San Jose Business Lawyers Blog

Articles Posted in Partnerships

The term “intellectual property,” or “IP,” refers to intangible property that is the creation of a person’s mind. IP is given certain aspects of property rights by law. One way of looking at IP, is that it is the property right one possesses in information. McCarthy’s Encyclopedia of Intellectual Property defines “intellectual property as “an all-encompassing term used to designate as a group all of the following fields of law: patent, trademark, unfair competition, copyright, trade secret, moral rights, and the right of publicity.” For example, moral rights, also called the right of attribution, require that I attribute the quoted language to its source. Otherwise, I would not only be guilty of plagiarism, but also copyright infringement.

 

While intangible, intellectual property can be extremely valuable and in some cases may be a company’s sole asset. Some examples of the types of intellectual property that often has significant value include software code, techniques of manufacture, client lists, artistic works, works of authorship and formulas. For example, the Google search-engine algorithm and the recipe for Coca-Cola are each valuable forms of IP, the former being protected by a patent and the latter as a trade secret.

Intellectual property can be legally protected in several ways, including the use of legal instruments such as patents, copyrights, or trademarks. This area of law can be extremely complicated, so it is important for anyone seeking to protect their IP to discuss their options with an experienced attorney.

What to Consider When Licensing Intellectual Property?

Owners of IP, typically the creators or inventors of IP, have the exclusive right to profit from that IP. IP can be used in commercial products with only the right to use the internal IP components. In other cases, the owner of IP will license the IP for others to reproduce and distribute in third-party products. Some common examples of licensing include technology developers who intend to monetize their IP portfolios (e.g., Adobe, Oracle, Microsoft, Google); individual inventors who lack the resources to produce and commercialize a particular product (e.g., inventor of Spider-Man toy with shooting web);  and artists and authors who seek to monetize their works while retaining ownership rights.

Any licensing of intellectual property should take place through the execution of a written licensing agreement, which is a contract that should ideally define both parties’ rights and responsibilities. In a licensing agreement, the party granting the license is referred to as the “licensor,” and the party obtaining the license is referred to as the “licensee.” Some of the terms that should be included in any IP licensing agreement include the following:

  • The scope of the license – The “scope” of a license contains both the grant of a license to do certain things with the IP, such as use, reproduce, distribute, publicly display and publicly perform. That language typical to license agreements derives from the Copyright Act. The second part of the “scope” of a license contains the limitations on the license. Many licensing agreements limit the way in which a particular piece of IP may be used and limit the licensee’s right to resell or reproduce a product. Other limitations may include geography or the number of users.
  • The term of the license – The licensing agreement should clearly state for how long the license will be granted and whether the license is renewable or non-renewable.
  • Retention of ownership – A property drafted licensing agreement grants only a license right and all other rights, title and interest are reserved.
  • The allocation of revenue – A well-drafted license agreement should also outline the way that any revenue that is generated as a result of the license will be allocated. In some cases, the licensee pays a one-time licensing fee while, in others, recurring payments are included in the agreement.
  • Non-disclosure clauses – In many cases, the grant of a license to use intellectual property requires the licensor to disclose confidential information that, if disclosed, could have an impact on the intellectual property’s value. As a result, many licensing agreements contain non-disclosure clauses limiting the licensee’s ability to disclose information related to the IP.
  • Warranties – Licensing agreements may contain both express and implied warranties as well as warranty disclaimers.
  • Indemnification – The licensing agreement should clearly define the rights of indemnification for both the licensor and the licensee.
  • Choice of law – The law governing the licensing agreement will have a major impact on the interpretation and enforcement the agreement.

There are many other considerations that may arise when drafting a licensing agreement, so anyone who is considering licensing their intellectual property should discuss their circumstances with an experience IP licensing attorney as soon as possible.

The attorneys of the Structure Law Group are qualified to handle a broad range of issues related to business law, including intellectual property licensing, entity formation, employment law, mergers & acquisitions, and others. To schedule a consultation with one of our San Jose corporate attorneys, call our office today at 408-441-7500. Prospective clients who wish to send us an email can do so through our online contact form available here.

To make your business distinguishable, it’s important to focus on choosing and trademarking a business name early on; this is essential to securing ownership of your new company. Here are 3 steps to choosing the name of your business and protecting it under trademark law.

