What is a non-disclosure agreement?

In our pursuit to eliminate any misconception about contracts, their meaning, and the most common ones, we stumbled upon possibly one of the most widely executed agreements worldwide – the NDA.

A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is a legal contract that aims to protect confidential information from unauthorized disclosure. This agreement typically applies to trade secrets, business plans, intellectual property, or any other data that the issuer values. In essence, it is a contract that limits the communication of a specific topic to the parties involved and prevents them from sharing it with anyone else.

From best practices to how to enforce them and the elements they incorporate, there’s more to these types of contracts than what meets the eye, so here’s a brief overview of NDAs, their elements, benefits, and best practices.

What does an NDA do?

These contracts provide legal protection to individuals or organizations who wish to safeguard a specific piece of information, which could otherwise give their competitors an unfair advantage. NDAs are often used between parties who are starting a new collaboration or between employers and new hires. They help establish clear expectations in a new relationship and protect sensitive information during the general course of business.

While these agreements are usually between two parties, there are NDAs that cover multiple parties, called multilateral NDAs. However, since parties usually prefer to delimit the responsibility of others on an individual basis, they usually employ NDAs between two parties, instead of three or more.

NDAs can be confusing for those who are not familiar with contracts and their terms. It’s not uncommon to come across related terms such as Confidential Agreements (CAs), Confidential Disclosure Agreements (CDAs), or Proprietary Information Agreements, all of which often reference the same or similar obligations.

What are the elements of an NDA?

A non-disclosure agreement is not just a document you can make a copy of and call it a day. It has several sections that need to be specifically tailored to the needs of a party or organization.

Parties or participants

The first section usually includes the names and roles of all parties involved, such as the disclosure and recipient of the information. 

Confidential information

This is a detailed description of the information that is considered confidential, as well as how the parties handle it. It encompasses the scope of the contract. It’s often a process to determine what information could be considered confidential or not, which is why it is not uncommon for parties to broaden the scope of what is covered by the contract, as a way to cover all their bases.

Exclusions from protection 

Due to the vast and comprehensive scope of different NDAs, it may be necessary in certain circumstances to determine which information the parties can disclose and under what specific conditions. For instance, information that is already public, independently created, or mandated by law can be shared.

Terms or time period

This section outlines the length of time and the terms and conditions of the agreement. The standard NDA typically lasts between one and five years, but the duration and conditions of the agreement may vary based on the type and sensitivity of the information.


Because the definition of confidential information can vary between organizations and individuals, Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) often need to be modified. Therefore, the parties may add specific custom clauses or sections to further safeguard and protect the confidentiality of information.

What happens when you breach a non-disclosure agreement?

When an individual or organization violates the NDA, they disregard the terms that were established to protect sensitive and confidential information. It’s important to note that the severity of the consequences depends on the circumstances surrounding the breach.

Legal consequences: Violating an NDA can result in legal proceedings, with the affected party potentially suing for damages caused by the breach.

Reputation damage: Apart from legal implications, there is also the matter of reputation; a breach of confidentiality can damage an organization’s standing.

Financial loss: In addition to legal penalties, breaching an NDA may result in financial losses, especially if the disclosed information has monetary value.

Termination of agreements: In cases where NDAs form part of larger agreements, violating the NDA may lead to the termination of those agreements, potentially resulting in the loss of business partnerships, collaborations, or employment opportunities.

Making sure that an NDA is followed by the parties involved starts by drafting a readable and understandable contract. Zeal allows you to draft the right contracts in minutes. Check out our AI-powered capabilities and draft the right contracts for your team.

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