Intellectual Property

Lagunitas Trademark Infringement Lawsuit

On January 12, 2015, Lagunitas Brewing Company, one of the biggest craft brewers in Northern California, filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against craft beer giant Sierra Nevada in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The suit was over the use of Lagunitas trademark “IPA” design on its beer label.

According to the complaint, Lagunitas founder Tony Magee became aware that the label on Sierra Nevada’s new Hop Hunter IPA, scheduled to be released January 15, resembled the label on Lagunitas’s flagship IPA, which the brewery first released 20 years ago. According Magee’s affidavit, he says he reached out to Sierra Nevada CEO Ken Grossman before and after sending a cease-and-desist letter, before filing the lawsuit.  From the complaint:

The unique “IPA” lettering used in...

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Commercial Real Estate

Understanding Your Commercial Lease: Security Deposit, Letter of Credit, and Personal Guarantee

When negotiating a commercial lease, you will almost always encounter one or more lease clauses (and many times entire lease exhibits) that deal with what landlords often call “credit enhancement.” The major types of credit enhancement found in a commercial lease are security deposits, letters of credit, and personal guarantees. Often you may deal with more than one type in a single commercial lease. These provisions are designed to give the landlord more certainty that the tenant will be able to meet its obligations under the lease. And security deposits, letters of credit, and personal guarantees are particularly important to the landlord when the landlord is extending some type of credit, such as a tenant improvement allowance. They are also...

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Intellectual Property

Purchase and Sale of a Business: Intellectual Property Considerations

We’re continuing our series on the purchase and sale of a business with a look into intellectual property considerations when purchasing a business. Intellectual property is a large part of many companies’ value. Failing to sort out potential restrictions on the use and further development of a company’s IP may leave the buyer with a significantly less valuable company than it anticipated. Below are some of the major intellectual property considerations to have in mind when you purchase a business:

Ownership of and Right to Use the IP

The first hurdle, and perhaps the most important consideration when reviewing a target company’s intellectual property rights, is confirming that it owns, or at least has a valid license for, all of the key...

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Intellectual Property

News Roundup: FCC Ruling May Lead to Better Internet Service; Fundraising Updates; etc.

FCC Updates Broadband Definition

The FCC voted to raise the minimum thresholds needed to meet the definition of broadband. Internet service providers now must provide download speeds of at least 25Mbs and upload speeds of at least 3Mbps to call their services “broadband.” The previous standard was 4Mbps for download speed and 1Mbps for upload speed.

While this sounds pretty innocuous, the new definition may have some interesting consequences.

A little background: In 1996 Congress mandated that the FCC report on whether broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion, and Congress defined broadband as high-quality capability that allows users to originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video.

The first and most obvious consequence of the...

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Corporate Finance & Securities

Basics of Investment Adviser Regulation

Generally speaking, investment advisers are people that are in the business of advising others on the value of, and investment in, securities. Investment advisers are subject to extensive regulation by the Securities Exchange Commission and state regulators.

The investment adviser regulations are designed to make sure that people in the business of advising on securities meet professional competency standards, have adequate capital, and provide adequate disclosures to investors.

What is an Investment Adviser?

Investment advisers are defined and governed by either state law, federal law, or both. Under RCW 21.20.005 an “investment adviser” is “any person who, for compensation, engages in the business of advising others, either directly or through publications or writings, as to the value of securities or as to the advisability of investing in, purchasing, or selling...

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Business Startup

News Roundup: Ride Sharing, Startups Cash In, Google Invests in SpaceX, etc.

Here’s a collection of the most interesting legal and business news we found this week:

Ride Sharing

One of the big issues facing Uber has to do with the fact that auto insurance policies for individual drivers generally don’t cover damages from commercial activity, including ride-sharing through applications like Uber and Lyft. In Colorado, USAA and Farmers are now offering ridesharing insurance. Colorado is a natural testing ground for these new types of policies, as Colorado became one of the first states to explicitly authorize ridesharing services in 2014.

Startups & Funding

The big news of the day is Box’s IPO. After a shaky ride through the IPO process, Box’s IPO appears to be an initial success. It is a home run for its...

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Business Startup

Brewery Law 101: When It’s OK to Give Beer Away for Free

Unfortunately for Washington breweries, the regulations governing when you can give beer away for free are far from clear. We’re continuing our Brewery Law 101 series by highlighting the Washington Liquor Control Board’s regulations governing giving beer away for free.

The LCB regulations prohibit the distribution of beer for free with a few exceptions. The exceptions include:

To Licensed Retailers and Distributors

The first carve-out under the regulations allows a Washington brewery to provide free samples of its beer to licensed retailers and distributors for the purposes of negotiating a sale. That is, you’re in the clear if you’re negotiating a sale of your beer!

For Teaching Others About Beer

The regulations also carve out an exception for distributing beer free of charge for instructional purposes....

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Intellectual Property

USPTO Reduces Trademark Application Fees

Today, we bring good news to any of our readers who are planning on filing for a federal trademark. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) recently announced that it will be reducing trademark application fees and also will be adding a new type of trademark application.

Why were trademark application fees reduced and when will the new fees take effect?

As authorized by the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, the USPTO amended its regulations to reduce certain trademark application fees in order to: (1) continue with an appropriate and sustainable funding model; (2) support strategic objectives relating to online filing, electronic file management, and workflow; and (3) improve efficiency for USPTO operations and customers. The new fees will take effect on...

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Litigation & Dispute Resolution

Alternative Dispute Resolution Series: Early Neutral Evaluation

We continue our Alternative Dispute Resolution Series with a discussion of Early Neutral Evaluation. Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE), also known as “Neutral Case Evaluation” and “Case Evaluation,” is when one or both parties use a third-party neutral to evaluate the strength of their case, generally early in the life of the dispute. Just as with arbitration and mediation, there are different forms and styles of ENE, but the core structure is the same. In ENE, the third-party neutral reviews the evidence, listens to parties’ summaries of their cases, and gives the parties a written evaluation of the case.

The Benefits of Early Neutral Evaluation

Parties, including clients and their attorneys, often inaccurately assess the strength of a case. This can lead to...

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Commercial Real Estate

Understanding Your Commercial Lease: Tenant Improvement Allowances

Tenant improvement allowances are often one of the most important issues for a new tenant when finding and negotiating a commercial lease, especially when the tenant is a start-up. In basic terms, the tenant improvement allowance is the amount of capital the landlord is willing to put into the space for the specific requirements of the tenant’s particular use of the space. Another way of saying it is that tenant improvement allowances are the amount of money the landlord will spend to alter the structure, including on building walls and other partitions, modifying building systems, like plumbing, electrical, and HVAC, and making common space adjustments to facilitate your intended use. “Tenant improvement allowance” can mean many different things, but they...

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