Contracts for Interior Design Professionals

This crash course on legal contracts is designed for interior designers who are drafting a contract for the first time or wanting to make an existing one airtight.

There’s a reason you became a designer, and it probably didn’t have anything to do with lawyers and contracts.

You’re the expert in color, fabric, floor plans, and furniture schemes, not intellectual property and arbitration provisions. If you’re already confused, don’t fret. This crash course is designed for those drafting a contract for the first time or wanting to make an existing one airtight. Led by David Adler, an actual lawyer who understands the ins and outs of the design industry, this workshop will cover the clauses you need to protect yourself in the unfortunate event that something doesn’t work out as planned. Clients can be difficult enough. Don’t let legal trouble slow you down.

In this class, you will learn how to:

  • Define what you are doing for your client, as well as NOT doing for them
  • Make sure you get paid on time and in full
  • Protect yourself against outside factors that may affect cost and ability to complete a project
  • Give yourself a way to get out of your contract if things aren’t working

By the end of class, you will have:

  • A basic understanding of key contract terms and the reasons as to why they are there
  • A basic client agreement that you can use or customize

The Instructor, David Adler, is an attorney, nationally-recognized speaker, and founder of a boutique law practice focused on serving the needs of creative professionals in the areas of intellectual property, media, and entertainment law. He provides advice on choosing business structures, protecting creative concepts and ideas through copyright, trademark, related intellectual property laws and contracts, and structuring professional relationships. He has 17 years experience practicing law, including drafting and negotiating complex contracts and licenses with Fortune 500 companies, advising on securities laws (fundraising) and corporate governance, prosecuting and defending trademark applications, registrations, oppositions, and cancellations before the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), and managing outside counsel. Currently recognized as an Illinois SuperLawyer® in the areas of Media and Entertainment Law, he was also a “Rising Star” for three years prior. He received his law degree from DePaul University College of Law in 1997 and a double BA in English and History from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. Outside the practice of law, David is an Adjunct Professor of Music Law at DePaul College of Law, formerly chaired the Chicago Bar Association’s Media and Entertainment Law Committee, and is currently a member of the Illinois State Bar Association Intellectual Property Committee.

Do you work with start-up companies and need a basic understanding of the various intellectual property issues that can arise?

I will be co-presenting in this online seminar that will help you:

  • understand the trademark and copyright problems your client may encounter with branding;
  • learn how to protect your client’s branding once established;
  • familiarize your practice with patents, including what they protect, timing, and strategies to prevent inadvertent loss of patent rights before filing the application;
  • understand trade secrets and the importance of non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements;
  • recognize intellectual property issues relating to technology, including open source code and the cloud;
  • establish a proactive approach toward intellectual property ownership between cofounders, employees, and vendors; understand business names, domain names, promotional issues, and website content concerns.

The program qualifies for 1.5 hours MCLE credit.

I would like to personally invite you to attend the upcoming Law Ed program titled, “Identifying Intellectual Property Issues in Start-Ups,” which I will be co-presenting via live webcast on Tuesday, May 27th.

Presented by the ISBA Business Advice and Financial Planning Section

Co-Sponsored by the ISBA Intellectual Property Section

English: A customer signing the at A Stone's T...

English: A customer signing the at A Stone’s Throw Jewelers in . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fifield v. Premier Dealer Services, Inc.

BACKGROUND

The plaintiff in this declaratory judgment action had been employed by a subsidiary of an insurance company that marketed finance and insurance products to the automotive industry. After a sale of that business, plaintiff’s employment was terminated, but he was offered employment conditioned upon his acceptance of an “Employee Confidentiality and Inventions Agreement” (the agreement) which included non-solicitation and non-compete provisions. The agreement states in pertinent part:

“Employee agrees that for a period of two (2) years from the date Employee’s employment terminates for any reason, Employee will not, directly or indirectly, within any of the 50 states of the United States, for the purposes of providing products or services in competition with the Company (i) solicit any customers, dealers, agents, reinsurers, PARCs, and/or producers to cease their relationship with the Company *** or (ii) interfere with or damage any relationship between the Company and customers, dealers, agents, reinsurers , PARCs, and/or producers *** or (iii) *** accept business of any former customers, dealers, agents, reinsurers, PARCs, and/or producers with whom the Company had a business relationship within the previous twelve (12) months prior to Employee’s termination.”

