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Fort Lauderdale Business and Commercial Law Blog

Patent infringement: what Florida entrepreneurs should know

Innovative Florida entrepreneurs might design and patent products that competitors buy and include in their branded offerings. Expectations for the competing brands to pay licensing fees are par for the course in the corporate world, but collecting those fees and avoiding infringement can be a tricky business. 

In November of 2017, Forbes published an update on an ongoing disagreement between technology power players Apple and Samsung. In the previous year, according to the article, the U.S. Supreme Court had decided in favor of Samsung, saving the company $399 million, or at least putting a hold on a previous judgment until a lower federal court rehears the design patent case.

International business: a lesson in culture

In a 21st century marketplace that has expanded to include every corner of the globe, what do Florida business owners need to know about international business disputes? After all, they cannot be so different from disagreements with American partners, can they?

Business News Daily helps entrepreneurs recognize that negotiating globally is actually quite different from resolving differences of opinion with U.S. associates. To put it simply, the uniqueness stems from the distinctiveness of cultures. Sometimes individuals of differing backgrounds reach for the same goals by what appears on the outside to be opposing means.

What are some issues typically handled with business litigation?

Business litigation in Florida is often a way for conflicts between large businesses, or between businesses and non-corporate entities, to find a standardized and independently mediated resolution. After negotiations break down, businesses might pursue this legal option if it is available. The courts certainly do not go about adjudicating upon each and every commercial dispute that happens in the state. Please continue reading for a discussion of some of the criteria for this type of legal action.

There are just a few types of cases that qualify as complex business litigation. The Ninth Circuit Court of Florida, the state's official business litigation section, lists the following examples of acceptable issues:

  • Unfair competitive environments
  • Copyright and other intangible property
  • Monopoly or other unfair business practices
  • Franchising disagreements

Is a non-compete clause stifling your competitive edge?

If you are a Florida employee who hopes to stay competitive in your field, you might consider reviewing any non-compete clauses in your employment contract. The Fordham Journal of Corporate & Financial Law outlines the basic premises of non-compete agreements, providing a foundation of understanding for Florida workers.

The journal first questions the purpose of such agreements and wonders aloud about their success. Do they truly further the intended goals of corporate employers? The answer may surprise you. The benefits company owners claim include the following:

  • Development of employees, resulting in loyalty from them
  • Reduction in turnover
  • Protection of trade secrets

Tips for a successful merger

If you are the owner or high-level executive of a business in Florida, you may be eyeing the possibility of merging with another company. There can be multiple benefits to doing this that include reducing competition, increasing the breadth and depth of your offering or providing a footing into a new market area. While the reasons for merging with another business may be clear, the path to making your merger successful is not always quite as clear or easy.

Forbes explains that you must never discount the human element in any business dealing. When it comes to blending two businesses, emotions are sure to come into play in many ways. Right out of the gate you must be aware of the need to help people get on the same team as opposed to thinking about each other as rivals. The natural tendency to eye the competition with suspicion combined with the equally natural tendency to think one's way of doing things is better or right can be a deadly combination when it comes to being successful with a merger.

Businesses waiting for final word on tax plan

For any business owner in Florida, the subject of taxes can be a sensitive one. Regardless of business size, the question of how to structure a business to meet operational needs as well as how to balance tax liability can be a major hurdle when setting up a new venture. Taxes are one of the many reasons that S corporations have grown in popularity compared to the traditional C corporation, for example, because the S corporation avoids the double taxation associated with C corporations.

At this point in time, company executives and business owners throughout the state are keeping a close watch on the proposed changes to the tax code as bills make their way through the two seats of Congress. An original proposal that many may be hoping for is a reduction in the corporate tax rate by 15 percent. Currently corporations may pay 35 percent of their profits in the form of taxes but this may be reduced to 20 percent. 

What are the corporation tax types?

Florida state tax rules and federal regulations are equally important during any corporate structuring process, whether you are setting up a tax plan for a new company in the state, or modifying the structure of your existing business to prepare for a transitional phase. The process might seem complicated, but it often becomes easier when you make general choices first before focusing on the details. The choice between creating an S or C corporation is likely to be one of your fundamental decision points.

The FindLaw small business information database notes that C corporations make up the majority of publicly held enterprises in the USA. In fact, you might find, upon reviewing the information, the choice is already made for you. To qualify for S status, your business must conform to various rules, including:

  • Your shareholders must all be individuals, as opposed to other companies
  • You may have 100 or fewer shareholders
  • You may not have multiple stock tiers
  • You must be headquartered domestically

What is deceptive advertising?

As you may already know, advertising is an important part of your business. Without getting the word out, your potential customers would have few ways of knowing about your products and services. They would also not be informed of any specials or sales without your advertising. Fortunately, the modern world gives you and other Florida business owners a wide range of creative advertising options, from television and radio commercials to ads on social media and mobile device aps. Your opportunities to reach a huge audience are almost limitless, but you should also understand that it can be easy to fall into the trap of deceptive advertising.

What does this mean? The Houston Chronicle states that deceptive advertising is a form of commercial marketing that deceives or violates the trust of consumers by giving false or misleading information about the price of a service or product. According to Federal Trade Commission law, you must be fully honest in your marketing about price, discounts, sales and markdowns.

Restaurant company ordered to take corrective action

Most employees and employers in Florida should know that federal law strictly prohibits discrimination against potential and current workers based on a variety of factors. These include gender, sexual orientation, religious preference, disability and more. Age is another factor considered here and any act that may be found a way of discriminating against job candidates or employees who are 40 years old or greater directly violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Despite what many might think are very clear laws banning such discrimination, problems continue to arise. A claim of age discrimination was made by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after a man was denied a managerial position. A decision has been handed down in the case that requires the company to financially compensate the applicant and to take corrective actions internally. This action includes training for employees and managers on age discrimination laws as well as management of a hiring policy that avoids future age discrimination.

Types of age discrimination in the workplace

Florida residents and business owners alike need to understand the various laws and ways to ensure that a workplace appropriately treats every worker fairly. While it may be commonly known that sexual harassment or discrimination based upon a person's sexual orientation or religious belief is illegal, some people may not know about the laws that protect older workers against discrimination based solely on their age.

As explained by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act bans discrimination at work for people over the age of 39. While an employer cannot show favoritism for an employee under 40 versus an employee 40 or older yet they may favor employees over 39. Similarly, while there are protections against discrimination for workers in their 40s and older, there are no such federal protections for workers under 40.

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