Articles Posted in Mergers & Acquisitions

Businesses must endeavor to guard their trade secrets jealously. Failure to do so can wreak havoc upon development and growth. It will also give competitors a leg-up in the marketplace. Knowing and understanding California’s trade secret law is therefore critically important. Implementing multiple safeguards to prevent trade secret disclosure is necessary. If a business fails to implement reasonable safeguards to prevent trade secret misappropriation, then the business may be without recourse in court. Working closely with experienced business attorneys to develop the appropriate security measures to prevent trade secret theft could prevent disaster from striking. The San Jose San Jose business attorneys at Structure Law Group, LLP (in San Jose and Oakland) have extensive experience counseling businesses on how to best protect their trade secrets and defending businesses against trade secret misappropriation in court.


California’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“UTSA”), which follows the Uniform Trade Secrets Act adopted in 48 states, defines a “trade secret” as “information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process, that: (1) derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to the public or to other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and (2) is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.” (Ca. Civil Code §3426.1.)

In order to assert a claim for misappropriation of trade secret information, the owner of the trade secret information must identify its trade secret with sufficient specificity so that the information is separate from areas of general knowledge. For example, customer lists, marketing plans or pricing concessions are examples of broad categories of trade secret information. Or, the trade secret can be highly specific, such as a newly designed manufacturing process or the recipe for some sugary carbonated beverage, such as the recipe for Coca-Cola.

Issuing equity in a company is a popular form of employee compensation. This trend is especially popular here in Silicon Valley, where startup companies often defer cash compensation to their employees in exchange for a share of future growth through the issuance of equity. If you own a non-public company, you may wish to compensate your employees partially by issuing them equity in the company. Equity aligns incentives between employers and employees while enabling employees to build up wealth over a longer term. Equity issuance can be done in different ways, including by issuing restricted stock grants or by issuing stock options. Each of these forms of compensation can have its own pros and cons and you want to make sure you carefully analyze the decision and decide which is best for your circumstances.


Restricted Stock

Restricted stock is a stock award that will not fully transfer to the employee until certain conditions have been met. These conditions can include a certain length of time working for your company, meeting certain performance or financial goals or milestones, and more. These restrictions can be helpful for owners to ensure that employees do not simply walk away from your venture and that they must wait for the award to vest before they receive the stock benefits. In addition, by making an 83(b) election with the IRS within a certain period of time after the restricted stock grant, employees can save significantly on the tax burden once the stock vests. If no election is made, however, employees may face hefty tax liability at the time of vesting depending on the value of the shares. Restricted stock is less risky and easier to manage in comparison to regular stock.  However, restricted stock has less favorable tax treatment than options.

Starting a business with a partner can be highly beneficial: collaborations offer many benefits and are particularly popular with startups and firms providing professional services. When you start a business with another person or people, the last thing you expect is to end up in a disagreement about business ownership. Unfortunately, these kinds of disputes arise on a regular basis and can have a significant impact on the success of your business as well as your personal bottom line.

Business disputes can arise in a variety of contexts – here are some of the most common situations:

  • A party may attempt to assert authority which he or she does not have

As an innovator or entrepreneur, you may launch a business for a variety of reasons. At first, a primary reason is to develop a profitable product or technology you believe will provide a nice return.  But, creating the next popular app or useable technology could lead to a life-changing acquisition of your business at a premium valuation.  At the same time, if your business is not performing as you had hoped, selling may be the best option for you. These are only a few reasons why you may want to sell your business.


It is important that businesses considering a sale of their company obtain the guidance of legal counsel. A Silicon Valley business attorney will be able to work with owners to identify and avoid potential legal issues that may arise with the potential sale of the business.  These pitfalls could include, for example, issues with due diligence, fiduciary duty and duty of care, voting requirements, corporate compliance, shareholder approval, intellectual property, and lien holder negotiation.  After all, once a decision is made to sell the business, the goal is not only to get a good offer but to be able to actually get the deal done.

Owners considering a sale of their business should consider the following four tips:

In a corporate merger or acquisition, it is important to ensure that both companies involved are on the same page early in the process. Mergers and acquisitions can be complicated and can require costly resources, so it is important to know what each party is prepared to offer before moving forward with the transaction. One way to ensure both parties are on the same page is to draft a letter of intent (LOI), which outlines the deal points of the merger or acquisition and serves as a type of “agreement to agree”.