Plaintiff successfully negotiated with Premier a provision that the restrictive covenants would NOT apply if he was terminated without cause during the first year of his employment (the first-year provision). Three months later, plaintiff resigned, began working for a competitor and sued to have the restrictive covenants held unenforceable stating that plaintiff had no access to confidential and proprietary information. The trial court held that the restrictive Covenants were unenforceable for lack of “consideration” – a legal term of art that generally means a bargained-for exchange of value. The appeals court affirmed.

ANALYSIS

Defendant argued that the non-solicitation and non-compete provisions were enforceable because the offer of employment was adequate consideration, there was a mutual exchange of promises (employment in exchange for restrictions), and the covenants were pre-employment, not post- employment. Defendant further argued that “the purpose of Illinois law regarding restrictive covenants is to protect against the illusory benefit of at-will employment” which was “nullified by the inclusion of the first-year [non-enforcement] provision in the agreement.”

Plaintiff countered with the argument that the provisions in the agreement are unenforceable because Illinois law requires employment to continue for a substantial period of time and that “Illinois courts have repeatedly held that two years of continued employment is adequate consideration to support a restrictive covenant…regardless of whether an employee is terminated or decides to resign on his own.”

The appellate court agreed with plaintiff citing Brown & Brown, Inc. v. Mudron, 379 Ill. App. 3d 724, 728 (2008) which held that the promise of continued employment in the context of post-employment restrictive covenants may be an illusory benefit where the employment is at-will. “Illinois courts have held that continued employment for two years or more constitutes adequate consideration. Id. at 728-29.”

TAKE AWAYS

The Fifield decisions has already generated a great deal of discussion from corporate board rooms to legal blogs. Unfortunately for businesses and their lawyers, the case leaves many unanswered questions.

For example, the court does not discuss whether the outcome would have been different if the employee were a high-level executive with immediate access to a wide range of highly sensitive confidential and proprietary information. At best,mother court simply mentions the plaintiff’s allegations that he had no access to such information.

Another area of uncertainty impacts start-up and early stage businesses. Very young businesses are often highly dynamic and early employees have access to a broad swath of the company’s Intangible assets such as business and revenue models, marketing plans, computer software and hardware and prospective customers, regardless of whether they serve a customer service function or “C-suite” executive function. The requirement that an employee have two years continued employment before a restrictive covenant becomes enforceable ignores the very real dynamic of start-up companies.

Lastly, an important question that went unanswered is whether the employer can offer some other “consideration” besides two years continued employment. For example, is there a pure monetary consideration that would support enforcement of the covenant? What if the covenant only lasted as long as the period of the departing employee’s employment?

NEXT STEPS

If you have restrictive covenants in your agreements with employees, it is strongly recommended that you meet with your lawyer to discuss the impact of this case on these agreements and your business. At the very least, you should carefully review your non-compete and non-solicitation agreements to see if they are supported by adequate consideration. If you have questions or concerns, or just don’t know how to begin, feel free to contact the lawyers at Leavens, Strand, Glover & Adler for a free, in-person or over-the-phone consultation. You can also email the author here: dadler@lsglegal.com.

Over the last few years privacy, and the lack of comprehensive protection, have made numerous headlines. From overly inquisitive mobile applications that fail to disclose how cell photo data is accessed and shared (Path) to handset manufacturers failures to properly inculcate privacy in the design and manufacturing process (HTC) to security lapses at government databases resulting in exposure of sensitive personal information (South Carolina), consumers, regulators and legislators are waking up to privacy issues.

Recent developments highlight the trend in Privacy

In the U.S. we lack a single comprehensive privacy law, although many state and federal laws address various aspects of collecting, storing and sharing personal information. In the absence of a single, over-arching, mandate, legislators and regulators are stepping into fill at perceived need.

GPS, Location & Privacy

The Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act addresses use of location data by law enforcement. The bill (not yet law) requires police to obtain a warrant based on probable cause whenever it seeks “location information.” Unfortunately, the term “location information” is very broadly defined, does not distinguish requests for access based on the level of precision, time period, or whether the information is for past or future conduct.

Proposed Federal Privacy Standards

Two bills introduced this year aim to create a baseline level of privacy protection at the federal level. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced S. 799, the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011, to create a regulatory framework for the comprehensive protection of personal data for individuals, enforceable by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Similarly, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) is promoting a Consumer Privacy Protection Act (H.R.1528), directed at consumers and focused on restricting the sale or disclosure of personal information.

FTC Protects Privacy Under Mantle of Consumer Protection

As a result of alleged data security failures that led to three data breaches at Wyndham hotels in less than two years, the Federal Trade Commission filed suit against hospitality company Wyndham Worldwide Corporation. The case against Wyndham is part of the FTC’s ongoing efforts to make sure that companies live up to the promises they make about privacy and data security.

