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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The blue pencil doctrine is a legal concept in common law countries, where a court finds that a portion of contract is void or unenforceable, but the other part of the contract is enforceable. In that case the court may order the parties to follow the enforceable part and can delete the void portion.

The court may also order the parties to reconsider the contract to make it enforceable.



The term stems from the act of editing written copy with a blue pencil.

In UK law

The principle was established by the House of Lords in the case of Nordenfelt v Maxim, Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Co.

Other statute laws such as the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1994[1] have established the principle in statute law.

In other countries

In most jurisdictions, courts routinely "blue pencil" or reform covenants that are not reasonable. The blue pencil doctrine gives courts the authority to either strike unreasonable clauses from a noncompete agreement, leaving the rest to be enforced, or actually modify the agreement to reflect the terms that the parties could have — and probably should have — agreed to.[2]


  1. ^ Statutory Instrument 1994 No. 3159 - The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1994, The Stationery Office, 17 March 1993  
  2. ^ Pivateau, Griffin Toronjo (31 August 2007), "Putting the Blue Pencil Down: An Argument for Specificity in Noncompete Agreements", Nebraska Law Review 84 (3),, retrieved 2009-05-04  


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