tax flickr 401k 2012Guest post by Eric Gurgold, Florida Bar Board Certified Wills, Trust & Estate Expert

The IRS has just published proposed new regulations under Section 2704 of the Internal Revenue Code that could significantly impact planning for estates that may be subject to estate tax.  If finalized, the proposed regulations would change how transfers of business interests to family members are valued by eliminating certain discounts, disregarding restrictions in transfer agreements and adding attribution rules for family members.  The proposed regulations will not apply to transfers to non-family members.

A public hearing on these proposed regulations has been scheduled for December 1, 2016.  If adopted, the regulations will become final.  A short window of opportunity exists to complete transfers of business interests to family members under the current rules.

If you would like to discuss the impact of the proposed regulations on your estate planning, contact any of our wills, trusts and estates attorneys at 239-344-1100 or by email to eric.gurgold@henlaw.com.

About the Author:

Gurgold - blogEric Gurgold currently serves as Chair of the Estate Planning and Administration division and is Board Certified in Wills, Trusts & Estates by The Florida Bar. For over twenty-five years, Eric has concentrated his law practice in the areas of estate planning and administration, elder law, probate litigation, title insurance claims related to probate issues, business law and taxation. He assists clients in the preparation of wills, trusts, family limited partnerships, inventories, inheritance and estate tax returns, as well as providing counsel to minimize income and estate taxes.

Tax photo courtesy of 401(K) 2012 under Flickr Creative Commons License

BrexitBy a slim margin, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union (EU) last week. Via the European Union Trademark System and the European Patent Convention a trademark or patent owner had the ability to secure protection across all EU member states by a single, unified registration. Of course, EU protection extended only to EU member states. So, with the UK on the way out of the EU, questions arise as to what protection will the owner of an EU right have in the UK once the BREXIT is complete? For companies that do business in Europe, this could have an impact on European Intellectual Property rights. Smart companies should start considering European options now.

Short Term

It will take at least two years for the UK to officially and fully withdraw from the EU. Until that time, all EU treaties and laws will continue to apply. So, for the near term, there does not appear to be any significant impact.

Long Term

Continue Reading BREXIT: What does it mean to your Intellectual Property in Europe?

Last week, the Defense of Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) was signed into law. The DTSA creates a federal legal scheme for the protection of trade secrets. Previously, protection of this form of intellectual property was solely a matter of state law, unlike patent, trademark and copyright, which have always been matters of federal law. The DTSA has a number of unique provisions, one of which immediately impacts employers who use confidentiality agreements with their employees. My colleague Suzanne Boy and I offer the following summary of this new law.

Whistleblower Protection

Due to concerns over the impact that confidentiality agreements might have on employees who might otherwise report their employer’s wrongdoing to the government, an amendment was tacked on to the DTSA to provide civil and criminal immunity to whistleblowers under state and federal law for disclosing confidential or trade secret information to the government as part of whistleblowing activity.

Continue Reading Why Employers Need to Review Employment and Confidentiality Agreements in Light of the Newly-Enacted Defense of Trade Secrets Act

trade secrets label on folderIn a rare example of getting something done, the Senate and House of Representatives have passed Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (“DTSA”) and it is now headed to the White House for signature. President Obama has indicated he will likely sign the legislation. With this in mind, it is a good time to review just what proprietary information your business has and how thoroughly it is protected.

Current law

Until now, trade secrets have been protected by state law. While the law is relatively standard there are some slight variations state by state. Indeed, 48 states, Florida included, have adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“UTSA”) in order to provide businesses with uniformity. At the federal level, while providing protection for other forms of intellectual property like patents, trademarks and copyrights, trade secrets had no specific protection. The DTSA is changing this legal landscape.

DTSA

Continue Reading Upcoming Changes in Federal Law Means It Is Time to Look At Trade Secrets

7041862895_6192f3c764_zLast spring, we discussed Tesla’s problems securing trademark rights in its name in China. See our post here. The moral of the Tesla story was to seek trademark registration in China as early as possible. Now, Apple has lost a trademark battle in China that underscores the importance of the Tesla lesson and gives an additional twist.

Apple’s Battle

In 2002, Apple registered the IPHONE trademark in China for computer hardware and software and mobile telephones. In 2007, Xintong Tiandi, a leather goods maker, sought and obtained registration of the IPHONE trademark for leather goods, including phone cases. Apple, claiming that its IPHONE mark was famous and well known in China, challenged Xintong Tiandi’s IPHONE registration in the China Trade Mark Review and Adjudication Board, where it lost. Apple then took the fight to the courts in China and lost in the lower court. Apple appealed and The Beijing Municipal High People’s Court has ruled against Apple again, stating that Xintong Tiandi registered the IPHONE mark before Apple, thus giving it superior rights, and Apple’s IPHONE trademark was not sufficiently well known in China at the time Xintong Tiandi registered IPHONE for leather goods. As the first user of the mark, Xintong Tiandi had the greatest rights and Apple’s claims failed.