Wyndham’s web site privacy policy claimed that, “We recognize the importance of protecting the privacy of individual-specific (personally identifiable) information collected about guests, callers to our central reservation centers, visitors to our Web sites, and members participating in our Loyalty Program …”

The FTC complaint alleges that Wyndham failed to maintain adequate and industry standard security measures by storing credit-card information in unencrypted format, allowing servers to remain unpatched, and failing to use firewalls.

The FTC alleges that these failures led to fraudulent charges on consumers’ accounts, millions of dollars in fraud loss, and the export of hundreds of thousands of consumers’ payment card account information to an Internet domain address registered in Russia.

Most notably, the lawsuit will test whether the Federal Trade Commission has the jurisdiction to compel companies to provide a certain level of cybersecurity in order to safeguard consumer personal information.

Privacy Remains Top Concern

Many companies across many industries, financial services, higher education and healthcare, just to name a few, are facing a wide range of security and privacy concerns, scrambling to implement A defensible security framework and demonstrate compliance. It’s alarming, considering the significant consequences associated with not complying.

Organizations can lose contracts, customers and their reputation. That could put some out of business.

Compliance Preparation & Best Practices

Large organizations can spend many months and millions of dollars on compliance. Your business need not go to such extremes. To prevent getting caught by surprise and to prepare for the compliance journey, I’ve listed below some suggested best practices.

Periodic risk assessments. Evaluate potential damage and disruption caused by unauthorized access, use, disclosure, modification, or destruction of data or systems.

Policies and procedures. Incorporate procedures for detecting, reporting, and responding to security incidents, as well as business continuity plans.

Standardize. Set standards of acceptable information security for networks, facilities, and information systems.

Train Employees. Awareness training for employees, contractors, and other users of information systems is critical. Articulate the security risks associated with activities and define users’ responsibility for complying with policies and procedures.

Test & Evaluate. Periodic assessment of the effectiveness of information security policies, procedures, practices, and controls helps determine weak spots. At a minimum they should be conducted annually, according to Ford.

Respond & Repair. Have a pre-defined process for planning, implementing, evaluating, and documenting remedial actions designed to address legal, PR, HR and related risks in the event of a breach.

THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. The procedures outlined above are merely suggestions and there is no guarantee that implementation will reduce risk or mitigate liability.

Please contact Leavens, Strand, Glover & Adler at 866-734-2568 for a free consultation to learn how LSGA can help meet your specific needs.

Norway a Hard Place for Tech Startups
Wall Street Journal (blog)
And there are other reasons why Norway is inhospitable to tech startups, according to Lasse Andresen, the chief technology officer of ForgeRock, an online identity management company that shifted its headquarters from Norway to San Francisco last year.

South Korea to launch new stock market to support fund-raising for startups
Washington Post
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s bourse operator says it is opening a new stock market to help startups raise money. Korea Exchange Vice Chairman Choi Hong-sik said Friday the July launch of the KONEX market is intended to incubate small businesses.

Galvanize, Denver Startup Week Win Plaudits from Denver’s Old Guard
Xconomy
Galvanize, the coworking space that’s quickly become the hub for Denver’s top tech startups, and Denver Startup Week both received awards from the Downtown Denver Partnership, one of Colorado’s largest economic vitality groups.

Online education startup EduKart raises $500K in seed funding
VC Circle
The startup was founded by Ishan Gupta (CEO) and Mayank Gupta (COO) (they are not related) in 2011. Ishan had earlier worked with companies like One97 Mobility Fund, Facebook, Helion Venture Partners, Quantum Hi-Tech and Appin Knowledge.

Canada Startup of the Week – Brightsquid
Calgary Herald
Lloyed Lobo covers Calgary’s tech startup community. He is a Partner at Boast Capital and the VP of Community Evangelism at Startup Calgary. If you are working on something that could potentially change the world, we’d like to hear about it.

Life in a chocolate factory versus life in a startup
Boing Boing
Elaine Wherry took a break from working in San Francisco high-tech startups to work at Dandelion Chocolate, the chocolate maker/cafe that her husband co-founded. She calls her tenure at the chocolate factory her life as “an Oompa Loompa.”

Incubator NEST Investments Wants To Help Hong Kong’s Fledgling Startup Industry
TechCrunch
Though Hong Kong is one of the world’s leading financial hubs, its startup industry is still embryonic. Incubator NEST Investments hopes to change that by helping tech companies take advantage of the region’s wealth and resources as they work toward entering the mainland Chinese market.

