GEAR UP FOR FALL! Now Is A Good Time To Take A Look At Those Contracts

Contracts

One of the most important tools to protect your business – your ideas, customer relationships and talent pool – is your written contract. A solid contract is the foundation for a reliable relationship for you, your customers and your employees. More importantly, it helps to prevent misunderstandings and false expectations that can lead to a breakdown in your customer relationship, jeopardize the project and result in litigation.

Many companies start with a model or “form” contract adapted from forms available online or drafted when the business first started. As businesses develop over time, you may have revised your contracts, adding a little here, removing a little there. Maybe you read an article about an important case in your industry and decided to add some text from the contract discussed in the court’s legal opinion. In many cases, over time, the agreements become “Franken-contracts” an odd amalgamation of trade lingo, inconsistent terms and even contradictory conditions. At best these are ambiguous and confusing to read. At worst, they become unenforceable.

At some point, you should review, revise and generally “tighten” existing contracts. You should have your lawyer review them to make sure that there are no mistakes, ambiguities or omissions that could cost you or your customers. I urge clients to have their contract forms reviewed on an annual basis. Depending on changes in the law, changes in the industry or changes in your own business, this process should only take a few hours.

The following are six things to consider as you review your existing contract forms and business practices.

First, are you using a written contract? Simply having a written agreement in place will help prevent the often difficult, time-consuming and expensive dispute that comes down to a “he said / she said” situation.

Second, make sure that the key terms of your contract are consistent and understandable. Pricing and payment terms, clear descriptions of the services to be performed or the goods to be delivered, as well as due dates and acceptance criteria will go a long way toward preventing breach of contract claims. More importantly, ambiguous and internally-contradictory terms may expose you to fraud claims or claims under an unfair business practices act. These types of claims are typically much more difficult and more expensive to defend against.

Third, create a mechanism for changes in your contract. Circumstances change. When they do, make sure that you document them and that your customer initials and dates any additions or changes to the contract after it is signed.

Fourth, don’t overlook intellectual property (“IP”) rights, Many business relationships involve collaborative sharing or development of knowledge, skills and protectable IP assets such as copyrights, trademarks, patents and trade secrets. Intangible assets are often the most important drivers of revenue creation and value. Overlooking creation, ownership and control of IP rights may result in the loss of these assets.

Fifth, ensure that your contracts are up-to-date with respect to local laws and industry regulations. Recent developments in technology, e.g., BYOD, Social Media, Mobile commerce, and online privacy had produced a raft of state, federal and industry specific laws, rules and regulations. Do you regularly update your forms to make sure they comply with changes to local laws?

Sixth, understand your “escape” options. Not every relationship is meant to last forever. Your contracts should have clear and concise terms for ending the relationship such as failure to perform, failure to pay or adverse business conditions.

To find out more about how the Adler Law Group can help you tighten your contracts, or even draft new ones, contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation.

AEREO LOSES COPYRIGHT CASE

Technology Continues to Test The Bounds of Copyright Law

The Internet is an unprecedented source of disruption. From retail services (e.g. Amazon) to media and entertainment, almost every industry has been forced to rethink its business model due to the accessibility, ubiquity and democratizing force of the Internet. Aereo was positioned to disrupt the traditional media distribution model by giving consumers greater control over what were otherwise “free” over-the-air transmissions.

The Aereo service was premised on the idea that consumers should be able to watch and record over-the-air broadcast television programming via the Internet. Major broadcast networks that owned the content made accessible through Aereo challenged the model on the grounds that Aereo was violating the exclusive “public performance” right guaranteed by the Copyright Act.

Copyright law provides copyright owners six exclusive rights. One of those rights is the exclusive right to publicly perform the copyrighted work. Because this right is a statutory construct, one must look to the statute to determine its meaning. To “perform” and to perform “publicly” means “to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display the work to a place … or to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times.”

While many reacted by asking whether the case would stifle innovation and have a chilling effect on start-ups, this case does highlight the increasing tension between technological advances and copyright law.

From a practical standpoint, one need not be alarmed about the impact of the decision on most types of innovation. For one thing, the Court went to some lengths to craft a reasonably narrow decision, which applies only to broadcast TV retransmitted over the Internet.

As with any type of innovation, there are different types of risk. On the one hand, there is technology risk: the risk that whatever technology is necessary for some business plan simply won’t work. On the other hand, there is legal risk, highlighted by the Aereo decision: the risk that the entrepreneur’s interpretation of some act or case law won’t ultimately prevail. That’s what happened to Aereo.

As an IP lawyer, I am somewhat perplexed. It is hard for me to understand why Aereo made such a bold move. However, at least the district court agreed with Aereo’s interpretation.