The LOI should be carefully drafted by the purchasing company and submitted to the selling company and should set out important basic terms of the transaction. This letter is typically not viewed as a binding contract though that does not mean it should not be given careful consideration. When submitting an LOI, the buyer should put forth attractive though realistic terms. If it fails to do so, it could result in a breakdown in negotiations or a later legal dispute if the expectations set out in the LOI were not in good faith. On the other hand, the purchaser should fully realize that an LOI does not represent the final agreement and that the terms of the deal may change after due diligence is conducted. Because of the importance of an LOI to a merger and acquisition, you should always seek assistance from an experienced M&A attorney when drafting, reviewing, or negotiating the letter.

Provisions to Include in a Letter of Intent

Contracts are utilized in every type of business and every business owner should know that written contracts should be carefully drafted, reviewed, and negotiated before signing. However, not every business deal is memorialized in writing and many agreements are based on verbal interactions and a handshake. Just as with written contracts, legal disputes can arise over deals that were verbally made. When a disagreement arises, the first question is naturally: is an oral contract enforceable under the law?


Whether an oral contract is enforceable depends on several factors. The law requires that certain types of contracts be in writing in order to enforce the terms of the contract. Some contracts that may apply to businesses that must be in writing involve the following:

  • Contracts for the purchase or sale of goods that are worth more than $500;

An important step in the business acquisition process is determining the true value of the business to ensure you are paying an appropriate price. Valuation of a business can be complicated and can depend on the type of company in question, your goals, and many other factors. While this process may seem daunting, an experienced business lawyer can help to identify steps to take and help you decide whether a price is right. The following are some of the issues to consider when evaluating the price of an acquisition.

Examine the Current State of the Business


There are many aspects of a business that should be closely examined before an offer is made, including, but not limited to:

While many well-known businesses are either corporations or limited liability companies, partnerships remain a common and savvy business entity selection. In fact, some of the biggest names in tech—Apple, Microsoft, and Google—started out as partnerships.

What is a Partnership?

cooperation
Partnerships exist whenever there is a cooperative endeavor of two or more people, entities, or some combination thereof, to provide a product or service. The main characteristic of any partnership is that the partners share in the profits and losses of the business.

Many business owners do not hire an experienced attorney for several reasons. Some believe they cannot afford it and others may believe there is no need for a lawyer unless a legal conflict arises. However, it is much more resource-effective (time, energy, and money) to have the guidance of a skilled business lawyer from the very start. Doing so can avoid costly litigation in the first place and will allow you to focus on your business operations and not on a legal case. The following are only some examples of how hiring a business attorney can help to avoid litigation.


Business contracts – Businesses involve many different kinds of contracts, whether they are with fellow owners, suppliers, clients, or any other party. You may not recognize that a particular contract has unfair or adverse provisions that may leave your business vulnerable to losses or liability. Every single contract you consider signing should be carefully drafted, reviewed, and negotiated by a knowledgeable lawyer to protect your interests and avoid legal liability.

Compliance with business laws – California has a great number of laws that are relevant to businesses, and compliance is essential to avoid costly fines or legal conflicts. Such laws can regulate business formation, licenses, permits, zoning, taxes, employees, and many other issues. As a business owner, it may be challenging for you to identify all relevant laws and to ensure that you comply with them. An experienced attorney will know what steps you need to take to comply with necessary laws.

Startups centered around a technological development or product are highly popular in this day and age—and for good reason. Companies such as Apple or Facebook originated in garages or dorm rooms and are now each valued at hundreds of billions of dollars. Even if you are not a technical person and know nothing about programming or coding, you can still start a successful tech startup, as evidenced by companies such as Pandora. It is not surprising that individuals are continually trying to bring the next big idea to life and start their own tech company.


However, like any other type of business, there are many legal concerns for tech startups. One highly important concern is how to properly protect your intellectual property (IP). A novel and viable idea is generally the heart of a tech startup and you do not want to risk your success by failing to adequately protect your idea. The following are only some IP concerns that may be relevant to your tech startup.

Choosing the right type of IP protection