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What Are All the Documents/Licenses I May Need to Start My Business?

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Joe EscalanteHi Joe,

Hello, I am looking to start an online boutique selling both goods bought from wholesalers and goods that I will produce. I am looking at the DBA registration package to file a business name, but I am not sure what other documents or licenses I may need. How do I get started?

Yadi Mao

 

Barely Legal Radio w/ Joe Escalante

The documents you will need vary by state and local jurisdiction. You are on the right track with the DBA. You may need a city business license and depending on the kind of goods, other licenses might apply, like if you are selling food, medical or hazardous chemicals. Check with the state and local licensing agencies to see what kind of businesses need special licensing.

Attorney Joe Escalante answers your legal questions for free on our Facebook page every Tuesday and Friday at 10 a.m. PT.

 

 Disclaimer: Communications between you and LegalZoom are protected by our Privacy Policy but not by the attorney-client privilege or as work product. LegalZoom provides access to independent attorneys and self-help services at your specific direction. We are not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. We cannot provide any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies. Your access to the website is subject to our Terms of Use.

Written by Joe Escalante

July 29th, 2014 at 10:33 am

Posted in Free Joe

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Pull Out Your ID for These Ice Cream Flavors

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Shutterstock/Kesu

Shutterstock/Kesu

We made it to another July and there’s no question that it’s officially summer. Finding ways to keep cool is a national pastime at this point. Regardless of your political persuasion, I think we can all agree that President Reagan knew what he was talking about when he declared July as National Ice Cream Month and July 15, 1984 to be National Ice Cream Day.

This year, National Ice Cream Day is Sunday, July 20th according to the International Dairy Foods Association. However, Proclamation 5219 wasn’t just about having a sweet treat in the summer sun. It was about business too. Even back in 1984, the ice cream industry generated “approximately $3.5 billion in annual sales,” providing jobs for thousands of people. The dairy industry is an important part of the economy.

We the people of the United States have been called upon “to observe these events with appropriate ceremonies and activities.” Therefore, consider it your patriotic duty to eat some ice cream.

As you choose from the variety of flavors, there are many that are not for kids. A growing trend is ice cream infused with enough alcohol to require showing an ID. BLVD Creamery in Las Vegas is scooping up flavors including: Suds Sorbet, a combination of Shock Top beer and orange zest, along with Tipsy Bubbles, which contains Prosecco.

Also for those who are 21 and older, if you are in Florida, California or Arizona, you can go to SnöBar. They have created gourmet frozen alcohol ice cream and ice pops. Vodka and triple sec are in the Cosmopolitan Ice Pop. Tequila and triple sec are in the Margarita Ice Pop. Each serving is a full cocktail.

So what exactly is a serving of alcohol? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a standard drink in the United States is 14.0 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. If you are 21 or older, imagine the amounts below in your ice cream.

  • 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol content)
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content)
  • 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol content)
  • 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80 proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey)

The sale of alcohol is closely regulated and laws vary by state. Mercer’s Dairy is located in New York and their Wine Ice Cream is world famous and “trade-secreted.” According to the website, the ice cream alcohol content is 5% and only for the 21 and over crowd. Their wine ice cream “varietals” are: Cherry Merlot, Chocolate Cabernet, Peach White Zinfandel, Port, Red Raspberry Chardonnay and Riesling. Some states do not allow the sale of wine ice cream, including Louisiana. Recent legislation would have allowed the sale, but it has failed to pass.

Louisiana may be home of “The Big Easy,” but when it comes to the sale of wine ice cream, there is nothing easy about it.

Written by Lisa C. Johnson, Esq.

July 18th, 2014 at 9:37 am

Posted in Legal News,Legislation

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Elon Musk Opens Up Tesla Patents

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Shutterstock/VanderWolf Images

Shutterstock/VanderWolf Images

Tesla Motors co-founder and CEO Elon Musk recently did something that would make most business owners shudder. He opened up his patents to the world in the name of better electric cars for all.

