Contracts

Major Issues to Consider When Drafting or Reviewing a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)

A non-disclosure agreement, or NDA, is an agreement that is meant to protect a party (or both parties) from losing control over all or parts of their valuable intellectual property. The NDA prevents one party from disclosing certain information belonging to the other party without permission. By preventing disclosure without permission, a party can maintain the value inherent in keeping certain intellectual property a secret from the outside world while still sharing that intellectual property with those who might help them build on it (or who might purchase the right to use it). But a non-disclosure agreement not thoughtfully considered can become a license for the other party to destroy or significantly diminish the value of your intellectual property. Here...

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Corporate Finance & Securities

Integration in Securities Offerings

When companies raise money from investors, the transaction will be governed by securities laws. These securities laws have complex requirements that often “trip up” companies unfamiliar with the rules and their application. In today’s post, we tackle one of those areas of securities and startup law where companies often trip up: integration.

What is “Integration” in the context of a securities offering?

To better understand integration, you’ll need to first understand what a “securities offering” is. In very simple terms, a securities offering is a transaction where a company is offering to sell a security in exchange for (in most cases) cash. You can check out a discussion of the more precise definition of a security in our prior post.

Integration is a term in...

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Business Startup

Four Important Considerations When Launching a Startup

Today’s post highlights some of the key considerations that founders of any startup company should have in mind as they begin the process of turning an idea into a business. The action items we discuss in this post are simple things to address early on in the company and can have immediate and lasting positive impacts for the company and its founders.

Forming a Corporation or LLC to Limit Personal Liability

One of the first steps the initial partners should take is to form a limited liability entity (either corporation or LLC in most cases) in order to limit the owners’ personal liability. Forming the entity will also open the door to discussing the initial ownership percentages, vesting provisions, and management rights....

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Intellectual Property

What are Common Law Trademark Rights?

Trademarks can be an extremely valuable asset for your business. Think about the value tied to Nike’s Swoosh or the McDonald’s “golden arches.” Protecting the value behind these trademarks is one important step towards building a wall around your company’s intellectual property. Many people don’t realize that certain trademark rights arise automatically once you begin using a trademark. Today’s post highlights these automatic rights, also known as common law trademark rights.

Common law trademark rights versus registered federal and state trademark rights

“Common law” is a term for the rights that have developed through case law versus statutes or codes. Common law trademark rights arise automatically and give the owner of a particular trademark certain rights (see below) without the need to...

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Intellectual Property

A Few Questions Buyers Should Consider to Protect Intellectual Property Rights When Purchasing a Business

When purchasing a business, buyers often overlook one important part of the purchase: formally transferring the seller’s intellectual property rights to the buyer. The most common IP rights include copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets. Today’s post highlights three simple questions buyers should ask before purchasing a business.

Can you and do you want to transfer the business’ trademarks?

In most purchases, trademarks will be easily assignable from the seller to the buyer. However, in some situations even if the trademarks are assignable, you may not want to acquire them. For example, if the business’ logo infringes on trademark rights of another business, then you wouldn’t want to transfer ownership of the logo and risk being held liable for trademark infringement once...

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Corporate Finance & Securities

Things to Know When Bringing on Startup Advisors

Startup advisors can be an extremely valuable resource for early-stage companies. Typically advisors bring startup experience, a large network of entrepreneurs, investors and other types of advisors, and sound business advice for growing your company. In today’s post, we’ve highlighted some of the key considerations to have in mind when considering hiring advisors for your startup:

Are They the Right Fit?

Perhaps the most important consideration is finding a person that understands your business and goals and finding someone that has industry experience and contacts that you can leverage strategically for the benefit of your business. They should also be someone you trust and that you know will give you reliable advice. It also helps if you get along with and enjoy...

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Intellectual Property

Using Licensing Agreements to Protect Your IP

An important tool for monetizing your IP is a licensing agreement. When exploring entering into a licensing agreement, it is important to understand how licensing agreements work and the common terms of a licensing agreement. Today’s post highlights what licensing agreements are and some of the common terms included in every licensing agreement.

How do Licensing Agreements work?

A license gives a person or company the ability to use another person or company’s intellectual property rights for commercial purposes. The licensing agreement lays out the terms and conditions under which the licensee (the one receiving the right to use the IP) can use the IP for its benefit. The agreement also lays out the compensation the licensee agrees to pay to the...

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Business Startup

Why a Repurchase Option Matters to Startups

Most founders are concerned about making sure each of the co-founders are invested in the company. Founders often ask about protecting against a co-founder leaving the company, taking his or her equity, and sharing in the potential future upside value of the startup without continuing to work for that right. To protect against this, startups often have a “repurchase option” to buy back shares from the departing founder.

When Can the Company Exercise the Repurchase Option?

While terms can vary, the shares issued to the founders are often subject to a vesting schedule that requires the founder fulfill certain obligations—e.g. to stay with the company a period of time, achieve certain milestones, or any other creative requirements the founders agree on— in...

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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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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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