Vote 'Yes' to Renovate and Update Polk County Courthouse

I generally try to stay away from politics on this blog but there is an important vote on November 5th regarding Measure A:  The Polk County Public Safety Judicial System Bond. I encourage you to vote 'Yes" for this measure.

Our Polk County Courthouse has been in use for over 100 years. While it is an architectural gem it is also badly in need of updating.  Most importantly, it is not adequately designed for security and safety needs. Violent criminals often roam the same halls with the public including jurors and children.  Also, there are numerous courtrooms crowded into the facility that were not designed for that purpose. Polk County is the busiest courthouse in the state. It was originally designed for just four courtrooms but now houses over 20 courtrooms in an effort to meet the needs of the public.

The old adage is that you can pay now or pay later. If we don't pass this measure the costs will be substantially higher down the road. At some point in the near future you can be assured that the courthouse will be overhauled or perhaps a new one built. We cannot avoid that fact much longer. It is an absolute necessity.  A smarter approach would be to approve the measure now. The cost is approximately $1.50 per month for the average homeowner. It is a small price to pay to ensure fairness and to keep our families safe.

Again, please vote 'Yes' on this important measure. 

 

Government Shutdown Teaches Lessons in Negotiation

 I read an interesting blog post on the LexBlog Network from Tom Crane of the San Antonio Employment Law Blog called What We Can Learn from the Government Shutdown. The lesson Crane preaches that bullying tactics usually do not work very well in negotiation and tend to invite an equal response from the other side.

I agree with Crane regarding the fact that bullying tactics don't work well in negotiations. In my view there a couple of things you should remember in your next business negotiation. First, you need to leave some room for the other side to save face. This is true even if you have the upper hand and likely don't need to give in to the other side's demands. People need to feel as though they have gotten something from you. How can this be accomplished? One of the easiest ways is to have throw away points in the negotiation that you are willing to give up. So even if these points aren't important to you, the other side can still feel like they received something in return for their compromise.

Secondly, don't use ultimatums or say that you will "never" do something unless you really mean it. And even if you do mean it, it still is not the best idea to use this strategy. Ultimatums and saying you will "never" agree to something invites the same strategy in return. Such techniques build roadblocks to compromise and a successful negotiation.

A key is to disagree without being disagreeable. Something our politicians desperately need to learn.

 

 

U.S. Patent Law Changes: The First-Inventor-to-File One Year Grace Period

* This is a guest post from Jessica Susie of the Brick Gentry Law Firm. Jessica is a registered patent attorney.

The America Invents Act, which President Obama signed into law on September 16, 2011, has been gradually overhauling the United States patent system. March 16, 2013 marked the biggest change – the United States switched from a first-to-invent to a first-inventor-to-file system. Subject to some limited exceptions, the first-inventor-to-file his patent application will be entitled to patent protection, even against an earlier inventor who later files. With the switch, the requirements for patentability have also been revised. Inventions still must be novel, nonobvious, and useful to secure patent protection. However, the definitions of what constitutes a “novel” and “nonobvious” invention are now different. In particular, the one year statutory bar, also called the grace period and on-sale bar, has changed.

Previously, an inventor had a one year grace period after disclosure of an invention in which to file his application. Disclosures included printed publications in the United States and foreign countries, public use in the United States, and sales or offers for sale in the United States. Importantly, it did not matter who made these disclosures. In practice, most businesses associated the statutory bar with their own actions – one year from putting a product on the market or publishing a journal article, the application was due. However, what many businesses and inventors may not have realized, is that the one year grace period also affected the prior art used by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). “Prior art” is a term used in patent law to describe information that has been made available to the public and that is relevant to a particular application. It may include previous patent applications and patents, journal articles, books, and event websites. In most situations, the USPTO examined applications using prior art references dated earlier than one year prior to an application’s filing date.

However, the new one year grace period only applies to certain disclosures, namely those that originate with an inventor. The one year grace period applies if (1) the disclosure was made by an inventor or a third party who obtained the subject matter from an inventor or (2) the disclosure, although not traceable to an inventor, was made after a disclosure by an inventor or a third party who obtained the subject matter from the inventor. The policy behind these rules is the hope that they will promote early disclosure of inventions to the public, which will increase innovation in the United States.