Continue Reading Learn from Apple’s Woes in China: Register Early and Often

Guest post by Henderson Franklin Attorneys Suzanne Boy and Carlos Kelly

iStock_000015122897XSmallThese are important questions, and like many questions involving the law, the answer is “It depends.” There are pros and cons to both arbitration and a traditional lawsuit in court. Arbitration can be (but is not always) faster. But faster doesn’t necessarily mean cheaper all the way around.

Is faster better?

For example, the filing and arbitrator fees can be significantly higher (at least double) than filing fees for many civil lawsuits. And, if arbitration is quicker than resolving a dispute in the court system, that may not necessarily translate to significantly smaller legal fees. Instead, a similar amount of work (discovery, pre-trial motions, and exchanging exhibits, for example) could take place in a shorter amount of time.

Arbitration can be useful if you have a dispute that you want to keep out of the public eye, though a noisy party on the other side of the case could still bring media or social media attention.

Proceeding through the court system can be (but is not always) slower than resolving a dispute through arbitration.

Can you appeal the decision?

Continue Reading Business Owners: Should You Arbitrate or Should You Litigate in Court?

220px-Flag_of_Cuba.svgPresident Obama’s historic visit to Cuba is yet another step on the “new course” for US/Cuba relations. Since late 2014 the US and Cuba have been working toward normalizing relations. In January 2015, a number of changes to US sanction and trade policies toward Cuba were implemented which are beginning to open up new business opportunities for US companies in Cuba. While change may be incremental and slow, companies that prepare now for business in Cuba will be ready. One area that US companies should begin to consider regarding conducting business in Cuba is protection of their intellectual property in that country.

Cuban Trademark System

Continue Reading Preparing for Business in Cuba

NCAA flickr bp6316The NCAA Basketball Tournament is here which also means local pride is high and many businesses use the Tournament as a marketing opportunity. Many promotions will refer to terms like MARCH MADNESS or FINAL FOUR for impact. The NCAA, however, is always vigilant and aggressively protects against unauthorized uses of its trademarks, especially during the Tournament. The NCAA has a number of registered trademarks relating to the Tournament including MARCH MADNESS, FINAL FOUR, ELITE EIGHT, and THE BIG DANCE. Use of these trademarks in ways that connote come sort of connection or affiliation with the NCAA or the Tournament will likely draw an objection from the NCAA.

Dos and Don’ts

Continue Reading March Trademark Madness—Don’t Foul Out

As the deadline for filing entity returns closes and the deadline for individual income tax returns approaches, there are issues outside the four corners of the return that taxpayers should keep in mind:

  1. Stay current with your tax obligations. To avoid default or rejection of an installment agreement or offer in compromise under review or in payment status, be sure to file your return or request an extension by the deadline. In addition, even if the return is on extension, there is no extension for payment and a failure to make payment by April 15th (for individual income taxes) may result in a default or rejection.
  2. Be cautious with your personal information. The IRS has identified identity theft, phone scams, and phishing among its “dirty dozen” scams for 2016. Criminals seek to obtain your personal information, including name, address, social security number, and credit card and banking information, in an effort to steal both directly from your accounts and to file fraudulent returns under your name and claim the refund for themselves. The IRS will never call to demand payment or about taxes owed without mailing a bill first and generally does not contact taxpayers to request personal or financial information by email. If you receive an unsolicited call or email purportedly from the IRS, do not provide any of your personal information. If you are not certain whether the information is legitimate, contact the IRS.

For help and other resources within the IRS, see https://www.irs.gov/Help-&-Resources.

For more on the IRS’ 2016 “dirty dozen” list, see https://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Wraps-Up-the-Dirty-Dozen-List-of-Tax-Scams-for-2016.

House_of_Cards_logo.svg

Trademarks are vitally important to business. The names of a business, product or service are the first things the public encounters. US trademark law protects the rights of the first party to use a mark against use of the same or similar mark by others for the same or similar goods and services. Among the rights a first user of a trademark has against others is the ability to seek injunctive relief, requesting a second user to stop all use of a trademark. This could stop a product launch dead in its tracks or result in significant re-branding costs if a product or service is already in the market. Because of this, businesses should carefully consider trademarks before adopting or using them. A very recent lawsuit highlights the importance making sure a trademark is available for use.

HOUSE OF CARDS

HOUSE OF CARDS is a wildly popular series on Netflix that is all the more poignant in this election year. The popularity of HOUSE OF CARDS has spilled over into collateral branding, with the name appearing on, among other things, shirts, coffee mugs and slot machines. A Massachusetts company called D2 Holdings (D2) registered the mark HOUSE OF CARDS in 2009 for various entertainment services, including “comedy action and adventure” programs distributed by various platforms. In 2012, MRC II Distribution Company (MRC II), the producers of the Netflix HOUSE OF CARDS series, tried to register HOUSE OF CARDS for its own television entertainment. That trademark application was rejected because D2 had first registered HOUSE OF CARDS for similar services. The refusal to register the HOUSE OF CARDS trademark did not deter MRC II and it has proceeded to use the name, to great success. Indeed, to such success that the name has been licensed to a producer of gaming machines who now uses that mark on slot machines.

Continue Reading Important Lesson from HOUSE OF CARDS – Search Before Using a Trademark