Identifying Intellectual Property Issues in Start-Ups – Live Webcast!

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

Socail Media, Search & Mobile Issues Discussed at ISSMM.org’s Converge2012

The Future Of Social Is Moving From Mere Participation To Analysis & Strategic Initiatives

I had the opportunity to attend and participate in Converge 2012 run by the Institute for Social, Search & Mobile Marketing. The theme was mastering the Business of Social Media. The Conference had a great selection of speakers (yours truly included) and topics that really resonated with the audience. I hope to summarize here some of the take-aways I learned at this conference.

Business Is Now Social

The last few years have seen an unprecedented shift in the adoption of social platforms for businesses to reach and interact with customers. What started as a “dipping our toes into the water” excerise has now matured into jumping in with both feet. Not surprisingly, the first few presentations of the conference focused on the effect of so much participation: greater focus on ROI. The presentations covered a lot of ground, but here are the key take aways from Day 1:

  • Businesses that fail to integrate the social channels may not exist in five years
  • Analytics are maturing in terms of both measurement tools and metrics
  • Better analytics are driving innovation by putting companies ahead of emerging issues instead of simply reacting to them
  • Creating a Social Media culture must come from the top and flow down
  • The growth of mobile platforms Is blurring the line between online and in-store experiences because of anywhere/anytime andpersonalized access

Day 1 concluded with the panel presentation in which I participated “Social Media “Venture Heaven” Money is flooding into social media, It’s time to understand why.” Key take-aways from this panel include the followig Data about the growth in Mobile:

  • As of May, 2012, mobile comprises 10% of Internet traffic, up from just 4% less than a year and a half ago
  • Mobile = ~8% of ecommerce
  • Monetization growing rapidly 79% is Apps, 21% is from ads
  • There has been a rapid increase in time spent relative money spent on ads; TV is roughly at parity while Mobile ad spend is about 1/10 of that
  • Drivers of growth in Mobile:
    • Devices
    • Platforms
    • Improved user interfaces
    • Sharing
    • More emphasis on design aestheticS

In a world of ubiquitous fast Internet,  mass blogging and micro-blogging, minute-by-minute status updates and customer complaints and recommendations, businesses need to focus on tailoring their product for their customers desires, rather that merely tolerating customer requests. Whatever device/platform customers use most will get the most attention from developers, accessory makers and potential new customers.

Fashion Law: Legal News Roundup

Israel’s Ban on Ultra-Thin Models

FASHION-SAFRICA-NIGERIA-BAKARE

FASHION-SAFRICA-NIGERIA-BAKARE (Photo credit: Bohan Shen_沈伯韩)

 

The Atlantic

By Talya Minsberg A new Israeli law prohibits fashion media and advertising from using Photoshop or models who fall below the World Health Organization’s standard for malnutrition. When a 14-year-old girl delivered a 25,000-signature petition this week to Seventeen asking them to curb their use of Photoshop, the magazine issued a press statement that congratulated the girl on her ambition but was conspicuously silent on changing their editorial practices.

An Impossible Conversation About the Met’s Spring 2012 Costume Institute Exhibit

Huffington Post (satire)

So, culturally and historically, the reason women care so much about fashion is that until very recently, we weren’t allowed professional, legal or vocal ways of expressing ourselves. Fashion was a way of articulating our feelings about ourselves.

Small Aussie fashion label turns George Lucas legal threat into ‘Star 
Dallas News Small Aussie fashion label turns George Lucas legal threat into ‘Star Wars‘ clothing deal.

AsianFashionLaw | Page 5
Fashion lawyers are legal experts too. Sometimes I feel as though people think I am in design studios all day twiddling my thumbs as I look at models wearing 
www.asianfashionlaw.com/page/5/

Adidas-India’s ex-MD slaps legal notice on company – Fashion United
The Adidas-saga in India seems to be taking a different turn. – Fashion India News, Network, Business Community, fashion industry, international, platform for 
www.fashionunited.in/…/adidas-indias-ex-md-slaps-legal-notic…

When Hiring a Lawyer For Small Business Legal Needs What Questions Should I Ask?

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Hiring a lawyer

While small businesses often need some legal advice, they can’t always find a professional with the right expertise at a budget the small business can afford.  Since small businesses usually don’t need lawyers that often, when it comes time to review a contract, buy out a partner or protect their brand and trademark, they often don’t know where to start.  The purpose of this article is to give executives a business owners a guide on how to ask a prospective lawyer the right questions to get the service one needs at a price that one can afford.

To get answers to questions about hiring a lawyer, please select one of the links below.