As you’ll recall, Tesla produces high-end, sleek electric cars and holds hundreds of patents for cutting-edge electric vehicle technology. But in a recent blog post on the Tesla website, Musk shared his philosophy about hoping to bring an open-source mindset to his industry.

“Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport,” he wrote. “If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.”

The news was picked up by dozens of media outlets and the societal impact was felt on social media with thousands of mentions from users discussing the development. “The auto industry has taken a cue from Silicon Valley and goes open source,” tweeted Los Angeles magazine. “HATS OFF TO ELON MUSK,” said another Twitter user.

While Musk had originally been hesitant to release production details at all so as not to invite threats from the major car manufacturers—“At Tesla… we felt compelled to create patents out of concern that the big car companies would copy our technology and then use their massive manufacturing, sales and marketing power to overwhelm Tesla.”—it seems as if this move to open up patents is practically a challenge to automakers.

In one swift move, Tesla has solidified its position in the electric vehicle space while challenging Detroit and Japan and any other car city to show him what they’ve got.

And for consumers, that’s going to be worth plugging in to.

Written by Bilal Kaiser

July 16th, 2014 at 10:44 am

Top 2 Rules to Know if You’re Recruiting Unpaid Interns

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Shutterstock/Photographee.eu

Shutterstock/Photographee.eu

Summer is in full swing and for a lot of companies and universities, it’s intern season.

The value of an internship has long been lauded as the best way for a student or recent graduate to learn more about a particular industry and take a job out for a test drive. But some companies are taking it too far.

A recent class action lawsuit against Warner Music Group (WMG) alleges the company forced 3,000 interns to work 50-hour-weeks with no pay and no college credit. The key issue is not just the lack of any sort of compensation, it’s the allegation that interns were doing the same things as paid employees—a big “no no” when working with interns.

Despite the above scenario, however, hosting an internship program at your business can be beneficial to both the intern and your team—as long as certain rules are followed, and especially if the program is unpaid.

Rule #1: Tailor the program around the intern and his/her education, not necessarily your business.

“The company must ask whether the internship is similar to an educational experience… The closer the internship is to an educational setting, the more it benefits the intern—and the more likely the interns may go unpaid,” writes Kailee M. Goold, a labor and employee relations attorney in Ohio.

Rule #2: Don’t look at the internship program as an extension of your workforce; that’s not the point.

“If the company would have hired additional employees or required existing staff to work additional hours had the interns not performed the work, then the interns will likely be viewed as employees and will be entitled to compensation,” Goold continues.

WMG is not the first group to find itself in hot water with interns. In 2013, media giant Conde Nast shut down its internship program due a lawsuit alleging the company paid its interns less than $1 an hour. A more serious intern-related event took place last year when a 21-year-old Bank of America intern died after working extremely long hours for days at a time.

If your business currently runs an unpaid internship program, or is thinking of starting one, make sure you know the rules of the road. If anything, it may be easier to pay your eager new team members up front rather than risk getting a $450,000 bill in the future.

Written by Bilal Kaiser

July 9th, 2014 at 8:17 am

Posted in Employment Law,Legal News

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The Struggle over “To Kill A Mockingbird”

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Shutterstock/Sangoiri

Shutterstock/Sangoiri

The novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is one of the most well-known and respected pieces of literature ever. It’s been more than fifty years since it was first published and unfortunately its story about racism and injustice is just as relevant today as it was in 1960. If you’ve never read the book, you may have seen the movie starring Gregory Peck, which is equally acclaimed.

You would think that such an exquisite work would have been legally protected by its author in every way possible. Especially considering that Lee is the daughter of a lawyer and the book is about the law.

However, intellectual property law is more forward looking and requires protecting now what might not seem profitable at the time.  Lee was not anticipating the multiples of millions in revenue that her story would generate.

