We make it easier to negotiate contracts between multiple companies by acting as neutral facilitator. That is particularly useful when some of the participants are competitors or when more than four companies participate.
Competitors are allowed to cooperate when they take care to comply with the constraints imposed by anti-trust regulations and competition law.
Multi-party negotiations need a shared goal. That could be, for example, the need to make products compatible, or to find a solution for a technical challenge that is beyond the capabilities of a single company.
It is important to start the negotiations with agreement on the the terms of reference for the negotiations. These are a collection of bullet points, not a formal legal text, that answers questions such as:
- What is the shared goal?
- How will the parties make decisions about the text of the multi-party agreement? Is it necessary that all parties agree, or is it acceptable when some parties will not sign the final text of the agreement?
- Will the parties allow other companies to join before and after the multi-party agreement has been signed? Will that require approval of all current participants?
- How will the cooperation be managed after the multi-party agreement has been signed? Will it be possible to make decisions by majority vote?
- What are the high-level requirements for the deliverables of the cooperation?
It is often tempting to reach agreement on the text of the multi-party by hiding disagreement in ambiguous formulation, or by postponing the decision until after the multi-party agreement has been signed. That can be useful when it is necessary to keep all parties on board, but the disagreement will usually re-surface in the form of conflicts about decisions that must be made to deliver the goals of the cooperation. And conflicts delay the deliverables.
It is the responsibility of the facilitator to investigate the reasons behind disagreement on drafts of the multi-party agreement. What is the participant really concerned about? What can be done to address the underlying concern?