So, what does this mean for businesses going forward?

  1. The USPTO will consider more recent prior art when examining applications.
  2. Public disclosures by businesses must be documented. All businesses should have procedures in place to document inventions as they are made. However, it will be more important to document when and to whom disclosures are made as part of these procedures. Having this information may determine the outcome of prosecution of a patent application or many years down the line in a patent infringement proceeding.
  3. Confidentiality remains critical. Businesses should have a confidentiality agreement on file to use during private disclosures.
  4. Consider provisional patent applications more often. The USPTO does not examine provisional patent applications, and oftentimes they are much less detailed than nonprovisional patent applications. A provisional patent application secures a filing date and is useful when an invention is in its early stages. A related nonprovisional patent application must be filed within one year of the provisional patent application to benefit from the provisional filing date.  
  5. Do not rush to disclose inventions if you intend to file a patent application and have not yet done so. While disclosure may have benefits in some situations, the law is just too new in this area right now to know all of the negatives associated with disclosure.

Iowa Business Court Judges Selected

In January  I wrote about the new Iowa Business Specialty Court Pilot Project.  This week the Iowa Supreme Court announced that three judges have been selected to hear cases for the business court. The judges include:

  • Judge Michael Huppert of the 5th Judicial District, which includes Dallas, Polk and Warren counties;
  • Judge Annette Scieszinski of the 8th Judicial District;
  • Judge John Telleen of the 7th Judicial District.

I have had the opportunity to appear before or work with all three of these judges. It's an excellent list of judges to get this pilot project off the ground.  Again, I'd like to see the threshold amount come down from $200,000 so that more business cases can be involved but it will be interesting to see how the new business court is received by lawyers and the public. Eligible cases can begin to be transferred May 1, 2013.

Iowa Business Law Services: Rush on Business Companion Web Site

 I am very happy to announce my new companion Web site to go along with this blog at www.iowabusinesslawservices.com. The site will feature information on my legal practice areas, a simple way to submit information for formation of a new corporation or LLC and also a video resources section with tips on business and franchise law. We'll also feature many other business and franchise law resources as we develop out the site.

A new offering with the new site rollout is that I am immediately implementing a Subscription Services Plan to make legal services more affordable for the new or early stage company. Check it out for details.

I also set up a new Facebook page for the blog be sure to 'Like' the page for easy access to updates on business and franchise law.

Thanks so much for following Rush on Business. And look for some other exciting offerings from me very soon relating to franchise law.

BIZ to Host Event with Dwolla COO on the High Growth Start-Up

The BIZ is host to a great event this coming week featuring Dwolla COO Charise Flynn as she takes questions on life behind the scenes at the high growth start-up. I've had the opportunity to serve on a speakers' panel with Charise and I find her personal journey and insights fascinating. Charise is a fellow Simpson College graduate so you know she's got to be good.

The event is Wednesday, February 20th at 11:30 a.m. at the Greater Des Moines Partnership offices. The admission fee is $15.00 which includes lunch.

Register for the event here.

Support Iowa's Judiciary in 2012 Election

This is not a political blog but I again feel compelled to write about the political effort by certain special interest groups to oust the Supreme Court justices who ruled in an unanimous opinion in the Varnum case that non-religious, civil marriage should be a right available to everyone. In the last election, three Iowa Supreme Court justices were ousted. This time the special interest groups have have targeted yet another Justice involved in the decision.  We cannot let this happen again. 

We have long had an excellent system of justice in Iowa. Like any lawyer or the public, I do not agree with every decision issued by our judges. However, it is my belief that our judges do their best to make our court system fair and impartial. On survey after survey, Iowa courts have ranked high in judicial fairness nationally. Moreover, the positive feedback from Iowa lawyers on the Iowa State Bar Association surveys demonstrates the high quality of work performed by our justices.

Unfortunately the special interest groups trying to oust our judges would have you believe otherwise. They want you to believe that a group of "activist" Supreme Court judges set out to ignore or rewrite our constitution. They want you to believe the judges ignored the will of the people. 

But know that judges are not activists when they decide constitutional issues, rather, they are required to rule on the issues presented by the parties. That's called doing your job as a judge, not activism. In our judicial system, when one party alleges a law is unconstitutional, it is the court's DUTY to compare the law passed in the political process to the equal protection guaranteed to all in our Constitution.

