Free Enterprise - FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

This month, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) fined Forcerank, makers of a fantasy stock market trading game, $50K in connection with their game. The fine was specifically for failing to file a registration statement and also for failing to sell their contracts through the national securities exchange. While Forcerank's game was offered as a game, the SEC explained that the offering of a financial reward and entry fee for games where players are essentially playing the stock market invokes various federal laws put in place to protect investors.

Forcerank's mobile phone games asked players to predict the performance of ten different securities. Forcerank kept 10 percent of all entry fees. Players were rewarded with points and some even won cash. Forcerank was also hoping to collect data about market expectations that could be sold to other investment firms.

As an employer, you should know that you can be held responsible for your employees' acts, and you should know that liability can extend to car accidents. But what if your employee was distracted at the time? What if they were texting or taking a phone call? Would it matter whether or not that call or text was work-related?

Here's how distracted driving laws could affect employer liability in the event of a car accident.

Venture capital funding for new drone startups is no longer on the rise. Despite the fact that the new FAA regulations that went into effect this past August provide certainty for companies looking to utilize drones, since the regulations were announced, drone startups have received less and less funding. Shockingly, from the second to third quarter this year, drone funding plummeted by by half.

According to MarketWatch, funding for drone companies has fallen by 59 percent since last year. In the second quarter of this year, $106 million was invested in 13 different deals. However, in the third quarter of this year, there was only $55 million invested into 8 different deals. For the companies that make drones, especially ones that are just starting up, this news is frightening.

It's never easy going into business for yourself, by yourself. But at the same time, it's never been easier. On the one hand, it's up to you to create the business plan, do market and competitor research, incorporate your business, secure funding, and handle the day-to-day business decisions. On the other hand, there are more free, online resources for taking care of all that than ever before.

But just because you can go solo as an entrepreneur, doesn't mean you necessarily should. Here are a few things to consider before becoming a "solopreneur."

The term 'due diligence' is something that most business owners should be familiar with. But the concept of 'human rights due diligence' is often overlooked. Quite simply, businesses need to be aware of possible human rights violations in order to avoid facing backlash from customers. For example, think about the clothing industry: major brands face pressures from consumers to not only keep their prices reasonable, but to also produce their products without using sweatshops.

Human rights due diligence requires businesses to look at the impact they have on the human rights of their employees, consumers, and everyone in their supply chain. While factory workers assembling a product in the US may have good jobs, benefits, and a decent standard of living, the lives of the overseas workers on the supply-chain might be living in poverty. Even if your business does not employ workers overseas, if your suppliers do, consumers may not see a difference.

Chances are, when you started your small business you couldn't have known just how many transactions would require contracts. And you certainly didn't get into business to read fine print all day. Still, certain contracts -- and even specific clauses -- can make or break your small business, so you need to know what you're doing.

No one can become a contract expert overnight, but there are some red flags to look out for when signing certain business contracts. Here are three of the biggest:

Being an entrepreneur or running a small business means that you have to wear many hats. One of the most important is the marketing and advertising hat. Making sure your potential customers know that you exist and know what you do is essential for any business that wants to survive.

So after you've done your research on how to reach your target market and you've selected the type of advertisement you want to run (print, internet, radio, etc.), you have to design your advertisement's content. Will you just let people know you exist? Are you going to offer a special promotion? Or, are you going to tell everyone why your competition's product is inferior? Regardless of what you say, you should make sure you know the limitations on what you can and can't say in advertising.

Below are 5 frequently asked questions from small business owners about advertising.

You founded your company around one great idea, and you want to protect it. Or that one great idea has led to a lot more great ideas and you need to protect those. And if your great idea is a new invention, product, or process, you're probably going to need a patent to protect it.

Unfortunately, patent law can be especially confusing, even for the experts. Here are five questions small businesses face when it comes to patents, and where you can find answers:

Last week, a federal judge in Northern California granted the motion to conditionally certify the class action case against Google for allegedly committing age discrimination against applicants. The lawsuit claims that programmers over the age of 40 were discriminated against in the application process at Google.

The judge's ruling means that the lawsuit can proceed to the next stage in the class action process of sending out notifications to potential class members. Google will likely be required to provide the contact information for anyone that fits within the case's definition for class members.

Just about every office has a dress code, whether it's as stringent as 'business professional only' or as lax as 'no flip-flops, please.' And while we might have minor quibbles with office attire requirements here and there, sometimes they seem downright unreasonable and down take into account an employee's special circumstances.

You might think that cancer is one of those special circumstances where employers might relax their dress code standards, but not all bosses are that reasonable. And some of them, apparently, are trying to force cancer patients who've undergone chemotherapy to wear wigs at work. Is that even legal?