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Beastie Boys awarded $1.7 million in copyright case

Tennessee residents might be interested in a lawsuit that the Beastie Boys filed against Monster Energy Co. The hip-hop group, well known for their hit song "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)", sued the makers of Monster energy drinks for $2 million after the company used five of their songs for an online commercial that ran for five weeks.

Although a jury ordered Monster to pay the Beastie Boys $1.7 million in damages, lawyers for the group say that the Beastie Boys spent more than that in the copyright violation case. After over two years of litigation and an eight-day trial, the Beastie Boys' lawyer's fees added up to a total of $2.38 million. Lawyers for the group say that these costs were mostly the result of Monster's refusal to negotiate a pre-trial settlement and the company's effort to overturn the jury's original verdict.

Avoiding litigation in connection with employee disputes

Because a lawsuit can be financially burdensome, Tennessee employers may seek methods for limiting the risk of litigation by employees. This is often accomplished by requiring employees to sign arbitration agreements in which they waive their rights to sue. From an employee's perspective, however, arbitration can be a difficult alternative to legal action. Many such agreements require the losing party to pay for any related costs in arbitration, and this could total thousands of dollars in some cases. Additionally, an employee's access to company records and other resources may not be as complete as in litigation.

In the case of a San Francisco man who worked as a legal secretary, the law firm for which he worked for fired him for refusing to sign such an agreement. In seeking a job at a separate law firm, he found that his refusal to sign an arbitration agreement resulted in his employment offer being rescinded. He has sued both firms in connection with what he deems to be wrongful termination. Although his suits have been dismissed at both the state and U.S. Court levels, he has taken the fight to the federal level with the help of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. His claim is that the actions were retaliatory due to his exercise of a civil right.

Name dispute at Yosemite may lead to changes

People in Tennessee may be interested to learn about a legal dispute currently brewing between Yosemite National Park and the concessionaire company that currently runs historic park properties including the Ahwahnee and Curry Village. The dispute stems over Yosemite's consideration of offering the concession contract to another company.

Delaware North Companies, a business based in Buffalo, New York, is the current concessionaire at the park. Upon learning that the park is considering contracting with a different provider, the business has indicated that it owns the names of the historic businesses. The company has demanded payment of $51 million from Yosemite in the event a different company is awarded the concession contract.

Taking steps to keep business secrets in Tennessee

Companies have many tools at their disposal when it comes to protecting trade secrets. An easy way to do this is to keep the information away from anyone who does not need to know about it. For those who do need to see certain proprietary information, it may be a good idea to have that employee agree to a nondisclosure agreement. A nondisclosure agreement between an employer and employee prohibits the employee from using the information to help himself or herself or a competitor.

In addition to a nondisclosure agreement, a business owner could decide to register a trademark. Although certain information may be protected as soon as it is used in public, a registered trademark provides a wide array of protection. Most notably, a company with a registered trademark could prevent another company from using any names, logos or other marks that are too close to that of the trademark holder.

Ensuring an agreement protects minority shareholders

Many shareholders in Tennessee own less than half of their company's stock, even in a startup or small business. Being a minority shareholder means that an investor may be outvoted in an important business decision. However, a well-constructed shareholders' agreement can protect a minority shareholder's rights, helping them maintain their investment and remain as closely involved with the company's actions as desired.

The Houston Chronicle lists several clauses in a shareholders' agreement that a minority shareholder may wish to pay attention to and even insist on their inclusion if omitted. The right to appoint directors is essential for a minority shareholder, allowing them to remain relatively hands-off in the assurance that somebody is fighting for their interests on the board. Preemptive rights help minority shareholders maintain their percentage of ownership, allowing them primary claim on any new stock the company issues. Right of first refusal is the inverse of preemptive rights, giving shareholders the opportunity to buy any stock another shareholder sells before it enters the public market.

Material that isn't covered by copyright

Copyright is one of the most powerful tools a business or individual can use to protect their creations and intellectual property. When material is copyrighted, those who don't have the copyright holder's permission can't replicate it for use. A copyright isn't difficult to acquire. However, not everything can be copyrighted. There are some types of materials that are actually specifically excluded from copyright law.

Generally, a work needs to be in a tangible form to be documented. For example, a piece of choreography would need to be diagrammed or documented in some way to be copyright eligible. If the choreography only exists when it is performed, then it can't be copyrighted. Also, ambiguous assets like thoughts, ideas, concepts and processes cannot be copyrighted. For those types of materials to be copyrighted, they would have to be documented in the form of a written description or illustration.

Avoiding litigation regarding family leave in Tennessee

Owning a business could come with its own special set of legal problems, especially regarding employees. Most owners focus mainly on filling key positions in their organization. They generally pursue the best people available but may forget to pay attention to honing their own management skills and complying with regulatory requirements involving labor and paid leave.

State and local employee leave laws and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act have moved medical leave issues into a complicated area of employee relations. Temporary and part-time workers now get three paid sick days annually now in California since a law was passed in September. New Jersey is contemplating a similar bill, and Connecticut passed one in 2011. Local laws requiring mandatory time off for employees have been passed in cities like San Francisco, D.C., New York City, Jersey City, Portland, and Seattle.

Well-planned mergers can boost Tennessee businesses

"Two is better than one." The age-old wisdom, applied to Tennessee businesses, explains why so many companies opt for mergers. By combining strengths, two can merge into a more synergistically efficient entity, decreasing competition and lowering costs.

The main types of mergers include conglomerate mergers, market extension mergers, product extension mergers, horizontal mergers, and vertical mergers. Think of conglomerate mergers as a conglomeration of unrelated goods and services merged into one company. This serves to diversify a company's production and marketability, creating new interest in the company as a whole. Another way to increase marketability is through market extension mergers. Unlike conglomerate mergers, these joining companies offer the same products, but usually in a different market. For example, if Bob's Fishing Lures in Beverly Hills merged with Ralph's Fishing Lures in New York City, the combined company would continue to produce fishing lures, but their market space would have doubled.

Limited liability business formats in Tennessee

When forming a new business, the structure to be used is one of the threshold decisions for the owners to make. Among a variety of options, both a limited liability company and a limited liability partnership protect the owners from personal liability of the obligations of the entity. The main difference between the two is that a limited liability company protects all of the owners equally while a limited liability partnership places all liability on the managing partners, protecting silent partners and investors.

The main thing that both formats have in common is the way the IRS views them. They both report like partnerships, passing profits through to the members. This prevents double taxation by avoiding corporate taxes. LLCs do have the option to report as a corporation, but most do not do so.

Geographical indications and goods

Geographical indications for goods are important to many Tennessee businesses. Indications are considered to be an important subset of intellectual property, as the geographical origination can indicate the expected quality of items from a given region. These indicators are often hotly protected by businesses as intellectual property.

There are many geographical indications used, many of which are used for certain agricultural products. Geographic indications are not used for generic or widely available products. For those that are not and for which the business has obtained the right to use a geographical indication, the business may protect the use through the trademark system.

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