Month: January 2019

mediation

Mediation v. Arbitration: Resolving Your Business Dispute

Unless you are a feisty litigator, going to court is probably not one of your passions; in fact, finding out that you are about to be involved in a lawsuit may can be very unpleasant. After all, we would all much rather be working, running our businesses, and enjoying what little free time we have during the interim. Unfortunately, while even our normal personal lives can lead to disputes and legal battles during some years, that is even more likely for a business owner. Depending on the size of your company, you could find yourself putting out fires daily, but when they escalate into a major issue that could be headed straight for the courtroom, you may want to speak with your attorney about alternative dispute resolution options like arbitration or mediation.

There are benefits to litigation, mediation, and arbitration. The courtroom experience, however, is much more well-known for being adversarial, expensive, super stressful, and in many cases—long and excruciatingly drawn out. Arbitration can be thought of as a step below the court process, with cases both heard and decided by the arbitrator. Testimonies on both sides are allowed, and evidence is also entered as part of the process, if necessary. While not as rigid as the courtroom or as expensive, arbitration is still much more formal than mediation—and may be heard by an individual well-versed in the law such as a retired judge or lawyer, or a professional with experience relevant to the case. The decision is both final and binding and can be extremely difficult to appeal.

Mediation is known to be successful in most cases and can be helpful for business owners trying to settle a dispute without ruining the potential for a long-term relationship, whether that be with an employee or independent contractor, another business owner or industry peer, or a vendor. Sometimes there may be the reluctance to lose a long-term and personal working relationship that is being soured by a dispute, but other times it could be that profit is the priority. In wrecking relations with a much-needed vendor, a business could be challenged to have products delivered. The neutral mediation works in a casual atmosphere and usually offers flexible scheduling for everyone involved. Affordability is a key benefit in mediation, along with the fact that the parties in dispute are usually motivated to solve their differences—and this is expected of them, with the mediator only there to guide.

The Bolender Law Firm will advocate on behalf of clients through litigation, arbitration, or non-binding mediation. Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

 

copyright

What Does a Copyright Protect?

While it may seem ridiculous to have to register your own ideas to own them, it isn’t really that complicated in the beginning; you are the owner of any expressions of artistic work as soon as you create them! Even without getting outside help or registering with a government entity such as the U.S. Copyright Office, a work of literature or music is instantaneously copyrighted to you. And while there may not be any paperwork to prove this, most likely you are in possession of the item and for anyone else to try and copyright it is either a highly coincidental occurrence or they have stolen the work from you.

Some individuals will take the extra step to create what is often referred to as a poor man’s copyright, mailing themselves a copy of a work or having it established with a notary and a signature and a date bearing evidence of the origins and date. Even that is not necessary though. As soon as you have written that screenplay, as soon as it is on paper with your name attached to it, the copyright is yours. It must, however, be a physical item—an idea or concept is not enough for a copyright and cannot be protected as such.

Intellectual property can be extremely valuable in some cases and should be protected. With the common law copyright, you are given some assurances that no one else can steal your work, but you could be on very shaky ground if you were forced to take legal action against another party for infringement. If you register your work, you then have exclusive rights to copy or distribute your work as you wish, make a sequel or follow-up work to the original, or display the work in the public or take it one step further by making a book or other expression into something like a play.

With proper registration, anyone infringing upon you could face penalties; in some cases, however, you may wish to license a copyright, trademark, service mark or other intellectual property to someone else, give permission for them to use your work, or you may even want to sell your copyrighted work. Other examples of works protected by copyright include:

  • Software programs
  • Architectural plans
  • Buildings
  • Choreography
  • Sculpture
  • Sound recordings

The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all intellectual property matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

bad faith claims

Bad Faith Claim: Delays and Denials

Insurance is meant to be your saving grace in the case of a disaster, and most of us would never expect to be on the end of a bad faith claim. This could be an event that is damaging or even catastrophic to your health, your home, your car, your business, or your professional reputation. Protection against such risk is supposed to offer you peace of mind, but there are often numerous complexities behind the purchasing of insurance to include choosing the best agent or agency to deal with, understanding what your needs are, and finding a policy that suits your budget. Afterward, you are ‘protected,’ but still may be struggling to pay exorbitant premiums. This is a problem for many citizens in the US today, and while there is a lot of attention paid to the high sums charged for health care insurance premiums, many other types of policies are difficult for policyholders to afford too, whether you are trying to insurance your residence or a commercial building or a vehicle for yourself or one of your children.

Considering the amount of time and effort you put in to finding the best insurance—and then paying for it—finding out that the insurance company is not holding up their end of the bargain can be extremely disappointing. Along with that, you may be under incredible stress if your home or business has been damaged and you are unable to move forward with daily life as you know it until the claim has been paid. It is important to understand the difference between valid claims issues, however, and those that are caused by bad faith on the part of the insurer. There are many different types of claims denials that are valid, such as lack of payment of premium, a breach of the policy, or lack of coverage.