 

3 Steps for Trademarking a Business Name

 

  1. Pick a Name Category

A name has the power to invoke more than an image; it gives customers a feel for your culture, values and personality and provides for designation from where the goods or services originate. Your company name should fall into one of the following 4 categories:

  • Functional/Descriptive: A functional business name reminds consumers what the brand does. It should include more than just description of your trade. A name including your company’s function like, “Caterpillar Construction” tells customers exactly what your specialty is.
  • Invented: An invented company name can be catchy and draw a loyal following like “Google.” It can be fun and exciting, but make sure it accurately represents your brand or it will cause customer confusion. Avoid selecting a name that misrepresents the goods or services with which it is associated.
  • Evocative: Some of the most well-remembered business names evoke strong feelings or memories just by hearing the word (think Yahoo!) If you’re aiming for this kind of trademark, choose a word that’s strong and short for a memorable impact.
  • Experiential: An experiential name gives customers a full experience of the brand. Companies like these focus on selling a lifestyle in addition to a product or service. An example of this name is Magellan, the GPS and mapping service.
  1. Research Trademark Databases

After you decide what you want to communicate via your business name, you’ll have to trademark it to ensure ownership. It’s important to make sure the desired name isn’t the same or too similar from other existing companies.  A name that is too similar to an existing registered mark will be refused by the examining attorney based on being too “confusing” to consumers.  To research potential mark names, start by researching state and federal trademark databases.  If the name you choose is already selected by another company, you will likely have to select a new name.

  1. Register the Trademark

Trademarking a business name can be done in 3 ways. The first is to register the new trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  The USPTO reviews trademark applications and determines whether each application meets the requirements necessary for federal registration.  This is the best way to secure the rights to your business name. You can also register by submitting to the state database or using the trademark in connection with selling goods and services.

As you navigate the process of forming your business, it’s important to comply with all state and federal regulations. For help obtaining licenses and permits, seek advice from an experienced attorney. Picking a category of business name, searching the trademark database and legally registering the trademark are all important steps to make when starting a business. For assistance in trademarking your company’s new name, contact your team at Structure Law Group today at 408-441-7500.

 

About Structure Law Group, LLP

Structure Law Group is a San Jose based law firm that serves its clients’ business, employment and real estate needs, including but not limited to business formations, debt and equity investments, employment agreements, commercial leasing and purchases, commercial contracts and related litigation.

Some of the world’s most successful companies started as partnerships. Microsoft, Apple, McDonald’s, Warner Bros., Ben & Jerry’s, and Google are only some examples of now corporate giants that began with only two people working together to start a business. Unfortunately, many partnerships do not work as well, often because of disputes between the partners. Many of these disputes may be avoided by simply drafting and signing a valid and appropriate partnership agreement at the beginning of operations. An experienced business attorney can help you identify which issues need to be addressed in your particular partnership arrangement.

 

The law does not require an agreement

Anytime two or more people begin business operations, they automatically have a partnership. Much like a sole proprietorship, a partnership requires no filings with the Secretary of State or other formalities in order to establish the business entity. If you do not have a partnership agreement and a dispute arises, you will have little control over how the dispute is resolved. In cases without an agreement in place, California law will govern the situation and not the wishes of the respective partners, which can be problematic in many cases. For example, California law allows each partner an equal say in the management of the business, as well as an equal share in profits. This would not be fair if one partner contributed substantially more time, effort, or money to the business than the other. Therefore, not only will a partnership agreement help to avoid misunderstandings in the first place, but may also lead to a fairer resolution of any legal issues.

 

Things to address in a partnership agreement

Once you decide to enact a partnership agreement, you should ensure that all appropriate and necessary provisions are included to fully protect the rights of the partners and avoid future disputes. Some common topics covered include the following:

  • What each partner will contribute
  • How profits, losses, and draws will be allocated
  • Rules for making decisions regarding the business
  • The roles, duties, and authority of each partner
  • How and when new partners can be added
  • What will happen if a partner wants to leave the business or upon the death of a partner
  • How disputes will be resolved

In order to best protect your partnership rights, you always want an agreement that is thoroughly drafted to cover all relevant topics. An experienced business lawyer can evaluate your situation and can draft, negotiate, and review partnership agreements. Please do not hesitate to contact the San Jose office of the Structure Law Group at 408-441-7500 to discuss how we can help you today.

The robust expansion of the Internet and increased accessibility of Internet-enabled devices has provided entrepreneurs and existing businesses an easy and relatively inexpensive way to reach millions of people. One only needs to look the meteoric rise of companies like Amazon and Netflix to see the growth potential of an Internet-based business.  In fact, many types of businesses which once were required to have a bricks-and-mortar presence can now operate solely online, significantly cutting their overhead costs. One only needs to look at the rise of companies like Amazon and Netflix to see the growth potential of an Internet-based business.

Because of this potential, more and more people are choosing to start their own online business selling goods or services to people around the country and even the world. While the Internet has removed many of the barriers of entry that have traditionally kept many people from starting a business, it has also created significant and new legal issues that business owners must consider before building a website and selling their product. It is for this reason that anyone considering starting an online business should discuss their situation with an experienced lawyer. Some of the more important issues related to starting an online business are discussed below.