However, in 2013 Lee sued Monroe County Heritage Museum alleging trademark infringement of her work among other allegations. Lee had not given permission for the museum to use her name nor anything else dealing with her novel. The Museum’s website address was www.killamockingbird.com and they have since changed it to www.monroecountymuseum.org.

The Complaint states in part, “The Museum seeks to profit from the unauthorized use of the protected names and trademarks of ‘Harper Lee’ and ‘To Kill A Mockingbird.’ It is a substantial business that generated over $500,000 in revenue for 2011, the last year for which figures are available. … The Museum has steadfastly ignored Ms. Lee’s demands that it cease and desist from its illegal action. The Museum has even attempted to block Ms. Lee’s federal registration of her trademark in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Ms. Lee has no choice but to seek relief in this court.”

Based on the Complaint, it appears that Lee had state protection for “books” with the registered mark TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. However, that protection was not federal and did not extend to other merchandise. While Lee may not have wanted to profit from selling merchandise with her novel’s success, apparently the Museum did.

Some of the items being sold by the Museum included: aprons, t-shirts, fleece vests, tote bags, hand towels, soaps, magnets, wine bags, key chains and more. The list is quite lengthy. At one time, the Museum even sold a cookbook based on the name of one of the characters in the book. Only after a cease-and-desist demand was it taken off the market.

According to a recent Associated Press article, the case has settled, but the terms remain confidential. If you consider yourself a creative, an entrepreneur or a business owner, then take note. Protect your work and anticipate future value in your intellectual property now.

Written by Lisa C. Johnson, Esq.

July 2nd, 2014 at 8:37 am

Getting Divorced? For Some, It’s Time to Celebrate

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Shutterstock/Yeko Photo Studio

Shutterstock/Yeko Photo Studio


If you’re heading into summer thinking that while you’ve enjoyed them, you’ve had your fill of weddings for a while, don’t be surprised if you receive an invite to a divorce party.

Getting married is usually more of a happy occasion than a divorce, but many people are celebrating the freedom that now awaits them and looking forward to starting a new chapter in their lives. The divorce party is on the rise. It might be part of a larger trend where Americans are generally celebrating more, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal.

Event Planner Richard O’Malley was interviewed for that article and described a $25,000.00 party that he planned for a client. He said that while she did wear white, it was not her wedding gown. There was a band, a cocktail reception and a formal dinner. Instead of her father giving her away, he walked down an aisle and took her back. Doing even more to undo the wedding, the woman who had caught her bridal bouquet, threw it back to her.

While we normally think of Las Vegas as a place where people elope, it’s now also a prime location for divorce parties. There is even a musical at Bally’s called Divorce Party Las Vegas. According to their Facebook page, their run ends soon, but they may return and hope to bring the show to more cities across the country, because “what happens in Vegas, doesn’t always stay in Vegas.”

If you’d like to take a look at some of the divorce cakes that people have created, there is a Pinterest page that you can see as well. But look at your own discretion. There is a fair amount of swearing and a surprising number of beheadings. But they are just cakes. At least there is a sweet ending.

Written by Lisa C. Johnson, Esq.

June 25th, 2014 at 8:57 am

Posted in Divorce,Legal News

Tagged with

If I Have a Nonprofit, But Not the 501(c)(3) Yet, at What Point Can I Start Taking Donations?

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Bryan Fears Hi Bryan,

Once a nonprofit has the incorporated paperwork for the state (CA) and are working on the 501(c)(3) forms, at what point may they start taking donations and what information needs to be on the receipts for donors (private or corporate) to receive a tax deduction?

 Shannon Santamaria

 

Fearless with Attorney Bryan Fears

The best practice is to wait until you have your letter of nonprofit status from the IRS before you start accepting donations. The reason for that is if you accept donations before your status is official, you cannot tell donors that their contributions are tax-deductible. If you are granted tax-exempt status later on, the donations will be retroactively tax-deductible, but if 501(c)(3) status is never received, your donors may suffer adverse consequences.

