False Economy: Why Saving a Few Dollars on Legal Fees Now Can Cost You Big Later

A. Thomas DeWoskin

By A. Thomas DeWoskin



 

 

  • You’re about to sign a lease for your company’s new premises. Should you have a lawyer review it, or save the money?
  • You’re about to sign an employment agreement with your new employer. Should you have a lawyer review it, or save the money?
  • You and your best friend are going to start a new business. Should you have a lawyer advise you, or get the forms off the internet and save the money?

Both in jest and with some seriousness, business people, especially entrepreneurs, tend to view lawyers skeptically. Their perception is that lawyers run up fees, make simple transactions complicated, and sometimes cause deals to fall apart completely with all of their questions.

This is a short-sighted view of how attorneys can help you and your business. Experienced business minds understand that lawyers, when properly used at the beginning of a transaction rather than later after problems have developed, can be problem avoiders. And a problem avoided can be big money saved.

In the lease situation above, for example, your lawyer would be sure that you signed the lease in such a way that only your company, not you personally, would be liable. She might negotiate a provision that you don’t pay any rent while the space is being readied for your occupancy or for reduced rent if the landlord doesn’t provide promised services. An experienced attorney has seen a lot of leases, and knows the traps they often contain.

Lawyers aren’t deal breakers. Their job is to point out the potential risks in a transaction so you, the client, can decide whether those risks are worth the potential benefits of proceeding. If the risk/reward ratio isn’t to your liking, then YOU break the deal. If the risk is acceptable, then you proceed. In either event, you have made the decision in an informed and practical manner. You are in control; your lawyer, like all of your professional service providers, works for you. Your attorney’s role is to provide advice, share wisdom and insight, and help you make the business decisions. Continue reading »

Employee Social Media Griping: Can An Employer Terminate Employees Because of Their Social Media Posts Without Violating Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



Social Media is the new water cooler conversation. It enables and facilitates conversations that years ago would have taken places at the old-fashioned water cooler. In today’s world of Facebook and Twitter, employee complaining is instantly, electronically and permanently transmitted to the world. Social Media users think less about their posts and disclose more so that a simple gripe monologue is turned into dialogue – on steroids – with the world. Such platforms encourage employees to blur their personal and professional lines of behavior and blurt out what is bothering them without engaging their higher level thinking tools.

With seven hundred and fifty million people actively using Facebook, there is a significant chance that a post about working conditions, compensation or other issues related to their employment will spark a conversation with an employee’s colleagues, and such conversations may constitute concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act.

The question remains, if your employees say something negative on Facebook about your company, their fellow employees or their supervisors, can you terminate without running afoul of the National Labor Relations Act?

The answer depends on the facts surrounding the post(s). The test is whether the employee is engaging in activity solely for himself or on behalf of other employees.

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Choosing a Trademark or Servicemark

David R. Bohm

By David R. Bohm



So, you’ve decided to open a new business, or your current business is set to begin offering a new product line or set of services. Now you need to decide what you are going to call this new business, product or service. In other words, what trademark or servicemark (collectively referred to herein as “mark”) are you going to adopt to identify your product? This was a question my father faced when he opened his first photo studio in 1942. He chose the name Rembrandt Portrait Studio. As will be explained in this article, this was a good choice.

A company wanting protection for a mark that it will use in interstate commerce will generally want to register it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). If the mark is only used in one state or a limited number of localities, a company may choose to register with a state trademark registry, or rely on common law protection (even unregistered marks may be entitled to some protection). A mark may not be registered if it (or a similar mark) is already in use to describe a competing product or service.

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Protecting Your Company’s Intellectual Property from Predation by Employees and Independent Contractors

David R. Bohm

By David R. Bohm



The success of a company in the technology sector is largely dependent upon its intellectual property, which, in turn, is derived from investment in human capital. It is the company’s employees (as used herein, the term “employee” will include independent contractors and contract employees) who develop software, invent new products or techniques, and generate other types of trade secrets and confidential information. Today, because employees are more mobile than ever, it is extremely important that businesses take precautions to keep their intellectual property from being utilized by an employee who goes to work for a competitor.

Patent and copyright law provide an entrepreneur some rights in relation to employees involved in developing patented or copyrighted material. Additionally, an entrepreneur has some common law rights in its trade secrets and confidential information. However, in order for a business to fully protect its interests in intellectual property developed and utilized by it, it is important to implement written agreements
that specifically address the rights of the business and its employees relative to such inventions and information.

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