Type of business entity

The type of business entity you choose for your business can have a significant impact on your personal liability for business debts as well as the amount you will pay in taxes. There are a number of entities to choose from, including partnerships, limited liability companies, or corporations. The one best for your business will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of operation you are running as well as your plans for growth.

Choosing a unique business name

Prior to the Internet, small business owners did not need to be concerned about whether there was another business with the same or a similar name operating halfway across the country.  This is because local or regional businesses were unlikely to be confused with one another and were practically incapable of competing with one another. With the reach that the Internet can provide, choosing a business name that is too similar to another business’s name risks a costly and time-consuming trademark infringement suit.

Compliance with federal and state regulations

Many types of businesses are subject to federal or state regulations. Importantly, while you may be in compliance with the regulations of your state, if you do business with an out of state customer or client, your business may be subject to the regulations of the state in which your customer resides. Consequently, it is important to research the laws in any state in which you may do business to ensure that you are in violation of the applicable regulations.

Contact a San Jose business law lawyer today to discuss the legal issues related to your internet based business

An online presence has become a near-necessity for a business in virtually every industry. In addition, the Internet allows businesses to reach an unprecedented number of potential clients and customers than ever before. While the internet can be an excellent tool for growing a business, it can also expose a company to additional legal liability and regulatory oversight. As a result, anyone who has started doing business online or is planning on implementing an online presence for an existing business should discuss their circumstances with an experienced lawyer. To schedule a consultation with one of our experienced San Jose business lawyers, please call Structure Law Group today at 408-441-7500.

For many new and existing businesses, their intellectual property (IP) may be by far their most valuable asset. Intellectual property can include literary works, software code, processes, formulas, manufacturing specifications, marketing plans, or designs.  In some cases, a company’s ideas may literally be their only asset – consider, for example, an individual with the idea for the next smartphone app that will be downloaded by hundreds of millions of people. She, and any company that she forms to develop that app, have the asset of that idea before even a single line of code is written. Of course, it is only natural to want to protect that asset from misappropriation by other parties. In many cases, the best way to achieve this goal is to use a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with any other parties with whom the idea may be discussed.

What is a Non-Disclosure Agreement?

Fundamentally, NDA agreements are contracts between two or more parties that outline information that they wish to share with each other but not with other parties. There are two main types of NDA agreements, which are:

  • One-Way NDAs – Also known as a “unilateral non-disclosure agreement,” this type of NDA restricts one party from disclosing information to another third party.
  • Mutual NDAs – This type of non-disclosure agreement, which may also be called a “bilateral non-disclosure agreement,” is often used when two parties need to disclose confidential information to each other in order to be able to work together. They restrict both parties from disclosing certain information to others.

Sticking with our app-developing entrepreneur, let us further imagine that she has a degree in marketing and does not know the first thing about developing a smartphone app. In order to bring this app to market, then, she must hire a company or partner up with someone else who has that expertise. In order to do so, however, she needs to disclose certain information about the app that would potentially allow another party to take the idea and develop it themselves. In these cases, a NDA agreement can operate to prohibit any party with whom she discusses her idea from disclosing its details to others. NDAs can be used to protect a variety of information that may be valuable to your business. Among the most common include:

·         Manufacturing processes

·         Business strategies

·         Software

·         Machines and devices

·         Designs

·         Formula

·         Business models

·         Sales contacts

·         Recipes

·         Artistic or literary works

 

Contact a Silicon Valley business lawyer today to discuss your legal matter

Businesses that are seeking to protect their intellectual property from misappropriation should discuss their circumstances with an lawyer as soon as possible. Call the Structure Law Group today at (408) 441-7500 to schedule a consultation with one of our San Jose business lawyers.

There are pros and cons to including an arbitration clause as part of your contractual agreements. Arbitration is a popular and can be effective forum for settling disputes between individuals, businesses, in real estate contracts and in employment settings under the right circumstances. There are two types or arbitration clauses:  non-binding and binding.

 

Non-Binding Arbitration

In non-binding arbitration, the arbitrator makes a decision to determine which party is liable and then suggests possible compensation for damages. Neither party is obligated to follow through with these guidelines.

Binding Arbitration

Binding arbitration is the opposite. The decision-maker hands down a ruling of liability and also assigns penalties. An arbitration clause can be binding in most contracts but California allows for the clause to be ignored if all parties agree to the change. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of having an arbitration clause.

3 Pros of Having an Arbitration Clause

  1. Saves Money

Arbitration is usually much cheaper than going to court and may be a viable option to save money. If the dispute continues to litigation, costly fees associated with depositions, uncovering evidence and pre-trial meetings follow.

