Law Blog

“Alphabet” Soup: What Your Business Can Learn from Google’s Re-brand

Common Law Trademark, Trademark, Trademark Infringement, USPTO
Last year, search giant Google announced it was reorganizing and creating a holding company with the name “Alphabet”. Google co-founder and chief executive Larry Page wrote, “We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity's most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search”. Although a nice sentiment, Google's name change could create legal headaches for the search titan, with hundreds of companies already using the innocuous-sounding 'Alphabet.' If you think about trademarks on a spectrum of strongest to weakest, there are five main types. At the strong end are coined or fanciful names; marks which, on their own, do not mean anything. The “Google” mark is actually an example of such a mark. Be honest,…
Read More
So You Want to Invest in Your Friend’s Business (Part Two)

So You Want to Invest in Your Friend’s Business (Part Two)

Business Formation, Contracts, Limited Liability Company, Operating Agreement, Sale of Business
In Part One, I talked about some of the more important questions overlooked (or usually glossed over) by people looking to invest in a friend's existing business. In this part, I'll delve into some of the key documents used to formalize the purchase of an interest in a business, what they are for and why they are important. For purposes of this article, we are going to assume that the business being invested in is formed and operated as a Limited Liability Company (LLC), although the concepts here are applicable to a corporation or partnership, too: Operating Agreement -  As I touched on in Part One, this is a document that hopefully already exists. You should insist upon a complete copy of the version executed by your friend and his…
Read More

Waymo vs. Uber Saga Offers Valuable Trade Secret Tips for Businesses

Misappropriation, Trade Secrets
The year's most dramatic tech legal skirmish is set to get real later on this year, when the Waymo v. Uber trial begins.   In addition to being pretty popcorn-worthy for us IP attorneys, the clash of Silicon Valley heavyweights also provides some key lessons for businesses looking to protect their valuable trade secrets. First, a little background on Silicon Valley's made-for-HBO-original robot-car-technology-theft saga:  Ride-hailing service Uber has been developing self-driving car technology for several years now, with the implicit goal of phasing out drivers and replacing them with a fleet of automated vehicles (no more of those pesky wage or labor laws to deal with!).  Lesser-known Waymo is the self-driving car division of search-giant Google (now known as "Alphabet" but which I'll still call Google since I hate calling…
Read More
So You Want to Invest in Your Friend’s Business (Part One)

So You Want to Invest in Your Friend’s Business (Part One)

Business Formation, Corporations, Limited Liability Company, Operating Agreement, Sale of Business
At least once a week I get contacted by someone who is looking to "invest in a friend's business".  The call or e-mail usually goes something along these lines: "I want to invest in my friend's business" "My friend actually owns X% of the business with other partners" "I will be purchasing [some amount]% of my friend's X%" "It's not a large amount of money, just $[insert dollar amount that is usually a large amount of money to most people]" "I want to be protected" Because this is a question that comes up frequently enough, I figured I would give my faithful readers a freebie and highlight some of the main (but by no means only) issues that come with sinking your money into a friend's company, hopefully helping avoid…
Read More
How to Cover That Favorite Hit Song (and do it Legally)

How to Cover That Favorite Hit Song (and do it Legally)

Copyright, Popular Culture
I'm a huge fan of Spotify's "Acoustic Covers" playlist. It plays on near constant rotation in the background in my office and at home on weekends. Some of these artists are just flat out brilliant and, frankly, I often prefer the cover version to the original track itself! So, if you're an aspiring singer or musician looking to cover a favorite artist's hit single or maybe draw some new fans to your work on YouTube, how do you go about it? First of all, it is important to understand that your favorite artist's track is protected by copyright law. An original song is a creative work that is covered (pun intended) by Copyright law as soon as it is fixed in a tangible form, whether that is on paper, vinyl…
Read More