This was my third year to deliver a business law presentation with the RISE Entrepreneurship Conference, which was held from May 13 - 17, 2013. I’m pleased to say that this conference continues to outperform each year. My presentation this year focused on startup business law principles and guidance to prevent startups from making early-stage mistakes. Below, I’ve highlighted a few of the topics we covered:
There’s a right way and a wrong way to send and respond to a breach of contract demand letter. Whether it’s a cease and desist letter or a demand for damages, you can easily make mistakes that could put you or your small business at a disadvantage for mediation, arbitration, lawsuit, or settlement. If you receive a cease and desist or demand letter, or if you’re sending a breach of contract demand letter, keep these tips in mind:
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For owners of retail stores, restaurants, and other brick-and-motor businesses, your storefront is one of your most valuable assets. If you’re leasing commercial property, it’s important to know and understand the various types of commercial leases that are available. Some of the most common types of commercial leases include:
General contractors, subcontractors, and property owners are often unaware of the state and federal laws that apply to construction contracts. Most of these laws are designed to protect property owners and to ensure that contractors deal fairly with them. But even a contractor that intends to treat a property owner fairly can get into trouble if they don’t get professionally drafted contracts that follow federal and state-specific laws.
What will happen to your business when you die or become incapacitated? If you haven’t taken the time to put together a succession and estate plan, your business might lose momentum and become unprofitable while the leadership and ownership of your company gets worked out in probate. Even worse, your estate may have to sell the business or its assets in order to pay estate taxes.
The law is always struggling to keep up with the pace of technology – especially the internet. One interesting legal issue that has emerged is the intersection of domain names (URLs) and trademarks. Under Texas law, your domain name may be infringing on the trademark of one of your competitors, or your competitor may be infringing on your trademark with a similar domain name. But how do you know who is infringing who? And if you’re starting a business or growing your business, what do you need to know to avoid trademark infringement?
A trademark is “a word, name, symbol, device, slogan, or any combination thereof that, whether registered or not, has been adopted and used by a person to identify his or her goods and distinguish them from the goods manufactured or sold by others.” Domain names are frequently used to identify a company, product, or service, and thus, will often qualify as a trademark – even if it isn’t registered. If you’re starting a business and using a domain name that is similar to an existing trademark, the trademark owner can bring a domain name trademark infringement lawsuit.
The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act made it easier for trademark owners to bring lawsuits against others using domain names that are similar to their names and trademarks. The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) also made it easier and faster to resolve domain name trademark infringement disputes. However, domain name trademark disputes can still be difficult if it involves an unregistered trademark. Thus, if you’re starting a business or growing an existing business, it’s important to talk with a business attorney about protecting your brand with trademark registration. Similarly, when starting a business or building your brand, it’s important to ensure your domain name doesn’t infringe on others’ trademarks.
James Blake is an Austin Business Attorney who regularly advises clients regarding copyright, trademark, internet law, technology, and other intellectual property issues. To read more articles on copyright, trademark, and other intellectual property law, visit his Austin Business Law Blog.
Now more than ever, technology companies are utilizing tax-exempt non-profit organizations to grow market share and platform adoption, to increase sales of complimentary services and products, and to control market standards. This trend has broad implications for both large and small technology companies, and any company seeking to form strategic alliances with technology-oriented non-profit organizations should carefully consider the partnership agreements, intellectual property licensing, and other business law planning necessary to ensure a positive outcome.