You may or may not agree with the decision in Varnum. But for me, that's not the issue. The issue is the notion that an entire Supreme Court and lower court judges should be removed solely because special interest groups disagree with their decision. Do you want a judiciary that is for sale? Do you want a judiciary that must cower in fear because well-funded special interest groups may be unhappy with their next decision? Do you want a judiciary whose impartiality is weakened?

In conclusion, I hope you will turn the ballot over and vote 'Yes' on the retention of our judges in next week's election. The survey of Iowa lawyers demonstrates these judges are well qualified in their current positions and are deserving of our support. An independent judiciary may be riding on it.

*The views expressed on this blog are my own and are not intended to speak for or represent the views of Brick Gentry, P.C. or the other lawyers in our law firm.

Baseball, Business and Legal Blogging

This past month marked the first time in over six years that I had not posted during a month on this blog.

Why?

Life has been a bit busy to say the least. I'll share.

First, I had the pleasure of coaching a great group of young boys that capped a great run by finishing second in the Iowa State Little League Tourney. Think you want your boys to play in the Little League World Series? You might think twice because essentially you need to give up about a month and a half of your life if you make it that far. As it stood, I spent about three weeks straight with baseball to get the championship game of the state tourney. Still it was an experience I'll never forget and I am thankful I had the opportunity to do it.

Second, I am a part of a new business venture called Sports Spotlight USA, Inc. which we founded in June. Check out our Web site at www.sportsspotlight.com. Sports Spotlight is a multi-media company covering high school and youth athletics plus all active endeavors. This company is truly a passion for me as it combines two of my favorites, sports and social media. We have a monthly print and digital magazine, a radio program, a Friday night TV program (which cranks up during the football season) and social media through our Web site, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest, channels. I am blessed to have a great staff that runs the day-to-day operations. We currently cover primarily Iowa right now but we have plan to grow the business regionally and nationally. Please follow us if you're a sports fan (or even if you're not)!

With all that on my plate I will no longer be active with NotifyWorks. NotifyWorks was my first true entrepreneurial venture. Like I've seen through the years with the many business owners that I represent, I learned a whole host of lessons from that experience. It sure isn't easy getting a product off the ground and I have an appreciation for anyone who has the courage to design a product and launch it to the public. Particularly if you are bootstrapping the business. I still believe in NotifyWorks as a product and I continue to use it with my clients. The company is heading in a new direction so the timing was right for me to step aside. A big thanks to my partners, Mike Colwell and Brian Hemesath, for all their help in that endeavor. 

Finally, I plan to get back to legal blogging here very soon and I'll continue to provide timely updates on issues relating to business, franchise and employment law. Thank you to all that follow this blog and a special thank you to all my clients! 

 

Supreme Court Upholds Affordable Care Act

Yesterday the United States Supreme Court upheld, in a 5-4 decision, the constitutionality of the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act. I am no expert on the act and I have not had time to closely review the decision. Consequently, I suggest you do what I am doing and go read some of the best coverage on the Web from lawyers around in the country in the Affordable Care Act section of the LexBlog Network. There's no question we all need to be informed.

If you are interested in reading the entire decision you can find it here.

Please note that Rush on Business is not a political blog and I will not be posting comments that are politically motivated. Any comments analyzing the decision and its potential impact are welcome.

Iowa Creativity Summit March 1st at Drake University

Lawyers are not immediately recognized as the most creative souls on the planet but some of the best lawyers I know definitely have the the creative spark. I have seen many who were classic doodlers, photographers and painters. Some of them were also the most creative in the courtroom and ultimately very successful in winning cases. That's why I am intrigued by the Iowa Creativity Summit that is scheduled for March 1st at Drake University (Olmstead Center). Your registration includes dinner and two workshops led by best selling author Matthew E. May. The evening program begins at 5:15 p.m. and ends at 9:45 p.m.

This is a great opportunity for business leaders and employees to familiarize themselves with the creative process. As the program says, creativity isn't just for marketers or designers, it's for everybody. Even lawyers and entrepreneurs!

For more information on the program click:  Iowa Creativity Summit

For more information on Matthew E. May click: The Laws of Subtraction

Rush on Business You Tube Channel on the Air!

