San Jose Business Lawyers Blog

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More and more startups are issuing stock and other forms of equity as a form of compensation for work, especially in the early stages of a venture. This arrangement allows a business to recruit talent that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford and, if the company is successful, can result in a significant windfall for people who worked to get a company off the ground without a guarantee of compensation.toad-river-brown_3737_990x742

Generally speaking, when you are transferred equity in a company it is necessary to pay taxes on the fair market value of that equity as you would with any other type of income. In many cases, however, a grant of equity is subject to a vesting agreement, which means that the equity is not actually owned by the grantee until a certain period of time passes. As a result, at the time of the grant, nothing is actually owned, so there is no tax liability associated with the initial grant. When the stock vests, however, that income becomes realized, meaning that there may be significant tax liability, particularly if the company has done well.

83(b) elections can minimize tax liability associated with grants of equity

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has given taxpayers another option, however, in 26 U.S.C. § 83(b). Under this section, a person who has been granted equity that is subject to a vesting agreement can elect to be taxed on the entire amount of the stock’s present value. This election must be made within 30 days of the date that the equity was granted to you.

As a practical matter, it makes most sense for people to use this election if they have been granted stock in a new company that has little actual value. Because the stock is basically worthless at this time, your tax liability will be fairly low, and you will not need to pay taxes on the shares that vest each year as their value increases. The only time that you will have to pay taxes on the value of the stock you have been granted is when you liquidate it in some way, at which point it will be subject to the lower long-term capital gains tax, so long as the liquidation occurs more than a year after the state that the stock was initially granted.

Contact a Silicon Valley startup law firm today to schedule a consultation with an experienced attorney

Receiving stock or other securities in exchange for your work can raise significant issues related to your tax liability. For this reason, it is critical for anyone who is either considering issuing stock as a form of compensation or accepting a grant of stock to discuss their circumstances with an experienced attorney. To schedule a consultation with one of our Silicon Valley business lawyers, call the Structure Law Group today at 408-441-7500.


Many companies issue stock options as a form of compensation or as an incentive to various parties. At their most basic, stock options are the right of a party to buy company stock at a predetermined price for a period of time. Generally, the agreed-upon price is similar to the market price at the time at which the option is issued. Two of the most commonly issued types of stock options are Incentive Stock Options (ISOs) and Nonstatutory Stock Options (NSOs). The information below provides some basic information about each type and highlights some of the differences between the two. For specific information regarding these types of stock options and how they may affect your business, call the Structure Law Group today to speak with a qualified business attorney.


Incentive Stock Options

Incentive stock options can only be issued to employees, which means that members of the board of directors or independent contractors cannot be granted ISOs. These options are not subject to federal income tax when they are granted or exercised, but alternative minimum tax
may be imposed upon exercise in certain cases. Importantly, a company issuing an ISO can take a deduction for compensation paid if an employee chooses to engage in a disqualifying disposition of an ISO, such as an early sale. ISOs must be exercised within 10 years of the date that they are granted.

Nonstatutory Stock Options

NSOs can be issued to anyone, making them an attractive incentive to some companies. Unlike ISOs, however, federal income tax as ordinary income is imposed on the exercise of an NSO to the extent that the NSO is above market value of the stock at the time of exercise. Like ISOs, they are not taxable at the time of a grant, but unlike ISOs, they are subject to employment tax at the time that they are exercised. There is no annual limitation on the value of NSOs that can be issued (there is a $100,000 cap on ISOs), and unlike ISOs, the Alternative Minimum Tax is not applicable to the exercise of an NSO.

Contact a Silicon Valley business litigation law firm today to discuss your case

Any corporation considering issuing securities options to employees, directors, consultants, or other interested parties should consult with an attorney familiar with the tax consequences of both ISOs and NSOs. In many cases, issuing the appropriate form of stock option can result in favorable tax treatment for both the company as well as the parties receiving the option. The Silicon Valley business attorneys of the Structure Law Group are skilled lawyers who are dedicated to providing solution-oriented legal advice and representation to companies of all sizes. To schedule a consultation with an attorney, call our office today at 408-441-7500.

With the United States having an extraordinarily robust economy and the highest level of consumer spending in the world, many non-U.S. resident foreign nationals are justifiably interested in starting a business in the United States, but are not sure whether it is possible or where to begin. Fortunately, it certainly is possible, and in some cases, may even be accomplished without setting foot within the U.S. Below are some of the steps required for a foreign national who is not a U.S. resident to start a business.

Choose the state in which you wish to start your business

One of the first things that non-U.S. residents should understand about starting a business in the U.S. is that each state has its own laws regulating the way businesses are formed, the way they operate, and their tax treatment. While these laws tend to be very similar, there are often significant and nuanced differences that may have a significant impact on your ability to conduct business from overseas as well as your ability to minimize your tax liability.

Choose your business entity

Another aspect of starting a business in the United States of which non-resident aliens should be aware are the multitude of business entities under which one could potentially operate. These options often include the following:

  • Partnerships
  • S-Corporations
  • C-Corporations
  • Limited Liability Companies

These options have significant differences as well as certain advantages and disadvantages of which entrepreneurs should be aware. As a result, it is highly advisable to speak with a lawyer who is familiar with business entity formation in the United States prior to filing any paperwork.

