloud service agreement establishes who gets the rights to data that is entered into a platform or service.
This section is particularly important in consumer markets. The section should detail:
- Encryption responsibilities
- How often data will be backed up
- Protections offered
- Security of entered data
What happens to data in the event of:
- A security breach
- Termination of service use
- Where data is stored.
- License scope: You should define and limit the rights that you transfer to subscribers.
- Limitation of liability: You should also make any damages available clear, and you can cap contractual liability.
- Master agreement language: Most agreements will include language that makes this document the master document for all services you offer so you do not have to negotiate or sign a completely new contract every time a customer wants to renegotiate or change the services provided.
Detail what end users should expect from your service. This should include:
- Relevant results
- What your service does not promise
Pricing and when your company has the right to charge detailed costs should be established in the agreement. As SaaS agreements typically use a subscription model, you will usually get payment in one of the following ways:
- Rights to a physical copy: Most SaaS agreements state that customers do not have a right to a physical copy of the software used.
- SLA: A cloud service agreement typically also includes a Service Level Agreement, or SLA. The SLA sets a minimum performance standard for a SaaS. Performance standards are generally related to service availability. In this part of the agreement, you can set your service's uptime percentage for services that are critical to business operations.
- Subscription plan and model: Provisions should specify exactly what the subscription plan includes, as well as how your services will be delivered.
- Term, Termination, and Renewal: These three clauses should establish the agreement's term and the processes that should be followed to terminate or renew the service. Generally, a SaaS agreement will have evergreen renewal. This means the agreement will be renewed automatically for another term, unless a customer actively terminates their agreement before an established date.
Types of Agreements SaaS Companies Need
Company-level agreements for SaaS companies can include:
- Assignment of intellectual property, or IP transfer agreements
- Confidentiality/non-disclosure agreements
- Employment agreements
- Shareholders agreements
Customer-facing agreements can include:
- Master services agreements
- Purchase and sales order agreements
- Service level agreements
Third-party agreements can include:
- Advisor agreements
- Affiliate or partner agreements
- Contractor agreements
Public-facing policies can include:
- Privacy policies
- Security policies
- Trademark policies
Image via Unsplash by arifriyanto
You might hear this type of agreement referred to in the following ways:
- Terms of service
- Terms and conditions
Practically speaking, they're all the same thing.
Clauses to include in this agreement are:
- Business contact information
- Copyright and intellectual property rights
- How customers can end the service contract, including penalties should they end a contract early
- How your SaaS handles content generated by users
- Laws that govern the contract
- Licensing information
- Limitations of liability and disclaimers of warranties
- Payment term specifics
- Restrictions and/or limitations of use
Privacy Policies for a SaaS
- California: The California Online Privacy Protection Act ( CCPA ).
- Canada: The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act ( PIPEDA ).
- European Union: General Data Protection Regulation ( GDPR ).
- What personal data your service collects and uses
- How your service collects and uses personal data
- How your service stores personal data
- Whether your service shares personal data with third parties
Information about cookies:
- If cookies are used
- Which cookies are used
- Why cookies are used
How users can:
- Limit the data that is collected and used
- Withdraw consent to have their data collected and used
- Request to have data deleted
SaaS agreements are integral parts of any software as a service company. Make sure you work with lawyers who know how these contracts work when crafting yours.
Meet some of our SaaS Agreement Lawyers
Alen Aydinian is a versatile attorney with over a decade of experience working with business owners and real estate professionals. Client engagement is central to a successful attorney/client relationship. Alen personally manages all client relationships so that his clients can see how their interests are being served at every stage of the process.
I help small business owners build and protect their dreams. I always thought that I would just be a litigator. Then I joined an intellectual property clinic in law school. We were helping nonprofits and small businesses reach their goals. I fell in love with the work and decided to open my own firm so I could keep helping them. When I decided to start Victrix Legal, I decided that it would be a modern law firm designed to serve professionals. It would be different from every other law firm. In my experience, my law firms are designed to promote inefficiency and reactionary lawyering. Because in most firms, you make more money when you spend more time on a project. And you lose money if your client doesn't get sued. In my opinion, that's a built-in conflict of interest. My firm is different. I use flat fees for most basic projects to keep costs predictable for you and incentivize efficiency. I offer long-term advisory plans and legal audits to prevent issues from happening. I want my clients to see me as their business partner, not just the guy they call when they are in trouble. If any of that interests you, please reach out to me. I offer free consultations. Let's set aside some time and talk about what your legal needs are.
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I graduated from Harvard Law School and worked first for a federal judge and then a leading DC firm before starting a firm with a law school classmate. My practice focuses on company formations, early-stage investments, and mergers & acquisitions.
After 21 years as an in-house attorney for both large and small organizations, I formed Osensky Law in 2017 to bring my unique in-house counsel insights to entrepreneurs and smaller businesses. Unlike a traditional law firm, my focus is on delivering the kind of legal support a business wants and needs - not just technically correct legal advice, but strategic problem-solving with a focus on providing business value to clients. Since earning my law degree with honors from Tulane University Law School, I worked as in-house counsel for large multinational companies such as Georgia-Pacific and MCI, as well as smaller organizations including Georgia Technology Authority and Georgia Tech. This unique combination of experience allows me to bring together the best practices of all of them. I have led multi-disciplinary teams to achieve important business goals and have successfully negotiated many multi-million dollar deals. Now, as a business owner myself, I can relate to my clients and understand the challenges they face. I have an established reputation for providing practical advice and perspectives based on my legal training combined with over 20 years of practical hands-on experience as a business lawyer and leader. Today, with my firm Osensky Law, I advise clients on starting a new business, buying or selling a small business, and doing business with contracts.
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