How do I hire a lawyer?

Lawyers are highly-trained professionals who counsel individuals and businesses in a full range of personal and corporate legal matters. Many business transactions have legal implications, so you should try to find a lawyer whom you can treat as a trusted advisor. These questions are designed to help you choose the right lawyer for your situation.


What can a lawyer do for me?

Lawyers provide legal guidance. This doesn’t mean that they can make your business decisions for you. A lawyer should identify legal issues of concern to you or your small business, tell you what the law says about these issues, and advise you on how to address them.


How can a lawyer help me in setting up a business?

A lawyer can:

  • Explain the advantages and disadvantages of a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation;
  • draft a partnership agreement or incorporate your company;
  • review financial documents for your business such as a loan;
  • review leases of premises or equipment;
  • act for you in the purchase of property;
  • review franchise agreements;
  • draft standard form contracts for use in your business;
  • advise you how to best protect your ideas, trademarks, designs and know-how.

How can a lawyer help when my business is up and running?

A lawyer can:

  • help you negotiate contracts and put them in writing;
  • advise you on hiring and firing employees;
  • advise you about doing business in other provinces and countries;
  • help you collect unpaid bills;
  • defend any lawsuits against you;
  • advise you about taxes.

If I decide to get out of business, how can a lawyer help me?

A lawyer can:

  • help you sell your business;
  • help you sell you ownership interest if you are one of several owners;
  • arrange for the transfer of the business to your children;
  • dissolve a corporation or LLC.

When do you need a lawyer?

The recommended approach is to seek the advice of a lawyer whenever a legal issue arises that involves your business. Since it is not always clear when that happens, many problems are solved without resorting to lawyers. When an issue arises, you must first decide whether you need a lawyer at all. In order to know if you should solve your problem on your own, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What are the consequences if you are unsuccessful?
  2. How complex is the law in your situation?
  3. Do you have the time and energy?

If you are still unsure, some outside professionals, advisors or para-professionals may be useful:

Check with your Board of Directors or Board of Advisors; they can provide information about the steps they went through and the resources they used in solving their problems. Contact government and non-profit organizations for income tax, legal aid, consumer protection, employment standards, etc.

Check with other professionals: accountants, bank officers, insurance agents. For some routine matters, legal assistants, para-legals and notaries public are useful. While not allowed to give legal advice, they can provide added value in familiarity with standard corporate forms and filing requirements.

Also, don’t forget public libraries, legal aid services, student legal services, small claims courts, reading self-help books and other resources such as books, pamphlets and videos.


How do I contact a lawyer?

Give him a call. Most lawyers are happy to steer people in the right direction and calm fears about the legal process. There are several advantages to this approach. The main one is that a lawyer can quickly cut to the heart of your problem, distinguish between legal and non-legal problems. Another advantage is that you usually will not be charged for this phone call. Finally, a lawyer will not only keep your problem confidential, but has the ability to assess it from a less emotional perspective.

Please feel free to call us at (866) 734-2568 should you have any questions.


How do I find a lawyer?

First, try to identify the areas of law in which your problems fall so that you can find a lawyer capable with dealing with all these areas. Some of the main areas of legal practice linked to business are:

  • Corporate/commercial/securities law (incorporation, buying/selling a business, drafting shareholders/partnership agreement)
  • Labor/employment law (negotiating and interpreting collective agreements, resolving disputes, explaining obligations, advising about restrictive covenants, dismissals)
  • Civil litigation law (suing, being sued, collecting debts, negotiating and settling)
  • Real Estate law (buying or selling land or property, negotiating a lease, solving landlord/tenant disputes, mortgaging property)
  • Wills and estates (drafting or challenging a will, probate)

What should I ask a prospective lawyer?

Some questions you should ask a prospective lawyer are:

  • How many years are you in practice?
  • How long have you been with your current firm?
  • What areas of law do you practice?
  • Are you a partner or an associate?
  • Time and accessibility
  • How quickly can I expect a resolution?
  • When can we meet?
  • How much can I expect top pay?
  • How do you charge for your services?
  • Do you provide your clients with a detailed written statement of fees?
  • Do you charge anything for the first meeting?
  • Do you communicate via telephone, cell phone, fax or email?

How can I help my lawyer?

