Vermont governor Peter Shumlin has signed a law into effect that will protect businesses in the state from frivolous patent lawsuits.
Patent trolling, as it is called, has become a serious problem. Patent trolls file lawsuits with very little merit claiming some business has infringed on their patents in hopes of acquiring a payoff through a potential court ruling or settlement.
The unique law is the first of its kind in the U.S. It allows Vermont courts to determine whether or not a claim is deceptive and establishes guidelines for making this decision. These guidelines include whether or not the patent infringement claim specifies the specific patent in question and how quickly the plaintiff is demanding compensation.
The new law also helps Vermont companies that are wrongfully accused of patent infringement by offering relief and gives the state’s attorney general the power to make civil claims against alleged patent trolls. It is being celebrated for its hands-on approach, but it is yet unclear whether this power falls within the state’s jurisdiction.
Especially in the difficult financial situation of the past several years, many Americans have found themselves dealing with unmanageable levels of debt. There are a number of options available to both creditors and debtors to deal with this undesirable situation, but if you have customers who are in default or behind on payments, there are some important regulations in place that govern how these individuals can be treated.
It is essential for businesses to be aware of the consumer protection laws that are in place, because violations of these regulations could have serious repercussions on a business or business owner.
Consumer protection at the federal level
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is included in the United States Code under Title 15 § 1692 and was first enacted in 1977. It is designed to:
- Prevent abusive collection practices for consumer debt
- Provide a way for consumers to dispute and validate debt information in terms of accuracy
- Provide guidelines for the legal conduct of debt collectors
- Establish penalties and sanctions for violators
- Codify the rights of consumers in reference of debt collection
Individual consumer protection
The FDCPA, as applied in many situations, covers personal, family, and household debt including credit card debt, auto loans, and medical care debt. It polices the conduct of third-party debt collectors, who may be any person who regularly collects debts and may include lawyers. It does not include internal collectors of the creditor. Under most laws, a debt collector may only contact a debtor between 8 am and 9 pm, and may not call at the place of work if the employer does not allow it. If the debtor tells the debt collector in written form to stop calling, the debt collector may only contact a debtor to provide additional information, such as the intention to sue. A debt collector may also not inform anyone except the debtor that money is owed.
The FDCPA cannot be used to erase debt, but when debt collectors act in ways which violate the FDCPA, issue false statements, or engage in other illegal practices as defined under the Act, then a debtor may be able to file a private lawsuit citing FDCPA consumer protection violations.
Website content is what drives the market today, and we’re not just talking about online businesses. With the Internet filtering through every facet of daily life, the sure way to get market attention is by being online. This is why most businesses have an online presence even if it is just on a social network. And for an effective online presence you need a well-designed website and good content writers.
Good content writers know how search engines work, so they can optimize the copy to keep your web presence in the public eye. Aside from optimization, good writers preserve the correct form, function, and flow of the content so that it not only ranks well in search engines but also gives value to the reader. This makes a good impression on the target market, enhancing the credibility of your page or website which in turn reflects on your product or service. Most people take you at your face value; if you look good, then you must be good. The next step, providing excellent service or quality products, is up to you.
It would be tempting to try doing it yourself; after all, a penny saved is a penny earned. That’s true enough if you write well, and you have the time to do the necessary research. If not, you might be doing yourself a disservice by not trusting your content writing needs to a professional. You spent good money on your website design but it’s an empty shell without good content. Also, having mediocre content (or worse, none) on your webpage or website can turn away potential customers because they are not favorably impressed by what they see. Remember that your online presence is the first thing most people will see before they ever step into your actual place of business. You need to wow them from the get go, and investing in good content writers to provide you with excellent copy is the easiest way to do that.
If you are a born entrepreneur and have a wide range of interests, you may have several small businesses in operation at one time. Some of these may benefit from the protection afforded to limited liability companies (LLC).