I am pleased to announce that I now have a Rush on Business You Tube Channel where I'll post short videos on various aspects of business and franchise law. I have a few videos posted so far and I'll add content weekly.

New videos include:

Should You Include Your Spouse When Forming a Small Business LLC?

Where Should Iowa Residents Incorporate or Form an LLC for their Small Business?

If there is a topic you think would be interesting, please let me know!

Dream Big, Grow Here Contest has Begun

Via the Silicon Prairie News:  The Dream Big Grow Here contest for Central Iowa has officially begun. Take a look at the pitches and vote for your favorites. It appears like it's going to be a close race. I am impressed with all the ideas but I am partial to the legal startup, FInalize It.

As they say, vote early and vote often!

Notifyworks: My Leap into the Startup World

For the past 17 years, I have been advising businesses of all shapes and sizes, whether small or large. I have always loved working with startups. It is exciting to hear the stories of these entrepreneurs and how they could solve a problem or discovered a new way of doing business.

Now I am leaping into that startup world with my own company called Notifyworks. Notifyworks is an automated client notification system. We are currently continuing with our beta testing but anticipate launching formally September 1, 2011. My partners, Mike Colwell and Brian Hemesath, bring a wealth of experience and I couldn't be more excited to get our company off the ground.

The idea from Notifyworks developed out of my law practice. In almost every contract or legal matter, there is some sort of follow up needed. It might be a termination date, a renewal or some other deadline. Too often these dates are ignored by clients until the last minute, or worse, forgotten entirely. What Notifyworks does, in a nutshell, is make sure lawyers and their clients never miss one of those dates. It's a great solution for any professional or business that routinely deals with contracts and deadlines.


Unlike your calendar or docket system that still requires you to take action, Notifyworks removes surprises or last minute scrambling by allowing you to set up proactive notifications that are timed to automatically go out in advance of important dates and deadlines. The system is easy to use and we have a notification library with message templates or your own customized messages that will save you valuable time in the process.  I think most lawyers will even generate more work from clients that see their lawyer cares and is on top of things.   The whole idea is to deliver great service and build strong relationships with clients.

I am excited to discuss Notifyworks and other stories on the Silicon Prairie News Prairiecast this afternoon at 2:00 p.m. If you miss it live, please be sure to check out the archived podcast.

If you are interested in joining our beta test group, please send me an email at rush@notifyworks.com. Be sure to let me know if I can answer any questions. 

Dream Big Grow Here Contest: Win $15,000 for New Tech Start Up

Do you have a new technology-based business idea? If you do, I encourage you to check out the Dream Big, Grow Here contest that is sponsored regionally by the Business Innovation Zone.  The winner of the regional business pitch contest will be awarded $5,000 and then move on for the opportunity to win another $10,000 in a state-wide contest here in Iowa.

The background information (from the BIZ Web site):  In June of 2010, the University of Northern Iowa Regional Business Center (RBC) developed a partnership with the Iowa Bankers Association and the Community Vitality Center to attract and link emerging Iowa entrepreneurs with the capital resources available in the state to serve them.

A statewide contest entitled Dream Big Grow Here was launched, featuring $1,000 monthly grants awarded online to emerging and existing Iowa small business owners who uploaded their ‘dreams’, then encouraged friends, family and other business owners to vote for them.

Wildly popular, Dream Big Grow Here attracted 63,489 visitors during the five month beta test. Given the success of Dream Big Grow Here and increased interest in online resources among innovators, the RBC approached a small group of statewide sponsors to provide matching funds for regional contests-with cash awards of $5,000 and fund a statewide pitch-off among winners for a grand prize of $10,000.  

There will be 8 regional contests, including ours here in Central Iowa.  Each region will select (through crowd voting) a winner, who will receive $5,000.  Those 8 regional winners will then compete against one another (again, crowd voting) for the statewide $10,000 prize.

It's my understanding the business idea must be pre-sale. So if you have sold your product or service to anyone, you won't be eligible. It is for true start-up technology-based businesses. For more information be sure to contact Mike Colwell of the BIZ at MColwell@desmoinesmetro.com. You can also check out a recent podcast on Silicon Prairie News discsussing the program and other interesting issues.

