The Legal Documents of Product Testing

Testers are often asked to sign legal agreements as part of joining a company’s product test. While it may be tempting to just sign the documents without reading them, it’s important that you understand what you’re agreeing to. This will ensure that you don’t accidentally violate the rules of the test at a later date.

Companies take test secrecy and participation very seriously, so you should too. The two legal documents you’ll usually see as testers are non-disclosure agreements and test participant agreements. They may be given to you as a single document, or separately, but they do address two different aspects of being a tester for a pre-release product.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

The document you’ll come across most often as a tester is a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). An NDA is a fairly standard business agreement that protects confidential information shared between two parties. Basically, the person signing it is promising not to tell anyone what they’ve learned about the company. In product tests, the testers are promising not to talk about the products they’ve used or shared their experiences within the test. This normally means not talking about their involvement in the test on social media (even to express excitement or thank the company), not taking pictures of the product, and not showing products or documents to others. It often means you can’t talk about the test even after it is over.

Tester Participation Agreements

The second document you may see as a tester is a tester participation agreement (TPA). A TPA is a project-specific document that establishes the guidelines for participating in a product test or project. This is the document the company uses to communicate what you’ll be expected to do (or not do) during the test. By reading the TPA, you’ll understand the time and energy commitment the company is expecting from you, as well as any additional guidelines they expect you to follow.

What’s included in this document will vary widely depending on the company and the product. The document will often outline things like the duration of the test, your participation obligations throughout the test, as well as what you’re expected to do with the product after the test is over.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you’re familiar with the basics of these documents, here are a few questions that commonly come up.

What happens if I violate an NDA?

By signing an NDA, you’ve likely agreed not to talk about the product you’re testing or your experiences as a tester. If you violate that agreement, you may be sharing very sensitive information that could seriously affect the company. At the very least, you’ll be removed from the test and blacklisted from future opportunities. The company may also take legal action against you, which could result in attorney fees, as well as fines. Many NDAs will outline the consequences of an NDA violation, which can be very serious.

Should I be nervous?

Most testers have nothing to worry about when signing these agreements. If you keep your involvement a secret and follow the directions of the test, you’ll be fine. These documents are designed to help companies deal with any bad apples that can slip into the test.

What if I don’t remember signing anything?

Not all tests require you to sign legal documents. Many companies will run public tests where anyone can join and talk about their participation. Oftentimes, these companies want their testers actively talking about their product to increase interest and sales. That is why it’s particularly important that you read the legal documents you sign at the beginning of every test, just so you know if you’re committing to maintaining confidentiality about your involvement.

Companies value their testers and what they contribute to the development of their product, and they’re looking for testers that value this relationship the same way. Understanding what you’re committing to at the beginning of the test will go a long way toward ensuring a fruitful relationship and a successful product test.

Look familiar? This post is a part of a series in which we’re breathing new life into some of our older entries.