San Jose Business Lawyers Blog

Articles Posted in Partnerships

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.

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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.
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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

Among the most important decisions a business owner or entrepreneur can make is determining what business entity best suits their needs. This decision can affect how much you pay in taxes, the amount of paperwork that you will need to do, your own personal liability, and your ability to raise capital by issuing stock. Additionally, some business formations require certain formalities in order to be in compliance with state and federal law.

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Of course, every business is different, and what may be an appropriate business entity for one venture may be completely inappropriate for another. Business ventures that anticipate rapid growth or are formed with the intention of being acquired by another company may choose an entity type that may be unnecessarily onerous at startup but allow growth and compliance with federal securities laws, preempting the need for a potentially costly reorganization down the road. For these and other reasons, it is best for anyone considering forming a business entity to discuss their goals and options with an experienced Silicon Valley business lawyer before filing any paperwork with the state.

In the meantime, here is some basic information regarding the some of the most commonly used business formations:

Sole Proprietorships – A sole proprietorship is perhaps the most common type of business that exists today, and many people may own one without knowing it. Sole proprietors are simply individuals who engage in some sort of business venture for themselves. There are no filing requirements to start a sole proprietorship, and they may even do business under an assumed name if they choose to file a fictitious name with the state. One of the main drawbacks of sole proprietorships is that the owner can be held personally liable for all obligations incurred by the business.

Partnerships – A partnership involves two or more people who work together in a common enterprise and share in the profits and losses of that enterprise. Like sole proprietorships, partnerships can be formed without any state filings, and can actually be formed with a simple oral agreement. In some cases, a court may even determine the existence of a partnership even in the absence of an agreement. All partners are jointly and severally liable for the financial obligations of the partnership and profits or losses pass through to the partners for the purposes of taxation.

Corporations – A corporation is a legal entity separate from its owners created to conduct business. Because it is a separate entity, a corporation has the benefit of shielding its owners from personal liability for the debts or other obligations incurred by the corporation. One of the main disadvantages of a corporation is the legal requirements associated with formation and ongoing operations, which make them better suited to large, well-established businesses.

Limited Liability CompaniesLimited Liability Companies are a relatively new business formation favored by many startups and small businesses because they combine the flexibility of partnerships with the liability protection of corporations. An LLC has the same limited personal liability as a corporation that is provided by state law and gets treated as a Partnership for Federal tax law purposes.

Choosing a business formation can be a complicated decision with far-reaching implications on the success and operation of your business. If you have any questions at all regarding business formation or any other matter related to business law, the skilled lawyers at Structure Law Group can help you. Please do not hesitate to call us today at (408) 441-7500 for assistance today.

About Structure Law Group

Structure Law Group is a San Jose based firm that specializes in business issues including business formations, commercial contracts and litigation.

contract.jpgAny business with multiple owners should have a buy-sell agreement. A buy-sell agreement, provides order and clarity should anything happen to one of the owners. In this post we’ll take a look at buy-sell agreements, how they work and what to include.

Understanding an Agreement

Let’s say you and some family members get together and form a corporation or an LLC. Things are going pretty well, the business is making money and everyone is happy. Then something happens, maybe one of your family members dies or simply decides to leave the business. What happens to that person’s stake in your company? A business without a buy-sell agreement can easily fall into in fighting and costly litigation, not to mention the impact on consumer confidence.

How to Craft a Buy-Sell Agreement

Really, the first thing you should do once you start thinking about forming a corporation, LLC or partnership is to hire an attorney. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t start talking with each other about what to include in a buy-sell agreement. Generally, you’ll want to list the conditions that would lead one owner to buy out another. This can be anything from death to termination. You’ll also want to outline the process for transferring ownership. Will the owners purchase the shares with their own money or will it be done through the business? Also, how will the sale price be determined? Some companies negotiate that upfront while others use a formula.

It’s important to be detail oriented. You and your fellow owners should understand each part of the agreement. You don’t want to be surprised later on when one of the owners sues you for paying in installments instead of one lump sum. The more specific the better. In the end, a buy-sell agreement may not only save your business, it may save your relationships.

About Structure Law Group

Structure Law Group is a San Jose based firm that specializes in business issues including business formations, commercial contracts and litigation.