 

Startup City Des Moines Builders Forum

Startup City Des Moines builders forum is tonight at the BitMethod offices located in the Liberty Building downtown. What is it? It's just an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to get together, share ideas and make connections. No formal presentations. No real plan.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the momentum building in the Des Moines entrepreneurial community. You've got to hand it to Startup City Des Moines and others for their efforts in trying to build a startup culture here. It's really nice to see.

Brick Gentry Webinar: Changes to Iowa Employment Law and Legislation

Matt Brick has a super webinar on our Brick Gentry Web site on the Changes to Iowa Employment Law and Legislation. Employment law is a constantly shifting area of the law that has serious consequences for employers, even when making a good faith mistake. Matt's presentation covers important developments in employment law for both public and private employers in Iowa.

Want to hear a Webinar on a particular legal topic? Let us know what you would like to know more about.

Des Moines' Entrepreneurial Community Gaining Momentum

Yesterday I spoke at the BIZ Raising Capital Seminar mentioned in my last blog post. I thoroughly enjoyed being on a panel with some excellent business advisors including:

But mostly  I enjoyed listening and talking with a group of excited and motivated business owners that are determined to make things happen in Des Moines. I felt a collective energy from those business owners that I had not felt from similar groups in the past.

Several of the attendees were also involved in the recent Startup Weekend Des Moines. From the conversation today it was clear that was a highly successful event that may produce more than one viable business opportunity.

I am also encouraged by Christian Renaud's StartUpCity Des Moines. It's a new resource and gathering place for startups in Des Moines.Christian anticipates it will be up and running by the end of the summer. If you are a new business looking for guidance that could be a great place for you to start.

Go create and innovate!

The Use Of Independent Contractors and Immigration

I often received questions about whether a worker should be classified as an independent contractor or employee. In fact a blog post on Employees v. Independent Contractors is still one of the most popular posts ever on my blog even though I wrote it over three years ago.

In a couple of recent blog posts, Brick Gentry immigration lawyer, Austin Kennedy, explores the use of independent contractors by companies hoping not to verify the employment authorization of a worker and whether this practice could lead to liability. His posts are worth a read. 

See links below:

Does an Employer Have to Verify the Employment Authorization of Independent Contractors?

When can an Employer's Use of Subcontractors Still Lead to Liability?

SBA Expands Emerging 200 Initiative in Des Moines

This post comes via Monica Dolezal of BIZSTARTS. The U.S. Small Business Administration has announced it will be continuing its successful Emerging 200 Initiative in Des Moines.

For the last three years, Des Moines has been selected as one of a limited number of cities nationwide to participate in the SBA’s Emerging 200 Initiative (e200). The goal of e200 is to identify businesses across the country that show a high potential for growth and to provide them the network, resources and motivation required to build a sustainable business.

 

Based on the success of the initiative in Des Moines in 2008, 2009, and 2010, SBA will offer the program again beginning in April. However this year, again, SBA will be expanding the program boundaries to include the entire city of Des Moines.

 

The cornerstone of the e200 initiative is an in-depth educational program running approximately 80-100 hours, April through mid-November every other Thursday evening. It will focus on topics such as organization management, finance, growth strategies and management, and market development, resulting in a 3 year growth plan.

 

Participation in e200 is free to qualifying businesses. Criteria for participation includes having been in business for a minimum of three years, $400,000 or more in gross annual revenues, and a business location within the city of Des Moines. Participation will be limited to only 15 businesses in Des Moines.

 

For more information on the program, contact the SBA in Des Moines at (515) 284-4522 or at thomas.lentell@sba.gov. Or you can contact the instructor, Monica Dolezal, BIZSTARTS, LLC at 515-229-2345 or monica@bizstarts.biz.

Brick Gentry Lawyer Austin Kennedy Presents Immigration Webinar

Listen and watch the premiere Brick Gentry, P.C. webinar from immigration lawyer Austin Kennedy on our new Brick Gentry Web site. Austin's presentation is on Achieving Lawful Permanent Residency in the United States Through the Labor Certification Process.

We are currently in the process of developing presentations on franchise and LLC issues. Register for our Webinars and receive updates on when new webinars are completed. Let us know if there is a topic you are interested in and we'll consider a webinar for it.