Why form an LLC
According to the website of business lawyers Arenson Law Group, PC, an LLC is like a hybrid business entity that combines the limited liability of a corporation with the tax benefits of a single proprietorship. If you have a business that would have significant tax consequences if it is turned into a corporation, or you don’t want to be personally liable for everything from lawsuits to debts under a single proprietorship, then an LLC is just right for you. There is an advantage to an LLC, but there are also things to be careful about.
The potential for liability may prompt you to form an LLC from two or more of your businesses, but this is not always good practice. True, you save on time and money because you only have to go through the LLC formation process once. But that could be a bad decision for the following reasons:
- Your businesses may not be related, so would not be able justifiable to lump them all under one LLC
- You may want to eventually sell one business; it would be easier to establish the health and desirability of the business to potential buyers if you have separate accounts and books for each business
- You may need to take out a loan with your business as collateral. If not all your businesses are doing well, it will dilute the value of the businesses that are actually successful
Luckily, forming an LLC is a relatively simple and inexpensive matter, and it is even easier when it is handled by an experienced business lawyer. A lawyer will be able to help you determine if an LLC is the right choice for you. If it’s not, he or she could show you what your more feasible options may be.
The concept of a contract is usually associated with something that is written down, signed and witnessed. It follows that when one talks of a breach of contract, one is referring to a formal, written legal document. But the fact is verbal agreements can also be considered legally binding and enforceable under specific circumstances, so a breach of contract can also apply to oral or verbal contracts.
Oral Contracts Defined
You may not realize it, but every time you make an arrangement with someone for the purchase, trade or repair of something, you are entering into an oral contract. There are a few elements that constitute a contract, and they apply to both oral and written contracts. These are:
- the offer
- acceptance of the offer
- a common understanding (“a meeting of the minds”)
- consent to of the terms of the contract by both parties
- execution and delivery
When all these elements are present, the contract is considered binding. The difference between oral and written agreements is when it comes to a breach of contract. In most cases, oral contracts are entered into when the terms of the agreement is simple, easy to remember and short-term.
An example would be an agreement between two friends going on a trip to split the expenses where one pays for transport costs while the other pays for all other expenses. It is the responsibility of both parties to have the means to fulfill their part of the agreement. When one party forgets to withdraw money, forcing the other party to pay for everything, it could be construed as a breach of contract.
In most cases, however, there are no real consequences to breaching an oral agreement unless it results in injury, loss of income or damages to another person. A breach of contract lawyer would know if the oral contract is enforceable, and provide advice on whether to pursue litigation.
The economic losses resulting from the Deepwater Horizon Spill nearly three years ago are still reverberating among those whose livelihood depended on the waters off the Gulf of Mexico, the area worst affected by the oil spill. These include fishers, and those working in the related seafood and tourism industries in Louisiana. The oil spill, rated as one of the worst ecological disasters in petroleum industry history, affected 60,683 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico, or 25% of prime fishing waters.
The Deepwater Horizon is a semi-submersible deep water drilling oil rig owned by Transocean, provided well-completion service by Halliburton Co., and chartered by BP to drill an exploratory well located in the Macondo Prospect off the Louisiana coast. The cause of the April 20, 2010 explosion that sank the rig, claimed 11 lives, and decanted more than 4 million barrels of oil into the sea has yet to be determined, but there is no question that it resulted from the negligent actions of those responsible for the Deepwater Horizon operations.
Among the hardest hit by this disaster have been small entrepreneurs and independent fishers who depended on their catch to sustain their businesses and families. Immediately after the explosion, the demand for Gulf seafood products, which supplies more than 30% of the US market, dropped drastically as news of possible contamination spread. This led to closure of many businesses and sharply raised the prices of seafood in the US due to reduced supply. The economic loss affected thousands of people, culminating in civil and criminal charges against BP, Transocean, Halliburton, and Cameron International Corporation, which provided the blowout preventer that was supposed to prevent inadvertent oil spills but which failed in its function.
Fortunately, many of those who have suffered business economic losses are taking legal action to pursue compensation for the losses they have been forced to endure.