Canadian Tech Startups More Focused on Revenue than a Big Exit

Techvibes (blog)
According to a PwC report released last week, fewer Canadian tech startups are looking for buyers in order to exit the market, choosing instead to find ways to reach their next growth stage and generate revenue in Canada.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners helps startups arrive.

Lehigh Valley Business
CyOptics, once a startup that received funding and help from Ben Franklin, is just one success story, according to Laura S. Eppler, director of marketing for Ben Franklin Northeastern Pennsylvania.

7 startup lessons from the film industry

Ventureburn
At first glance you might not think there is much in common between the film industry and tech startups. I’m here to tell you differently. Both industries have their own set of challenges, whether you’re starting out, or refining your craft/company.

Database Startup Clustrix Builds Up its Bankroll

Wall Street Journal (blog)
Tech watchers once considered the database market pretty stagnant, at least in terms of new technology and new entrants. Suddenly it is anything but that, with Clustrix a prime example.

1871 anniversary spotlights Chicago startup growth

Techli
Leaders of the Chicago startup community released figures Friday regarding the city’s start-up growth coinciding with the first anniversary of 1871, one of the city’s start-up incubators. “Over the last year, the tech community has really come together.

Biz Stone’s new mystery startup Jelly nabs ex-Twitter veteran Kevin Thau

The Next Web
Rumors about the move have been circulating since late last month and follows the announcement that Ben Finkel is also involved at Jelly as Christopher Isaac “Biz” Stone’s fellow co-founder and Chief Technology Officer.

A start-up’s cool solution to manage heat – The Business Times

Business Times (subscription)
Thermal management solutions for lithium-ion batteries are also exactly what Gcorelab, a local clean tech startup, specialises in. Gcorelab is developing what it calls a “small liquid-based thermal management system” for electric vehicles.

Bowei Gai: A Worldwide Crusade to Connect the Global Startup Community

Tech in Asia
Gai When you’ve been co-founder and CEO of Snapture Labs, held the same titles at CardMunch, Inc. and are currently founder and chief ambassador at World Startup Report, you tend to attract attention when you enter the tech and startup community.

Tech Startup Develops Two-Click Checkout. – Yahoo! Finance

Finance: ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., May 2, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Tech start-up @ Pay released its first public Application Programming Interface (API) today.

Silicon Valley based high tech start up in the Golf business, developing a cool product, is looking to expand its team in different disciplines including R&D.

VIDEO: The Evolving Insider Threat- Dawn Cappelli, Randy Trzeciak of CMU’s Insider Threat Center

This video from RSA Conference 2013 discusses:

  • Who typically commits insider crimes – and how;
  • How employees are being victimized from outside;
  • Why our critical infrastructure is at heightened risk.

Even if you are an employer using standard commercial verification measures, you should be cautious about misuse of any information by employees, managers and contractors. Accordingly, you should be careful with training and education and not on only newly-hired employees. Further, plan on how login credential and access to sensitive information will be handled and/or turned over when training or when terminating, suspending, withholding pay, lowering pay, or taking any other adverse action against an employee.

Intel Mobile Device

Intel Mobile Device (Photo credit: Frank Gruber)

On February 22, 2013, the FTC announced a settlement with HTC America over charges that HTC failed to use adequate “security by design” in millions of consumer mobile devices. As a result, the company is required to patch vulnerabilities on the devices which include #Smartphones and #Tablets. The settlement, the first action involving a mobile device manufacturer and the new “Privacy By Design” guidelines, sheds some light on the legal risks for mobile device manufacturers and, to some extent, mobile application developers.

The FTC alleged that HTC failed to take reasonable steps to secure the software it developed for its smartphones and tablet computers, introducing security flaws that placed sensitive information about millions of consumers at risk. The resulting vulnerabilities posed risks to sensitive functionality, including the possibility that malware could send text messages, record audio, and install additional malware onto a consumer’s device.

Here are four key take-aways for mobile device manufacturers and application developers from the FTC’s complaint:

  1. provide your engineering (programming) staff with security training
  2. review or test your software on mobile devices for potential security vulnerabilities
  3. follow well-known and commonly accepted secure coding practices
  4. establish a process for receiving and addressing vulnerability reports from third parties

Smartphones and tablets are powerful, popular, and continue to find their ways into our personal and business lives. New mobile apps hit the market each day. In this fast-moving era of entrepreneurship and creativity, mobile device and app developers need to keep up with evolving privacy and security. Apps and mobile devices that tap into consumer data — including contact information, photos, and location to name a few — pose a heightened risk to digital snoops, data breaches, and real-world thieves.

