Month: January 2019

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!


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!


Know Your Policy: Some Conditions May Lead to Denial of Your Claim

As the holidays come and go, most of us have been busy saving up for a variety of purchases—and then recovering from not only multiple food comas, but also financial hangovers! Along with that comes all the usual expenses, including insurance—one of those bills that tends to remain front and center in our lives. While it is not always required, a variety of different policies are recommended, from auto to life to commercial, and more. And not only is insurance a monthly to quarterly to annually bill, it is often a lifelong bill. That means thousands of dollars paid to an insurer, so make sure it is going to a worth cause in the end, if needed, and that would be you!

You may be paying for one or more insurance policies, but do you really know the details? Insurance can be tricky, from choosing the best insurance agent to understanding a variety of different policyholder issues. Most important though is understanding what you are covered for, and whether you are lacking in protection; after all, a catastrophic loss could affect your finances enormously if you do not have enough insurance. The hope is that you will never need to file a claim, but if you do, it is vital to know what financial resources will be available to you through your insurance policy.

The auto policy is always a good example, as most of us own one but still may not quite understand it fully, along with what could cause the insurer to deny your claim—and solidly so. California requires you to carry liability insurance only, but many other options are available such as comprehensive and collision, which may also be required before you can drive a new or used car off the dealer lot. You should understand what you are or what you want to be covered for in terms of medical payments, personal injury protection, uninsured motorists, and more.

More importantly though—and this goes for all your insurance—understand what you can do to make sure you don’t make it easier for the insurer to deny or delay your claim. Again, using car insurance as an example, understand what your policy covers and might be denied due to your actions or negligence—or simple lack of payment and cancellation of policy that could have already occurred.

If you have been injured, get medical treatment immediately. Any delays in going to the hospital or doctor’s office may raise serious questions. Make sure all your concerns are documented, and keep in mind that your medical records may be requested. Be aware that if the accident was your fault due to an issue such as reckless driving or driving under the influence, the claim could be denied. Distracted driving is also one of the top reasons for traffic fatalities and injuries, and it is proved that you were not paying attention to driving but fiddling with an electronic device instead, again there is the possibility for denial.

For other insurance policies, know what is expected of you when there is damage or other reason for a claim. If the insurer is not responding, know the signs of impending bad faith practices such as lack of investigation, unreasonable delays, low-ball offers, or a denial that seems unreasonable.

Are you concerned about a recent claim, or are you trying to understand your insurance policy? If a dispute over a claim cannot be easily resolved through a call or written communication, the Bolender Law Firm 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!



Neutrality in Mediation: How Does That Really Work?

Mediation is one of the most popular forms of alternative dispute resolution today, yielding great success rates over classic litigation. Many parties—especially business owners—who would have ended up in the courtroom otherwise are relieved to find that they can resolve their differences in a more affordable and casual atmosphere, sometimes even able to meet with the mediator during weeknights or on weekends to work around busy schedules.

The success of mediation centers around the willingness of the disputing parties to compromise and reach an agreement, but the mediator plays a starring role in helping the process move along, from meeting with everyone beforehand to understand their issues, helping to prod the discussion along when there may be a stalemate, as well as drafting all the necessary documents for the court in the end. This is not a venue, however, where the mediator performs any of the decision-making.

Styles may vary when it comes to mediators, but neutrality is key. As the third party in the room, the mediator also has a responsibility to create an air of safety for opinionated discourse about the topic that has landed the individuals present in dispute. It is also vital that the primary individuals involved in the dispute (and authorized to sign off on the agreement) are present and engaged in the mediation, with the understanding that the mediator does not have a stake in either side. For them to take a side would severely disrupt the mediation, along with the credibility of the mediator—and the process itself.

Relying on the neutral mediator to keep the process flowing smoothly means that much of the adversarial quality is removed from the case, as well as the constant focus on blame. Instead, both parties face each other instead of a constant focus on ‘telling it to the judge.’ While some cases may be better resolved through litigation, those who agree to or seek out mediation often do so because they are interested in protecting a long-term relationship, which may not only be an investment in friendship and partnership, but also financial as well. You may be involved in a mediation which involves a vendor or a contractor who you may hope to continue working with later despite current conflict.

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!

Registering with the USPTO: What if Someone Already Has the Same Trademark as Mine?

Intellectual property can be exciting to create—and especially when you realize you are onto something truly innovative that will be in demand from the public. Along with everything your business owns over time, you may realize that it is one of your greatest assets, and one that must be protected with great care.

Trademarks Are a Very Common Form of Intellectual Property

While copyrights protect artistic expressions and patents grant rights to inventors, the trademark is one of the most ubiquitous forms of intellectual property—so much so that you may not even realize you are recognizing a company unconsciously in the blink of an eye, due to a basic symbol on a website or street sign. And if you think of trademarks for some of the most famous companies in the world, you may be amazed at the simplicity of their logos or crests. Unfortunately, legal issues can arise when it comes to intellectual property, and although it does become yours (or that of your business) as soon as you bring it into inception, registering it gives you much greater protection if someone infringes on what you believe to be yours.

Be Aware of Other Trademarks Like Yours

Before you register your trademark or service mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, consult with an intellectual property attorney from a firm like the Bolender Law Firm to research whether or not there is already something identical or similar in place that could lead to legal headaches later. Although your attorney will be able to advise you further on registration issues, most likely if there is another trademark or service mark that resembles yours and is owned by another company offering the same types of products and services, it will be rejected by the USPTO. State-to-state searches may be recommended as well.

While the registration process may take anywhere from three months to a year or more, you could be protecting one of the most important facets of your brand—a valuable commodity in the modern business world. Work with your attorney to make sure you are setting yourself up for success with a strong mark and an understanding of what you need to do to continue to protect your trademark throughout the years.

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!