David Pollard, A Sourcebook on French Law. Cavendish Publishing Ltd. 1996
The third essential condition for the validity of a contract relates to a concept, which has no direct counterpart in English law, namely, l’objet. The Code civil provides that ‘tout contrat a pour objet une chose qu‘une partie s‘oblige a donner, ou qu‘une parties s’oblige a faire ou a ne pas faire’ and there must be ‘un objet certain qui forme la matiere de l’engagement’ (Code civil, Articles 11126, 1108 [C.1]. The objet of a contract is the subject matter or content of the contract, the duty which each party has to perform, the legal activity which the parties have agreed to undertake. In one sense, the objet of a contract is the legal activity which the parties have agreed to undertake (eg, the sale of property as opposed to its hire) but this also includes further features emanating from the very nature of that legal activity, namely: ffirst that the parties have to transfer something (une chose or do or not do something in accordance with the duties which the contract creates for the parties (eg, to transfer ownership of the property and to pay the price); ssecond, that there the contract involves a transfer of property the chose to be transferred is the objet of that obligation to transfer; and, third, where a contract involves the duty of doing (or not doing) something, the chose to be performed (or not) is the objet of that obligation to act (or not). The objet (in whichever sense is appropriate) must be certain, either in the sense that it relates to an activity or entity which is legally capable of being the subject matter of a contract or in the sense that it is legally capable of being the subject matter of a contract or entity which is legally capable of being the subject matter of a contract or iin the sense that it is determined or determinable (or at least possible).
The obligation agreed by the parties may be impossible to perform for legal reasons in that the subject matter which purports to be the objet of a contract cannot in fact be transferred from one party to another because it cannot be the subject of commercial activity (Article 1128 [C.1]. there is no definition or list of matters which are dans le commerce and which, therefore, can bbe a valid objet of a contract. However, case law has excluded certain matters. First, a person’s personal clients (eg, the patients of a doctor or the clients of an architect) because the client – practitioner relationship is a personal one. To sell one’s clients is not permissible [C.54] but if an agreement is one which merges a practice or brings in a new practitioner and gives the clients a free choice between practitioners, the contract is not void for want of object [C.55]. Second, the right to hold certain offices cannot be transferred [C.56]. Third, neither tombs and tombstones [C.59] nor human beings [C.57] [C.58] may be the subjects of commercial activity (but it may be noted that donating organs and sperm is permissible under recently enacted statute law). In addition to matters, which are hors de commerce, the Code civil forbids the renunciation of the right, at some time in the future, to inherit property and, therefore, such a renunciation cannot be an objet of a contract [C.53].
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