Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

October 2011 Archives

Top 4 Questions to Ask When You Hire an Attorney

Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.

Selecting an attorney for your business is one of the most important decisions a small business owner can make. Yet, when speaking with small business owners, I find that few know how to select the right attorney for their business.

There are a lot of different variables. But, at a minimum, the following should be considered before selecting an attorney:

Top 10 Legal Facts Every Blogger Should Know

Anyone can be a blogger these days, but only some understand the extent of their rights.

Whether a blogger writes about food, local politics, or her business, she is subject to a set of legal rules that both limit and protect her blog and its content.

The list of rules is endless and draws from a variety of legal specialties. This means that specific questions should always be asked of a lawyer.

But to you get started, the following are the top legal facts every blogger should know.

New Debit Card Fees Don't Always Save Merchants Money

Not even a month into its implementation, reports claim that the Durbin Amendment's $0.21 debit card fee cap is saving merchants millions of dollars.

But what if those savings are largely attributable to a limited number of businesses? Corporations with dozens of locations and millions in daily volume? Or small businesses that trade primarily in higher-priced services and goods?

With the way banks have responded to the new cap, this may end up becoming reality.

Should Your Company Go After Anonymous Bloggers?

If your business has ever received criticism by an anonymous blogger, you may be irritated. You might also start to wonder if defamation law might be on your side.

Suing someone who has caused harm to your businesses' reputation and cost you money can be an option.

But it's more difficult now that there are various online platforms like Facebook, online message boards, Twitter, or forums where bloggers can keep their identity under wraps. Businesses may wonder if it's ever an option to go after someone who is nameless. It is - but whether or not it's a good idea is up for you to decide.

How To Protect Yourself In a Business Partnership

Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.

Many small business owners chose to operate as a general partnership. In  my experience, however, few business owners know how to protect themselves in their partnership.

The following are a few things that you can do to protect yourself in your business partnership.

New Plan Offers Tax Break for Hiring Felons

Businesses everywhere, take note: employers in San Francisco may soon be seeing some financial incentives for hiring felons. The city is considering a new legislation where employers will get a $10,000 tax break for felon employees.

San Francisco is not the first city to consider this type of legislation. Philadelphia has had similar rules on its books since 2007.

In fact, in 2009 the Philadelphia Eagles turned down a $10,000 tax credit when they hired an ex-felon: Michael Vick. Considering Vick's contract comes in at a hefty $1.6 million, it's not like the $10,000 would make or break the NFL team's budget. But for small businesses, $10,000 can be a vital lifeline.

Steve Jobs' Turtleneck and the Right of Publicity

A lawsuit has yet to be filed, but the Steve Jobs turtleneck is now at the center of a bizarre fashion controversy.

Knitwear Corp., manufacturer of the St. Croix line of men's knitwear, is accused of lying about the turtleneck's origin. Interviews with top executives imply that Steve Jobs wore St. Croix mock turtlenecks. A website promotion further insinuates this connection.

Statements made by Jobs to his official biographer indicate that these assertions are anything but true.

You Can't Pay Your Business Rent. Now What?

By Guest Writer Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.

Not paying the rent for your commercial lease can have long term negative consequences for your business. A negative credit report can affect your application for a business loan and for the lease of another location.

Plus, your personal credit can be affected. You are still liable for the rent if you personally guaranteed the lease. This means your personal assets, bank accounts, and home are at risk.

So if you can't pay your business rent, what do you do?

Steve Jobs Apple Tribute Logo a Copyright Dispute

A copyright and trademark battle is brewing, and it involves the Steve Jobs tribute logo.

Three individuals claim to have independently created the popular image, which replaces the bite mark on the Apple logo with a profile of Steve Jobs.

One claims to have created his logo in May. Another says he created his in August. And a third says he designed the logo on the day of Jobs' death.

The last one, Farzin Adeli, has since filed for copyright and trademark protection.

Urban Outfitters' Fake 'Navajo' Panties

Urban Outfitters' "Navajo" panties have, well, gotten the Navajo Nation's panties in a twist.

The trendy retailer recently launched a "Navajo" line of merchandise, including flasks, feather necklaces, and t-shirts. Some are accusing the company of mocking American Indian culture. Urban Outfitters claims it's just cashing in on the current "Native American-inspired trend."

Insensitive or not, are "Navajo" panties legal?

Or will Urban Outfitters soon be facing a lawsuit?

Are Electronic Signatures Valid?

Businesses enter into contracts on a daily business. Small business owners may wonder just what electronic signatures are. Are these valid signatures?

The short answer is that yes, most electronic signatures are valid if done properly.

And electronic signatures are growing increasingly more important, considering the vast number of contracts that are now digitized. The federal government recognized the growing number of electronic documents and passed the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) in 2000.

With this in mind, here are some electronic signature basics:

Beware of the Private Attorney General

The Supreme Court received much praise from the business community this year when it upheld the enforceability of consumer class action waivers. Some even believe that the ruling upholds mandatory arbitration agreements in employment contracts.

Unfortunately, this may not be true.

According to a recent California appellate court ruling, the Supreme Court destroyed consumer class actions. However, it did not destroy the private attorney general.

Do I Have to Let My Employee Go to Jury Duty?

As an employer, jury duty can be a hassle. It can make you miss work if you get called to serve.

Not to mention it could make a key employee absent from their post if the government chooses them to sit for jury duty.

What are the legal ramifications if an employee gets called away on jury duty? What should you know as an employer?

'$10 if You Guess Who Will Be Fired Next'

An Iowa administrative law judge has blasted QC Mart convenience store owner William Ernst for operating a "firing contest."

Ernst announced the contest in a chain-wide memo sent to his employees. He encouraged them to predict which cashier would be fired next. The winner would earn $10, and the contest would start anew.

His plan was to whip his employees into shape, but instead he's ended up paying for their voluntary unemployment.

Why do Customers Shop at Local Small Businesses?

Despite hard times and shrinking profits, Americans still shop at locally-owned, independent retailers.

A new small business survey from American Express polled 1,000 consumers aged 18 and older. Ninety-three percent of respondents believe that it's important to support local small businesses. And on average, they spend about one third of their monthly discretionary income at these stores.

How can you capitalize on this information?

Hooters Enters 'Breastaurant' War, Sues Twin Peaks

A new breastaurant lawsuit has been filed, and this time it has nothing to do with trademarks.

Hooters has sued Twin Peaks, a scantily clad startup with 15 restaurants in the Southeast. The mountain-themed chain, which uses the slogan "Eats, Drinks, Scenic Views," plans to build another 35 locations in the next few years.

Hooters claims that the plan is based on confidential information stolen by former vice president Joseph Hummel.

Lessons Learned from Target's Missoni Fiasco

Economics is all about supply and demand. But what happens when demand far outstrips supply? Basically, you'll be hearing from lots of angry customers. This is a lesson learned from Target's Missoni fiasco.

A few weeks ago, excited budget fashionistas lined up outside Target stores nationwide when the Italian design house launched its discount line.

Digital shoppers also rushed the retailer full force via its website, causing site outages. It seems Target was unprepared for to handle the massive interest in the new line. A rash of bad publicity and complaints hit the airwaves.

What are some takeaway lessons that small businesses can glean from Target's blunder?