There are numerous red flags to look for if your insurer is acting in bad faith, to include:

  • Delays that may be ongoing with little or no explanation
  • Outright denial of the claim
  • Requests for enormous amount of information/documentation that may be hard to get
  • Changes to your policy you were unaware of
  • Lack of investigation/lack of communication

If you suspect your insurance company may be denying your claim in bad faith, contact the attorneys at the Bolender Law Firm. If a dispute over a claim cannot be easily resolved through a call or written communication, our attorneys will advocate on behalf of policyholders through litigation, arbitration, or non-binding mediation. Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

business disputes

Most Entrepreneurs Will Have to Deal With at Least One Business Dispute

If you are a business owner in the US, then you probably understand what a double-edged sword such a venture can be–and one that may sometimes lead you into business disputes. The initial idea of controlling your own fate and your own career, making your own schedule, and reaping the financial rewards of your hard work and success can all be enticing; however, there are also many responsibilities to handle that can be extremely stressful—especially in the first years. The greatest anxiety may be over money and making sure you have enough capital to keep going, but equal to that is the challenge of keeping the customers coming through the door in what may be a very competitive marketplace.

Because you may be dealing with so many different entities, there is the chance for a business dispute or lawsuit to arise at some point. While you could be forced to face a liability issue due to an incident like a customer slipping and falling or becoming harmed due to a product you prepare or sell, there could also be a problem with a business peer. This could also be a business partner. And although you may be tempted to head to court or throw in the towel regarding what could be a relationship of many years, consult with your business attorney about the best course of action. You may also be forced to deal with a wide range of employee issues over the years. By educating yourself and your human resources department as much as possible, you should be able to ward off problems before they occur, from payroll or overtime issues to sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace.

Many business disputes arise with vendors too; for example, if you own a restaurant, you may have very close dealings and even personal working relationships with food vendors. These are people you probably talk to several times a week and when something goes wrong or there is an accounting discrepancy, tensions can run high—especially when everyone is working in a fast-paced industry known for causing stress. Tempers can flare, and conflicts can escalate beyond what you may ever have imagined. It is important however, to take a step back and consider the future of your business before ending a relationship that you may struggle without later.

Your attorney may suggest mediation, as it offers a more casual atmosphere for resolving legal issues. This form of alternative dispute resolution is more affordable and usually faster too. The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all business litigation matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

damages

Understanding Legal Damages: The Different Types

A legal dispute can erupt for a multitude of reasons in a commercial atmosphere, along with the need for understanding legal damages, whether you might own a construction company, restaurant, retail store, or offer a variety of different services to customers in your area. Even the smallest business may be dealing with a variety of different players in each day, to include:

  • Business partners
  • Employees and independent contractors
  • Customers
  • Vendors
  • Landlords
  • Banks or other financial institutions

While some of these issues may be easily solved in a less formal venue than the courtroom, such as arbitration or mediation, speak to your business litigation attorney about what types of damages you are due, and which route is best for you. While litigation may be the best route for resolution, despite taking longer and being less affordable overall, arbitration or mediation can be very successful. Arbitration is somewhat like the courtroom setting, but decisions are usually reached by the arbitrator much more quickly and while testimony and evidence are allowed, it is much more limited. In mediation, a settlement agreement is reached in a much more casual environment; in fact, some mediators may even agree to meet on weeknights or weekends to cater to busy parties. The mediator acts neutrally, helping the motivated parties to look at different ways of understanding the conflict and resolving it.

No matter how you settle or how justice is served, you should be compensated for what you are owed after negligence or misdeeds on the part of another individual or entity. There may also be concerns about preserving long-terms relationships whether that is for personal reasons or protection of the future bottom line.

Damages from the defendant may be compensatory, paying you back directly for a financial loss—or they may be incidental, due to an indirect loss for you in terms of money. There may also be cases where a breach occurred in a business relationship and damages were considered liquidated but had already been considered and outlined in a contract. Punitive damages are awarded when the other party has done something so offensive or negligent that they are being fined with what could be severe financial punishment—with the outcome also serving to warn others about the consequences of their actions.

buyout agreements

Buyout Agreements Should Be Airtight

As a business owner, you take on a multitude of responsibilities that may not have been part of the original starry-eyed dream; in fact, the world of commerce continues to become more complicated as human resources issues grow around the US, tax laws are ever changing, the economy is unpredictable, and the marketplace is fiercely competitive for most industries today. But what about issues within your own business foundation, such as partnerships? Whether you own equal parts of the company or you control most of it, solid business contracts should be created in the beginning.

