Formalizing Contract Law for Smart Contracts

Tilburg Private Law Working Paper Series No. 6/2017

9 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2017

Date Written: September 18, 2017


Smart contracts are presented as a self-executing, autonomous alternative to traditional contracts that require enforcement by court involvement. The first experiences with smart contracts show that contracts involve more than conditional execution. This paper proposes a method for formalizing contract law in order to make this as far as possible tractable for incorporation in smart contracts.

Contract law can be viewed as a set of rules for resolving disputes while also protecting legitimate interests of parties. Examination of a simple example shows that formalization is complicated by several issues that arise from lay expectations regarding (smart) contracts. This exercise also shows implicit assumptions and characteristics of contract law, and challenges whether such characteristics are unavoidable.

Keywords: smart contracts, contract law, formalization, blockchain

Suggested Citation

Tjong Tjin Tai, Eric, Formalizing Contract Law for Smart Contracts (September 18, 2017). Tilburg Private Law Working Paper Series No. 6/2017, Available at SSRN: or

Eric Tjong Tjin Tai (Contact Author)

Tilburg Law School ( email )

Tilburg, 5000 LE

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