Sunday, January 30, 2011

Legal stuff ...Copyrights, Patents, Trademarks

There are three types of intellectual property: Copyrights, Patents and Trademarks.

Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, grounded in the U.S. Constitution which protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.  Registration is voluntary. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation.

The United States has copyright relations with most countries throughout the world, and as a result of these agreements, we honor each other's citizens' copyrights. However, the United States does not have such copyright relationships with every country.

Do not confuse Copyright, with Trademark or Patent.

Copyright protects original works of authorship, while a patent is an intellectual property right granted by the Government of the United States of America to an inventor “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted. This right was established over 200 years ago. The patent process can be complex, and consulting with a qualified patent attorney could be your best investment,

A trademark protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs identifying the source of the goods or services of one party and distinguishing them from those of others. 

Owning a federal trademark registration on the Principal Register provides several advantages, including:
  • Public notice of your claim of ownership of the mark;
  • A legal presumption of your ownership of the mark and your exclusive right to use the mark nationwide on or in connection with the goods/services listed in the registration;
  • The ability to bring an action concerning the mark in federal court;
  • The ability to record the U.S. registration with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Service to prevent importation of infringing foreign goods.

If you claim rights to use a mark, you may use the "TM" (trademark) or "SM" (service mark) designation to alert the public to your claim of ownership of the mark, regardless of whether you have filed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). However, you may only use the federal registration symbol "®" after the USPTO actually registers a mark, and not while an application is pending.

Helpful links for more details and assistance:

To register a Patent or Ttrademark, contact:
US Patent and Trademark Office

U.S. Copyright Office
(202) 707-5959 or 1-877-476-0778

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Are You Setting Yourself Up to Win?

Being an entrepreneur requires a multitude of decisions.  Make sure you surround yourself with the proper advisors for each critical or legal decision you need to make.

The right Attorney, Banker, Accountant and marketing professional can eliminate a host of problems and potentially costly errors as you build your success. Make sure you hire specialists who are willing to listen to you and your needs, and respond quickly when you need them.

A few questions to ask yourself when setting up your support team of professionals:
  > What professional advisors to you need?  Attorney, Accountant, Banker, Marketing, Advertising, Internet, and ??
    >  Do you know the good and bad points about going it alone as a sole proprietor?
    >  Do you think you may need a partner? Or will you be forming a Corporation?
    >  Have you discussed your plans with your team of advisors?
    >  Have you investigated adequate insurance coverage for your business?
    >  Are you familiar with the legal permits and licenses for your business and location?

One of the first major decisions you will have to make as you start your new business is which form of legal company structure it will take.  To a large degree this decision may be dictated by the way you have organized your operations and whether you intend to work on your own or in conjunction with others.

Before making the final decision on which structure is best for your business, it is recommend that you do ample research to understand all the advantages and disadvantages for you and your business.

The form of company structure you choose can have a significant impact on the way you are protected under the law and the way you are affected by income tax rules and regulations.  There is no “one size fits all” for the legal structure of your company. There are five basic forms of Company Structures.  Each has its own benefits and drawbacks and is treated differently for legal and tax purposes. The following is only a general list. You should consult an attorney and accountant for the answers as to which is the best structure for you.

1.   Sole Proprietorship
This is the most common form of business organization. It is the easiest to set up and is owned and run by one individual and in which there is no legal distinction between the owner and the business. The owner receives all profits, is liable for all the taxes and has unlimited responsibility for all losses and debts. Every asset of the business is owned by the proprietor and all debts of the business are the proprietor's. This means that the owner has no less liability than if they were acting as an individual instead of as a business.

A sole proprietor may use a trade name other than his or her legal name after filing a “doing business as” (DBA) statement with the local authorities.   

It is difficult to raise money and attract investors to a sole proprietorship. The sole proprietorship does not survive the owner  and therefore makes it more difficult to sell your business. So if growing your business into a large company is a goal, then consider one of the other business structures.

2.   Partnerships
A partnership involves two or more people who agree to co-labor to achieve and share profits or losses of the business. The basic form of partnership is a general partnership, in which all partners manage the business and are personally liable for its debts.

There are three general types of partnership arrangements:
>  General Partnerships assume that profits, liability, and management duties are divided equally among partners. If you opt for an unequal distribution, the percentages assigned to each partner must be documented in the partnership agreement.
>  Limited Partnerships (also known as a partnership with limited liability) are more complex than general partnerships. Limited partnerships allow partners to have limited liability as well as limited input with management decisions. These limits depend on the extent of each partner’s investment percentage. Limited partnerships are seen as attractive to investors of short-term projects.
>  Joint Ventures act as general partnership, but for only a limited period of time or for a single project. Partners in a joint venture can be recognized as an ongoing partnership if they continue the venture, but they must file as such.

There are many factors to consider when selecting which type of partnership or your business. You should consult an attorney and accountant for the answers as to which is the best structure for you.

3.   C Corporation
A corporation is an independent legal entity owned by shareholders. This means that the corporation itself, not the shareholders that own it, is held legally liable for the actions and debts incurred by the business.

A corporation is an independent legal entity. This means that the corporation itself, not the shareholders that own it, is held legally liable for the actions and debts incurred by the business.