Please contact us if you are interested in learning how to evaluate your mobile security and privacy risk or to help develop a “Privacy By Design” approach mobile app security.

Please comment, tweet and forward!

Image representing CloudFlare as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

I just returned from RSAConference 2013 where I had the privilege and honor of giving a presentation of the legal risks caused by social media in the workplace. As a speaker-attendee, I had the priceless benefit of access to all the other speakers and programs held during the conference.

One such program I attended was “We Were Hacked: Here’s What You Should Know”. The speakers, Matthew Prince (@eastdakota) CEO of CloudFlare, and Mat Honan (@mat) writer for Wired Magazine, shared their common experience as targets of high profile hacks. Hearing the details from them first hand, including information from interviews with the hackers themselves, I learned how easy it is to be the victim of hacking and how it’s the little things that create exploitable seams in our information security barriers.

Rather than rewrite their stories, I thought I would share three simple lessons I learned that I’ve already implemented and you should too. Besides, Matt does a better job telling his own story which can be found here.

Here are the three things I learned about how you can protect yourself and others in your organization.

First, security attacks go after the “low hanging fruit” and that often means figuring out a way to exploit your personal email address. With so many web-based services and so much login information to remember, many of us use our personal email as our username for everything from the web sites on which we comment, to our online photo gallery, to our online banking service. Unfortunately, this is probably the address we use for password recovery if we forget. Given that our digital lives are easily mapped, hackers already have one piece of the two-piece login puzzle: they know your user name.

TIP NO. 1: Use a private, obscure email address for your more sensitive information.

Second, once a hacker has accessed your accounts, your computer and your files, the fun has just begun for them. As Matt Honan described, these often adolescent script kiddies simply don’t understand the value of your stored memories and other information. In his case, all the photos of his children were permanently deleted. Regardless of a hacker attack, stuff happens and you don’t want to lose everything because you we’re too lazy to back up.

TIP NO. 2: Back Up your digital life, early and often.

Third, today’s’ Internet is an interdependent ecosystem. Just because you or your organization takes security seriously, doesn’t mean that other do as well. Your internal systems are not enough. Like it or not, the seams of your security perimeter are intertwined and permeated by the services and systems of customers and vendors. For most consumers, the there is a Hobbesian choice of Security v. Convenience. Multiple login usernames and super long passwords are difficult to remember and tedious to use. As a result, most people choose the least secure means of authentication on the assumption that using astringent password is enough. Unfortunately, some people don’t even bothers with that. A recent ZoneAlarm study found that “password” was the fourth most commonly used password by consumers.

Google, Facebook and others have started using two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication requires that one enter a code after entering the username/password combo. The code is sent via, text message, voice call or email. This greatly reduces the chances of unauthorized access because hackers would need to have your phone, in addition to your username/password combo.

TIP NO. 3: Whenever possible enable two-factor authentication.

Please understand that there is no “magic bullet” when it comes to Cybersecurity. Taking these precautions does not guarantee that you won’t be attached or that your account information won’t be accessed. However, these are important and easy steps that you can take to improve your personal data security.

Please comment and follow!

 

I will be speaking at Affiliate Management Days SF 2013 (April 16-17, 2013) on the topic of “Managing Risk: Legal Issues for Merchants & Affiliate Managers.”

 

Affiliate marketing is one of the most cost-effective techniques for monetizing web site traffic and driving sales. Unfortunately, it has a reputation for high risk. While the industry is unlikely to ever be risk-free, it is possible to manage risk by: (1) understanding how techniques like behavioral and contextual targeting affect consumers, affiliates and merchants, (2) understanding the legal and regulatory environment, (3) understating risks involved with prospective marketing partners, (4) using and maintaining proper contracts that allocate risk and provide appropriate indemnifications, and (5) keeping informed about the changes in technology, marketing practices and the regulatory environment. Attendees will learn how to identify these issues and develop policies and procedures to keep informed about the current technology, marketing strategies and regulatory compliance.

 

Topics covered include:

 

  • Behavioral/Contextual Advertising
  • Regulatory/Industry Compliance : FTC Guides & Enforcement Actions
  • CAN-SPAM compliance
  • IP Law: Rules governing use of others™ Trademarks/Keywords, Right of Publicity/Endorsement Issues.
  • Identifying, protecting against, and disputing accusations of Click-Fraud

 

Geno Prussakov, the Founder & Chair of Affiliate Management Days and the CEO & founder of AM Navigator LLC did a pre-interview with me on Small Business Trends that can be found here.

 

 

 

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