  1. Speed of Decision

A case in litigation can take many months or years to conclude while having an arbitration clause may resolve the dispute much faster, usually averaging 475 days.  Arbitration has more relaxed rules of pleading and evidence in comparison to litigation rules.

  1. Confidentiality

Arbitrations can be held in private are subject to rules concerning confidentiality, so the parties that especially prize privacy are not exposed to public scrutiny.  Despite the fact that proceedings may be transcribed, arbitrations have no “public record.”

3 Cons of Having an Arbitration Clause

  1. Only One Decision-Maker

While litigation usually leaves the final decision to a panel of jurors, arbitration has only one arbitrator (who can be hand-picked) who passes down a decision of liability. Without an impartial jury vote, your case may be treated unfairly or receive a fraction of the required attention.  There is rarely a right to appeal if a mistake is made.  Further, arbitrators can make decisions on what they perceive to be fair, rather than what the law directs.

  1. Can Become Costly

The process of discovery is becoming more prevalent in arbitration, which not only lengthens the time of arbitration, but also the cost.   Unlike traditional court proceedings, wherein judges are compensated by the state, parties to an arbitration must pay the arbitrators out of their own pockets.  Many arbitrators charge hundreds of dollars per hour.

  1. Possibility of Unnecessary Claims

Arbitration may be taken less seriously than a lawsuit in court so some parties may treat it more like mediation. Necessary or frivolous disputes may not be weeded out through procedural processes normally applicable in court.

Having an arbitration clause can save time and money, but it may also be biased or lack the necessary procedural filters of litigation. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the legal system and determine if this is the right choice for you.

About Structure Law Group, LLP

Structure Law Group is a San Jose based law firm that serves its clients’ business, employment and real estate needs, including but not limited to business formations, debt and equity investments, employment agreements, commercial leasing and purchases, commercial contracts and related litigation.

Many business owners rely on ideas, formulas, inventions, and other types of intellectual property (IP) in order to make a profit. In fact, IP can be one of the most valuable assets of a company. Your specific product, brand, and other identifiers are often the components that define you and set your business apart from others. Therefore, protecting your IP is extremely important to the success of your venture. In order to prevent others from misappropriating your valued intellectual property, you always want to obtain formal legal protections.

trade secret

There are many options for protecting your IP, and choosing the right one may be confusing for business owners who are not familiar with the relevant laws. Many business owners receive denials for their applications for patents, trademarks, and copyrights and do not know what their options are from there. Fortunately, an experienced business attorney can help you achieve trade secret status for your IP, which may actually be more beneficial than other protections in several ways. Continue Reading

Partnerships exist when two or more people agree to engage in business for profit. Partnerships can be formed to engage in a number of different ventures, and generally have low start-up costs and do not require many formalities. There a several types of partnerships, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. Two of the most popular are detailed below.

partnersip

General Partnerships

In a general partnership, each partner equally owns the business and has full authority to act as an agent of the business, meaning that he or she may make business decisions on behalf of the partnership. There are no formal filing requirements to form a general partnership in the state of California. On the contrary, general partnerships can be formed through an oral or written agreement or simply by the conduct of the parties, if a court determines that an implied partnerships. Importantly, each partner is personally liable for all business debts associated with the partnership. Continue Reading

If you’re thinking about starting a nonprofit, there are some steps to take before you begin. Forming a nonprofit organization is much like starting a regular corporation, except there are several additional steps you must take to ensure tax-exempt status, which includes a rigorous application process. Here are some common questions and their answers about forming a nonprofit organization.

nonprofit word in letterpress type

Forming a Nonprofit Organization: Common Questions and Answers

What does ‘501(c)3’ mean?

Being a 501(c)3 corporation means a company has been approved by the IRS as a charitable organization, exempt from specified taxes. The IRS may grant your nonprofit organization tax-exempt status if the nonprofit was formed for religious, charitable, scientific, literary or educational purposes, so long as the nonprofit does not distribute profits to individuals above reasonable compensation. Continue Reading

Are you thinking about starting a business? The success or failure of your business venture depends on your ability to plan ahead, take action, and respond to what happens after your idea becomes a company. Here are 4 actions to consider on your path to business success.
bizsuccess.JPG
Building a Successful Business: 4 Steps
1. Clearly Define Your Vision and Goals

Business success comes through hard work and dedication. Having a clear vision and measurable goals is the first step. Write down your plans for the future of your company, both short term and long term. It can also be helpful to scout out your competition to see if your plans will hold up in the market. This is known as market research, and it will allow you to identify whether a similar product or idea is already out on the market. Continue Reading