“Throughout the Universe”

Fans of overkill—if you like from the beginning of time, you’ll love throughout the universe. You can find it in rights-granting language, as in the following example (emphasis added):

Client shall have the sole and exclusive right throughout the universe in perpetuity to use and exploit all or any part of the Properties and all or any part of any material contained therein or prepared therefor, whether or not used therein, in any format or version, by any means and in any media, whether now known or hereafter developed.

Unless whoever’s being granted the rights in question might want to use them in space, worldwide would be a more sober alternative. A quick scan of the SEC’s EDGAR system suggests that throughout the universe is often used in contexts where use in space would seem a remote prospect.

If use of rights in space is a possibility, then maybe using both worldwide and in space in the rights-granting language would be a less flamboyant alternative. But that raises the question of whether Mars or Alpha Centauri are part of “space.” If you’re asking yourself these kinds of questions, then maybe you should just stick with throughout the universe.

By the way, while this usage isn’t an everyday contract usage, it’s not particularly rare either. In the past year, 115 contracts containing throughout the universe were filed on the SEC’s EDGAR system. For purposes of comparison, during the same period 369 contracts containing from the beginning of time were filed.

[Update October 29, 2009: On recently revisiting the phrase throughout the universe, I realized that in my previouos analysis I had gone a bit too easy on it. The phrase occurs most often in contracts in which a consultant or employee assigns to a company all rights to any intellectual property the consultant or employee develops in the course of providing services under the contract. An example: “Employee hereby irrevocably assigns, licenses and grants to Company, throughout the universe, in perpetuity, all rights, if any, of Employee to ….” In that context, saying “all rights” is entirely comprehensive; adding “throughout the universe” constitutes needless elaboration.]

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.