Corporations are more complex than other business structure You can be a one person corporation and hold all the shares. Liability is different as shareholders are not typically held liable for the actions and debts of the corporation. Shares of stock can be sold to raise capital (Securities laws apply) and shares of stock can be easily transferred.  Corporations must have annual meetings, Board of Directors meetings, corporate minutes, and stockholder meetings.  There are many more tax options available to corporations than to sole proprietorships or partnerships. Corporations are taxed at corporate rate and possible double taxation: Dividends are taxed at the individual level if distributed to shareholders.  If you are the sole shareholder, then you would be subject to the taxes of the corporation as well as the funds transferred to you as a shareholder. Plus, you might be subject to self employment tax.

4.     S Corporation

An S Corporation or S Corp is a special type of corporation created through an IRS tax election. An eligible domestic corporation can avoid double taxation (once to the corporation and again to the shareholders) by electing to be treated as an S corporation.

An S Corp is a corporation that has received the Subchapter S designation from the IRS. A business must first be chartered as a corporation in the state where it's headquartered to be considered an S Corp. According to the IRS, S Corporations are "considered by law to be a unique entity, separate and apart from those who own it." This allows for a limit on the financial liability for which an owner (aka "shareholder") is responsible. Nevertheless, liability protection is limited - S Corps do not necessarily shield owners from all litigation such as an employee’s tort actions as a result of a workplace incident. 

What differentiates the S Corp from a traditional corporation (C Corp) is the ability to have profits and losses pass through to the shareholder's personal tax return. Consequently, the business is not taxed itself, only the shareholders. There is an important caveat, however: any shareholder who works for the company must pay him or herself "reasonable compensation." Basically, the shareholder must be paid fair market value, or the IRS might reclassify any additional corporate earnings as "wages."

5.     Limited Liability Company. 

A limited liability company is a hybrid-type of legal structure that provides the limited liability features of a corporation and the tax efficiencies and operational flexibility of a partnership.

The “owners” of an LLC are referred to as “members.” Depending on the state, the members can consist of a single individual (one owner), two or more individuals, corporations, other LLCs, and even other entities.

Unlike shareholders in a corporation, LLCs are not taxed as a separate business entity.  Instead, all profits and losses are “passed through” the business to each member of the LLC.  LLC members report profits and losses on their personal federal tax returns, just like the owners of a partnership would.

Each state has specific requirements for setting up a business entity, and you can also find professional incorporation services in your state. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

No opt-out from your address & phone number being given to Facebook apps

Your friend just suggested that you join them in a new game or accept a hug, a card, a link to your photos and activity or some other Facebook app. It may look like harmless fun, but is it worth it? 

Last Friday, Facebook rolled out new permissions that give applications access to individuals’ addresses and phone numbers.  In a Facebook developer blog post, they announced that it is adding it to the company's "User Graph object," or the permissions required to install an app.

Surprisingly many people still give out their home addresses and phone numbers on their profiles.  This makes sense for businesses who want their location known, but for individuals who are constantly finding their privacy invaded, placing your home address on any social network can be too much exposure.

When you agree to an app, a window pops up where you must click to allow it access to your profile, so you can use the app. Now these apps get more personal info about you than ever before.

Come apps require access to your friends information, through your profile and others access your data whether you re online or not.

It is important to review the terms and privacy policy of the app before clicking approve. Check to see if this app will openly share your information with their affiliates or 3rd party suppliers.  

Facebook can be a platform to boost your business connections, or a place where you chat with your friends. In either case you should select the apps you agree to with case and make sure your privacy settings are current. 

If your spam has increased in your inbox, you may want to check your apps and your privacy settings.

Happy networking...

To stay abreast of trends and technology advancements, Sumner Davenport continues to participate regularly in developer forums and expands her knowledge through training courses sponsored by large internet marketing companies, developer forums and the internet search giant, Google, as well as industry related events in her clients' areas of practice. By consistently monitoring trends, events and news, Sumner is better able to assist them in selecting the best venues for marketing their firms.
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Friday, January 7, 2011

How do great leaders inspire action?

How do you explain when things don't go as we assume?
or better, how do you explain when others are able to achieve things that defy all the assumptions?

Simon Sinek: "People don't buy what you do - they buy why you do it."

Start with why:

Monday, January 3, 2011

Facebook crowned as the top-visited site in 2010

 According to a report from Internet analytics company Experian Hitwise, Facebook accounted for 8.93% of all U.S. visits between January and November 2010. ranked second with 7.19% of visits, followed by Yahoo! Mail with 3.52%, Yahoo! with 3.30%, and Google-owned YouTube with 2.65%.

The Experian analysis found that the most frequently searched term this year was "facebook."

"Facebook" was the top-searched term overall for the second straight year, followed by "Facebook login" and "YouTube," says Experian.

What does this mean to your 2011 marketing plan?   In today’s competitive market, marketers who maximize the free and customizable Facebook platform may find staying connected with their customers and gaining referrals surpasses their paid marketing channels.

To stay abreast of trends and technology advancements, Sumner stays current with the news and continues to participate regularly in developer forums and expands her knowledge through training courses sponsored by large internet marketing companies, developer forums and the internet search giant, Google, as well as industry related events in her clients' areas of practice. No time or expertise to do it yourself? Contact Sumner.

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