The beginnings of any startup can be both an extremely stressful but forward-thinking time. Full of excitement and positivity for most, if you are working with one or more partners, it is probably like the honeymoon phase of a marriage in some ways. You can’t imagine ever dissolving your business relationship; after all, you are in it together. And partnerships in business do offer a wide range of benefits. You can share duties, share the stress, create products and services together, watch your company grow (not unlike a family), offset financial burdens as you work together in providing capital to the company, and set goals for the future. While the going is good, however, get that partnership contract in place, and cover all the bases—even if some of them may be uncomfortable in discussing what could happen in the future.

The partnership agreement should outline the typical basic structure such as who is involved and who will do what. Titles should be agreed on and included in the agreement, as well as payment and profit-disbursement structures. Even more importantly, there should be a concrete dispute resolution clause—and creating this while everyone is on good terms can be vital to the success of your business should there be a major falling out or even a lawsuit later. This allows you to discuss how a dispute would be handled, where, and even who would pay attorney’s fees. Along those lines, there should also be comprehensive clauses covering what happens in the case of dissolution and/or a buyout. Will you want the right to buy out the partner’s shares? Will they be able to hand down their shares to family members or others outside the organization? Just as the partnership felt like a new marriage in the beginning, dissolving or completing a buyout may feel strangely like a divorce. And you must work just as hard to protect your assets!

Along with having the business assessed properly for valuation, there will be significant paperwork to be handled by your business attorney. Keeping the situation as civil as possible can be key to everyone parting ways with success, and your lawyer acting as the negotiating party could be a vital part of this action. The key is to hedge your bets in the beginning and uphold your partnership contract to the end.

The Bolender Law Firm will advocate on behalf of clients through litigation, arbitration, or non-binding mediation. Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

Trade Secrets: Your Team Must Understand the Importance of Protecting Them

To say that running a business is a multi-faceted endeavor would be a great understatement–not to mention complexities such as creating and protecting trade secrets. The list of pros and cons is lengthy, and in many cases could be considered a draw. Still though, hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs in the US continue, watching their dreams become reality as they open offices, offer products and services to consumers in need, and put together teams of employees all meant to be working toward the same goal: running a successful business.

Employees Should Have Guidelines to Refer To

Any company is only as good as its employees, and as the boss—it is up to you to train your people and make sure they really understand your mission statement, are well-trained at what they do, encouraged to keep innovating and making the business better, as well as being thoroughly apprised of all policies and procedures. For a company of any size, it is vital to have a manual (this may be small depending on how many people you hire—or it may be a larger tome) that new employees, as well as those who have been there for a longer amount of time, can refer to. And while all typical daily issues should be covered, as well as benefits and more, confidentiality should also be discussed in terms of products and services. This should include intellectual property.

You may think it is common sense for your team to keep what happens at work contained within those walls, but often employees are excited and proud of what they are working on, or perhaps even tired and frustrated, but this can lead them to discuss what they are working on with family members, friends outside of the company, and others who may even be in competition with you ((if not presently, in the future, and especially if they get the idea that you are onto something good). Everyone should understand that all intellectual property is owned by the business and trade secrets are to remain exactly that. And if you are serious about taking legal action against those who may compromise your intellectual property, make it clear.

Protecting Your Business is Key

Business is business, and this means you must protect your company’s innovations at all cost. Monitoring all projects going on is critical, and even those of the people you trust the most. Make sure you have a good feel for what is going on with everyone in your circle, as well as continually checking in with managers who may work for you too. Keeping leaks from happening means being vigilant about what information comes and goes through office doors—as well as continually making sure that your team is aware of what they are cannot share, even when they may have signed a confidentiality agreement. And that agreement is necessary! This gives you the right to pursue legal action later should you need to sue someone for infringement of your intellectual property.

Contact Us for Help

The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all intellectual property matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

Selling Your Business Patent

Looking back on every business you went into over the past week to complete errands or make purchases, consider that each one of them (even the franchises!) sprang originally from a dream, an idea, a concept in someone’s mind that could eventually turn into an invention requiring a business patent. Coupled with drive and determination, that idea turned into a real product or service, situated at a real business site—with all the real responsibilities of bringing in clients, maintaining capital, managing employees, and more.

And while you are probably a customer at many other businesses on a regular basis, you may also be an entrepreneur running a company of your own where it is so easy to get caught up in the daily grind that you forget what the original inspiration or motivation was to begin with. Staying fresh and continuing to innovate is vital to any business though, and while you may have trademarks or service marks already in place—perhaps even copyrights—you, your employees, or independent contractors may also be continuing to create intellectual property like patents.

