Free Enterprise - FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or device -- such as a brand name or logo -- which identifies your business or product and distinguishes it from other similar businesses or products.

The owner of a trademark can enforce his trademark rights to prevent others from infringing upon it by using a similar name or selling the same goods or services under a different name. But how are those rights established?

Do business owners need to register a trademark in order to protect their trademark rights?

If you're starting a new business, there are probably any number of things that require your immediate attention. But among your foremost priorities should be educating yourself on the local laws that may affect your business.

Putting off potential legal issues until after your business is already open may end up costing you big in the long run.

What local laws do you need to know before you start your business? Here are three to get you started:

Today is National Flex Day, an occasion to celebrate the benefits and importance of flexible work arrangements: telecommuting, flex time (no more 9-to-5), and compressed work weeks (longer shifts, fewer days). Flex time is great for employees seeking work-life balance, especially those with dependent family members (children and the elderly) whom they have to care for.

It's also surprisingly important for employers. Here are three reasons why:

A worker at a Florida Chili's restaurant was fired after posting a series of shirtless pictures of himself in the restaurant's kitchen on Facebook.

The pictures, posted by a man calling himself Justin Speekz on a publicly visible Facebook profile, were labeled "Sexy Cooks of Chili's," reports Tampa's WFTS-TV. The pictures were discovered on Facebook by a customer of the restaurant.

Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which regulates restaurants, said there did not appear to be any violations in the photos, as no food was being prepared at the time they were taken; the employee was nonetheless terminated.

What lessons can employers learn from this latest employee social media stunt?

Starbucks employees can now show off their tattoos at work after a change in Starbucks' customer-facing tattoo policy.

Before the switch, baristas and other workers who were dealing with Starbucks customers would have to cover their tattoos, resulting in lots of sweaty dudes in long sleeves. Now, Forbes reports that Starbucks has lifted this workplace tattoo embargo, allowing all inked skin to breathe free -- except face tattoos.

Should your company drink the Koolaid pumpkin spice latte and follow Starbucks' lead?

Apple and Facebook recently began offering to pay for female employees to freeze their eggs, a procedure that typically costs at least $10,000.

NBC News reports that the two tech giants may be attempting to compete for top female talent by allowing women who work for them to put their reproductive choices on ice. Covering the costs of egg freezing may allow female employees to pursue their careers without sacrificing their fertility, and Apple and Facebook are leading the way.

Before you worry about your company's fertility coverage, here are three questions employers may be asking about this egg-freezing benefit:

It may not be marked on your calendar, but today is Boss' Day in the United States, a day for workers to show their employers a little appreciation whether by a card, an email, or even a gift.

But along with celebrating good bosses, Boss' Day is also a great time to look back at some bad bosses. Bad bosses don't just make for unhappy employees; being a bad boss can also increase the odds of your business encountering legal trouble, which typically makes for unhappy bosses as well.

So for Boss' Day, here are five legal lessons from bad bosses:

You may think that noncompete clauses are reserved for high-salaried employees and executives, but they can be used for hourly workers too.

Take employees of the sandwich chain Jimmy John's, for example. In an employee agreement obtained by The Huffington Post, it seems at least one Jimmy John's franchisee in Illinois prevents its workers from working at any business that makes a dime on selling subs... for two years after employment!

Its understandable that business owners don't want their employees leaving to support the competition, but how far can these noncompete agreements go?

Last week the Kansas Supreme Court ruled against shipping company FedEx in their ongoing legal battle with thousands of drivers who claim they were unfairly classified as contract workers.

Now, the company is facing another employment-related lawsuit, this time regarding allegations the company discriminated against deaf and hard-of-hearing employees and job applicants. The suit was announced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Friday.

What are the EEOC's allegations, and what do employers need to know about accommodating disabled employees?

Companies have mostly moved past cold calling and have focused more of their marketing efforts on email. But the federal CAN-SPAM Act sets boundaries on what businesses can and cannot do with respect to blasting emails at their customers.

Your business may be worried about seeming spammy, but it should be more worried about the FTC bringing down the hammer if you violate federal law.

So does your email marketing campaign violate the CAN-SPAM Act?