Designate a person or entity as a registered agent

Most jurisdictions require that a business entity have a registered agent in the state. The registered agent acts as the person or party that can accept any official communication directed at the company.

Obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

In order to conduct business in the United States, your company will need to obtain an Employer Identification Number, or EIN, from the Internal Revenue Service. This number will allow your business to open bank accounts and file tax returns within the United States.  In many cases, obtaining an EIN can be complicated for foreign nationals, but there are often several ways in which an attorney can help expedite and streamline the process.

Open a business bank account

In some ways, this can be the most onerous steps of starting a business in the United States from overseas. In many instances, banks require a person wishing to open a bank account to be physically present at the time the bank account is opened, which can be difficult or even impossible for certain people who wish to start a business in the United States. Fortunately, there are often several options that may allow a business owner to operate without a U.S. bank account or open one without the cost and time associated with coming to the United States. An attorney familiar with business formation will be able to advise you as to your options based on your specific situation.

Starting a business in the United States or expanding an existing venture into the U.S. market can be a lucrative endeavor. While certainly possible, there are often many hurdles to overcome, and it can be extremely helpful for foreign nationals to navigate the process of starting a United States business with the help of an attorney. As experienced business formation lawyers, we have the skill and knowledge required to get your business up and running as soon as possible. To discuss your legal matter with one of our lawyers, call Structure Law Group, LLP today at 408-441-7500 or send us an email through our online contact form.

Every new business venture starts as an idea – where many entrepreneurs go off-course is in the implementation and execution of that idea. One of the most important aspects of starting a new business is establishing the business in a way that is compliance with the relevant rules and regulations in your state.

There are many different steps you may need to take to legally form your business to ensure that you comply with relevant laws in California, though the exact steps applicable to you will depend on the nature of your business goals. Consulting with an experienced business attorney can help you make all necessary decisions and ensure that you follow through with every required legal step to start operations on the right foot. Some of the steps that are essential to starting every new business are discussed below.

Choose a business entity

Deciding on a business entity is one of the most important choices an entrepreneur can make. There are many different choices, each with its own implications for taxes, owner liability, and more. Examples of business entities include:

  • Corporation
  • Limited liability company
  • Partnership
  • Sole proprietorship 

There are many considerations in order to choose the type of entity that will allow your particular type of business to thrive the most. Such considerations include the formalities and expenses involved in formation, legal requirements to maintain the business entity, how you will be taxed, levels of personal liability, as well as others. 

Choose a business name

Another highly important decision is what to name your business. The right business name can help or impede your business’s success, as the name affects your branding, customer recognition, and online presence. You must first ensure that the name you choose is available and, if so, an attorney can help you reserve the name and finally officially register the name to you. 

File the required documents

Each type of business entity will require the filing of different types of documents with the state to complete registration. Such documents may include Articles of Organization, Articles of Incorporation, Fictitious Name registration, tax applications, among others. In addition to the documents you must file with the state, you also need to draft operating agreements, bylaws, and other contracts that are needed to help your business run smoothly. 

Obtain any necessary licenses or permits

Depending on the type of business you are starting, you may require a variety of licenses or permits to begin operations. For example, you cannot provide certain professional services without first obtaining licenses to do so and you cannot produce and sell food or similar products without the proper health permits. You never want to risk sanctions for operating without the necessary licenses and permits and an attorney can help make sure you have all of your bases covered and are in compliance with all laws.

Contact Structure Law Group today to discuss your legal needs today

Overall, there are many steps you need to take to legally form your own business. However, after your business is formed, you can begin reaping the benefits of running your own company. At the Structure Law Group, our experienced business attorneys are committed to helping business owners succeed. If you are considering forming a company, call for a consultation at 408-441-7500 today.

When drafted properly, employee handbooks encourage open communication in the workplace, set employee expectations, and shield businesses from the financial burden of legal liability. Here are 3 reasons why your business should have an employee handbook.

3 Reasons Why Your Company Should Have an Employee Handbook

  1. Establish Your Company’s Character

An employee handbook allows you to set the tone of your company. Include language in line with your vision and values and take the opportunity to provide important historical information about your business. Include a code of conduct for your employees so they know what rules to follow and what behavior is unacceptable.

  1. Make Your Policies and Procedures Known

Employee handbooks are the perfect place to house workplace policies and procedures. Workers can reference a specific document for the duration of their employment and avoid miscommunication about expectations.  This will also provide you with protection from liability. Common items to include are safety procedures, attendance requirements, dress code, a social media policy and rules for internet usage on the job.  Be sure to review your employee handbook periodically so that you can add or amend policies and procedures as your business grows.

  1. Disclaimers

Distributing employee handbooks doesn’t just formally welcome employees to the company. When properly drafted, disclaimers contained within the employee handbook can nip potential litigation in the bud.  For instance, if your employees are at-will employees, clearly state that the handbook is not an employment contract.  If a terminated employee later threatens a “wrongful termination” suit, you’ll be in a better position to protect your business as long as the reason for the employee’s termination was legal.  An experienced Silicon Valley employment law attorney can help you draft the best disclaimers for your particular business.

If you have questions about items to include or the importance of employee handbooks, Structure Law Group’s experienced attorneys are on hand to help. Contact us 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 and handbooks, commercial leasing and purchases, commercial contracts and related litigation.

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.