Right of first refusal
) is a contractual right that gives its holder the option to enter a business transaction
with the owner of something, according to specified terms, before the owner is entitled to enter into
that transaction with a third party. In brief, the right of first refusal is similar in concept to a call option
An ROFR can cover almost any sort of asset, including real estate, personal property, a patent license, a screenplay, or an interest in a business. It might also cover business transactions that are not strictly assets, such as the right to enter a joint venture
or distribution arrangement. In entertainment, a right of first refusal on a concept or a screenplay would give the holder the right to make that movie first. Only if the holder turns it down may the owner then shop it around to other parties.
Because an ROFR is a contract right, the holder's remedies for breach are typically limited to recovery of damages. In other words, if the owner sells the asset to a third party without offering the holder the opportunity to purchase it first, the holder can then sue the owner for damages but may have a difficult time obtaining a court order
to stop or reverse the sale. However, in some cases the option becomes a property right that may be used to invalidate an improper sale.
ROFR also arises in visitation agreements/orders in divorce cases. In such cases, an ROFR may require a custodial parent to offer parenting time to the non-custodial parent (rather than having a child supervised by a third party) any time that the custodial parent or his/her family is unable to exercise his/her right to parenting time (e.g., the custodial parent needs to travel out of town). Under these circumstances a breach may result in a finding of contempt and any remedies for contempt.
An ROFR differs from a Right of First Offer
(ROFO, also known as a Right of First Negotiation) in that the ROFO merely obliges the owner to undergo exclusive good faith
negotiations with the rights holder before negotiating with other parties. A ROFR is an option to enter a transaction on exact or approximate transaction terms. A ROFO is merely an agreement to negotiate.