A patent is defined by the United States Patent and Trademark Office as an invention which can be divided into three categories: utility, design, or plant (and yes, that literally refers to the discovery or creation of a new plant). Once you have registered for a patent—and it is highly recommended that you work with an intellectual property attorney in doing so—you may have a bit of a wait, anywhere from a matter of months to almost two years on average, and very possibly even longer. A patent is usually good for around 20 years and means that you have the sole rights to manufacturing and distribution.

In some cases, you may have a patent that you want to sell—or you may want to grant licensing rights. While selling it is a great way to make income that could perhaps fund another invention, it is permanent. Speak to your attorney about the best route for your business, along with the legalities of selling it, along with considering whether your better option would be to sell licensing and perhaps collect royalties. Working with another entity for licensing can be tricky so do not go it alone when negotiating agreements and drafting contracts.

The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all intellectual property matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

claims payment

Five Valid Reasons for Your Insurer to Delay Claims Payment

While some insurance and receiving claims payment can be extremely straightforward, purchasing other policies can be tricky; for instance, if you are buying a used car and just want liability insurance with standard limits, you may just be able to call an insurer and set everything up over the phone in less than 30 minutes. All your paperwork arrives over email shortly after or you may receive a hard copy in the mail later, ready to be tucked away in a drawer or file cabinet. Other policies require a lot of shopping, thought, and discussion with your agent, such as health insurance, homeowner’s insurance, commercial insurance, and more. The more assets you must protect—the more complex the policy will probably be.

No matter what type of insurance you buy though, and no matter how complicated it may be to get, one thing is certain: if you pay your premiums on time, you expect the insurer to pay out as promised if there is a problem. When that doesn’t happen, many policyholders become extremely frustrated—and understandably so. And if there are red flags such as lack of investigation, major delays, low-ball offers, and more, you may be ready to consult with a bad faith insurance attorney from a law office like the Bolender Law Firm. And although the insurer may be at fault for not handling your claim properly, there could be other explanations.

Here are five valid reasons they may delay:

  1. Unfortunately, there could be a problem from your end such as late payments or unpaid premiums which caused the policy to cancel or caused complication. This could lead to a denial, ultimately.
  2. They are waiting for evidence or more information in an investigation. They may also need to interview you and go over details regarding a claim.
  3. The company may not be dishonest, but just disorganized. While they may not have any plans to act in bad faith, their office may not be as fast as expected in terms of gathering all the facts.
  4. They may be struggling to pay out one claim after another as quickly as expected if there has been damage due to a natural disaster. This could go either way in terms of a claim just being paid out more slowly than you would like or turning into a bad faith lawsuit with the help of a skilled attorney.
  5. They may be taking time to eliminate fraud as a cause in the case. While most likely you have nothing to worry about, some claims may take longer to assess—like a fire—and if there is any doubt, adjusters may have a lengthier investigation.

If you need help reviewing your insurance policy, or if you suspect your insurance company may be denying your claim in bad faith, contact the attorneys at the Bolender Law Firm.  If a dispute over a claim cannot be easily resolved through a call or written communication, our attorneys will advocate on behalf of policyholders through litigation, arbitration, or non-binding mediation. Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

business trademark

Renewing Your Business Trademark

There are so many elements to running a business, and if you are operating a new start-up or running a business by yourself, several priorities take precedent over everything else in the beginning. You must have a place to operate your business and getting this squared away can be full-time for a while, whether you are buying or renting; either way, you must deal with real estate or leasing agents, finances, contracts, and make some big decisions. A business model must already be in place too—and it may be requested by either the bank or a potential landlord as they seek assurance that you will be able to pay your bills. Most importantly, you must have capital to get the ball rolling—and keep it rolling! This will pave the way for success and allow you to hire a team and purchase inventory and keep doing so.

The Trademark May Become Integral to Your Brand

Once you have the essentials lined up, everything else will fall into place—to include advertising, marketing, and setting goals for your employees. Whether you have a full-time team in place or are working with independent contractors—or a mixture thereof—projects will be on-going and creating intellectual property will be important as you go on. Items such as the trademark may be vital to your business early on, however, as they give the public a way to familiarize themselves with your brand and may even invoke a certain emotion in customers when they see your logo or symbol. And while this may just be a simple idea in the beginning as your brand is born, be aware that your intellectual property can be extremely valuable later—which is why you should protect your trademark by registering it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office from the beginning, even if it is somewhat protected by common law from the moment you create it.

Renew Your Trademark for Indefinite Use

A trademark can be extremely beneficial to your business, and it is also long-lasting if you keep up with renewals. Starting out, this intellectual property protection is good for ten years, and then as long as you keep up with the required paperwork and keep renewing it, your trademark is protected indefinitely in ten-year stretches. If you fail to meet the renewal dates, it will be canceled by the USPTO.

Contact Us for Help Now!

The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all intellectual property matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!