Ways you can help your lawyer include:

  • Be honesty and open
  • Tell the lawyer all the facts, even the ones that you think are “bad”.
  • Keep your lawyer up to date on any events or any changes relating to your file.
  • Ask for advice in plain language and summarize how you understand it.
  • Ask to be directed to any reading that you could do to better understand.
  • Ask for a description of the steps your lawyer plans to take and think about the way you could help at each step.
  • Stay informed and keep track of what transpires on your file.
  • Take notes at all meetings and list tasks to be completed.
  • Ask for copies of all correspondence on file.
  • Have confidence in your lawyer’s advice and follow his/her instructions.
  • Do not harass your lawyer. If you need more attention, discuss way in which he/she can keep you informed.
  • Be prepared to accept both positive and negative advice.
  • Never do anything concerning your case without consulting your lawyer.
  • Provide information to your lawyer as soon as possible after he/she requests it.
  • Pay your bills on time and be available if your lawyer needs you.

How do lawyers calculate their fees?

Depending on the complexity of the issues, the services required, and the degree of experience of the lawyer, fees can be charged in different ways:

  • Billed hourly: charged a rate for the time they spend working for you (e.g. the time spent reading a letter or talking on the phone).
  • Flat Fee: charge a flat rate for a particular matter, usually when they can predict how long the work will take: incorporations, trademarks.
  • Contingency Fee: in some matters, the lawyer’s fee will be a stated percentage of the amount of money collected from the lawsuit.
  • Retainer: provide a range of specified services for a fixed monthly or annual fee.

In addition, lawyers will also bill for disbursements such as long distance phone calls, photocopies, document filling fees, experts’ reports and travel expenses.


Safeguarding Ideas, Relationships & Talent®

Executives face an often confusing and changing set of challenges trying to ensure that their business remains legally compliant. Yet few can afford the highly-qualified and versatile legal staff needed to deal with today’s complex and inconstant legal and regulatory environment. Adler & Franczyk is a boutique law firm created with a specific mission in mind: to provide businesses with a competitive advantage by enabling them to leverage their intangible assets and creative content in a way that drives innovation and increases the overall value of the business.

We approach our relationship with each client as a true partnership and we view our firm as an extension of their capabilities. Our primary value is our specialization on relevant and complex issues that maintain the leading edge for our clients. We invite you to learn more about the services we offer and how we differ.

On the web: www.ecommerceattorney.com
On Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/adlerlaw
On LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/adlerlaw

Subscribe to Ping® The Legal eNewsletter

We look forward to the opportunity to discuss any questions you may have regarding the range of business, technology and intellectual property services we offer. Please feel free to call us at (866) 734-2568 should you have any questions.

Five Things To Know Now

  1. Creative Content. RIAA’s victory against LimeWire marks a major victory for content creators. Holding software companies responsible for copyright infringement occasioned by individual users is a huge incentive to the creative community’s use of the Internet as a platform for commerce.
  2. Personal Development. Find a Mentor. (One who can answer your questions.) Follow these steps: 1) Find Mentor, 2) Create a Shared Need (Do a market study); 3) Build a Vision statement; 4) Clearly define the goal; 5) Discuss your plan; 6) Write down the Dependencies, e.g. Open Issues, Risks, etc…; 7) Identify Stakeholders, e.g. Partners, Employees, Vendors, Service Providers, Government, Public/Private institutions; 8) Mobilize commitment; 9) Draft an execution plan; 10) EXECUTE; 11) In the immortal words of my father, Irv Adler: follow up, follow up, FOLLOW UP! (Monitor and Control your execution) 12) If its not working, go back to Step 5. [Excerpted from Execution, by Ram Charan]
  3. Entertainment. Monetizing Original Web Content Micro-transactions (iTunes or YouTube) are real revenue drivers for episodic web programming. Combine that with advertising and sponsorship and you have a winning model. Content has to be extraordinarily compelling. You can help a video go viral by making sure the right people see it and share it with their sphere of influence.
  4. Start-ups. You Don’t need a PR agency. You DO need know how to turn a good idea into a great message that can be easily told, and easily spread.
  5. Technology. Top Ten Blackberry Apps for Small Business.

|Safeguarding Ideas, Relationships & Talent®|

Executives face an often confusing and dynamic set of challenges trying to ensure that their business remains legally compliant.  Yet few can afford the highly-qualified and versatile legal staff needed to deal with today’s complex and inconstant legal and regulatory environment.

Adler & Franczyk is a boutique law firm created with a specific mission in mind: to provide businesses with a competitive advantage by enabling them to leverage their intangible assets and creative content in a way that drives innovation and increases the overall value of the business.

We approach our relationship with each client as a true partnership and we view our firm as an extension of their capabilities. Our primary value is our specialization on relevant and complex issues that maintain the leading edge for our clients. We invite you to learn more about the services we offer and how we differ.

Sincerely,

Adler & Franczyk, LLC

On the web: www.ecommerceattorney.com

On Twitter: www.twitter.com/adlerlaw

On LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/adlerlaw