In The United States
In the United States, Article 3 and Article 4 of the Uniform Commercial Code govern the issuance and transfer of negotiable instruments. The various State law enactments of Uniform Commercial Code §§3-104(a) through (d) set forth the legal definition of what is and what is not a negotiable instrument:
|“||§ 3-104. NEGOTIABLE INSTRUMENT.
(a) Except as provided in subsections (c) and (d), "negotiable instrument" means an unconditional promise or order to pay a fixed amount of money, with or without interest or other charges described in the promise or order, if it:
(1) is payable to bearer or to order at the time it is issued or first comes into possession of a holder;
(2) is payable on demand or at a definite time; and
(3) does not state any other undertaking or instruction by the person promising or ordering payment to do any act in addition to the payment of money, but the promise or order may contain
(i) an undertaking or power to give, maintain, or protect collateral to secure payment,
(ii) an authorization or power to the holder to confess judgment or realize on or dispose of collateral, or
(iii) a waiver of the benefit of any law intended for the advantage or protection of an obligor.
(b) "Instrument" means a negotiable instrument.
(c) An order that meets all of the requirements of subsection (a), except paragraph (1), and otherwise falls within the definition of "check" in subsection (f) is a negotiable instrument and a check.
(d) A promise or order other than a check is not an instrument if, at the time it is issued or first comes into possession of a holder, it contains a conspicuous statement, however expressed, to the effect that the promise or order is not negotiable or is not an instrument governed by this Article.
Thus, for a writing to be a negotiable instrument under Article 3, the following requirements must be met:
- The promise or order to pay must be unconditional;
- The payment must be a specific sum of money, although interest may be added to the sum;
- The payment must be made on demand or at a definite time;
- The instrument must not require the person promising payment to perform any act other than paying the money specified;
- The instrument must be payable to bearer or to order.
The latter requirement is referred to as the "words of negotiability": a writing which does not contain the words "to the order of" (within the four corners of the instrument or in endorsement on the note or in allonge) or indicate that it is payable to the individual holding the contract document (analogous to the holder in due course) is not a negotiable instrument and is not governed by Article 3, even if it appears to have all of the other features of negotiability. The only exception is that if an instrument meets the definition of a cheque (a bill of exchange payable on demand and drawn on a bank) and is not payable to order (i.e. if it just reads "pay John Doe") then it is treated as a negotiable instrument.
Read more about this topic: Negotiable Instrument
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