If you have to start raising funds before you are incorporated and officially designated a nonprofit by the IRS, you might want to consider a fiscal sponsor that can receive contributions for you. A fiscal sponsor is simply another nonprofit that is willing to handle your donations for you.

Attorney Bryan Fears answers your legal questions for free on our Facebook page every Wednesday at 2 p.m. PT.

 

Disclaimer: Communications between you and LegalZoom are protected by our Privacy Policy but not by the attorney-client privilege or as work product. LegalZoom provides access to independent attorneys and self-help services at your specific direction. We are not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. We cannot provide any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies. Your access to the website is subject to our Terms of Use.

Written by Bryan Fears

June 23rd, 2014 at 11:36 am

Posted in Legal News

Tagged with

If I File for Bankruptcy, Can They Take My SSI (Supplemental Security Income)?

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Joe EscalanteMr. Escalante,

I can’t pay any more of my credit card bills and need to file bankruptcy. I need help. They can’t take away my SSI, can they? My SSI is direct deposited in my bank.

Thank you, Sir.

Stormy Storms

 

Barely Legal Radio w/ Joe Escalante

They can’t attach that income to pay credit card debts under federal law. However, don’t let the income sit in your bank account for too long. I believe the federal law passed in 2011 requires the banks to protect this income for 2 months or something like that, but if it sits in there for too long, someone could perhaps get to it.

Only a few things like child support, spousal support, and some federal taxes can be taken out of SSI payments.

Good luck, Stormy Storms.

Attorney Joe Escalante answers your legal questions for free on our Facebook page every Tuesday and Friday at 10 a.m. PT.

 

Disclaimer: Communications between you and LegalZoom are protected by our Privacy Policy but not by the attorney-client privilege or as work product. LegalZoom provides access to independent attorneys and self-help services at your specific direction. We are not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. We cannot provide any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies. Your access to the website is subject to our Terms of Use.

Written by Joe Escalante

June 23rd, 2014 at 10:11 am

Can I Take a Picture of Something in a Store/Business and Use It on My Website?

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Joe EscalanteHi Joe,

Walking into a business, can I just take a picture of something and use it on my website or do I need to speak to the owner first? (I know the deal with faces.)

Thanks.

Max Walter

 

Barely Legal Radio w/ Joe Escalante

Yes and no. They might have a posted policy preventing that. Is the policy enforceable in court? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on many other factors. In general, without any posted policy or warning, the store is open to the public and you, so you could use the picture for certain things.

What would be their damages is the question. It’s all stuff visible to any member of the public at all times that the store is open, so what difference does it make if you show it to them?

However, if you took a picture of copyrighted things and exploited them in a way that harmed the copyright’s value, you could be liable for infringement. Like if you took a picture of original art and charged people to look at those pictures on your site, that’s infringement.

Attorney Joe Escalante answers your legal questions for free on our Facebook page every Tuesday and Friday at 10 a.m. PT.

 

Disclaimer: Communications between you and LegalZoom are protected by our Privacy Policy but not by the attorney-client privilege or as work product. LegalZoom provides access to independent attorneys and self-help services at your specific direction. We are not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. We cannot provide any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies. Your access to the website is subject to our Terms of Use.

Written by Joe Escalante

June 23rd, 2014 at 10:05 am

Crowdfunding the Future

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Shutterstock/Dirk Ercken<br />

Shutterstock/Dirk Ercken


It’s Innovation Month here at LegalZoom and we’re exploring a range of themes around the concept of innovation.

When it comes to finding money to launch a great product or idea, gone are the days of begging for money from traditional sources. While banks, friends and family still provide support to many fledgling businesses, some individuals and small organizations are harnessing crowdfunding to make their dreams a reality.

You’ve probably heard of Kickstarter or Indiegogo or RocketHub. These sites allow innovators to start a campaign for their idea and ask for funding from anyone out there who might be interested. In exchange, the contributor may get a limited-release gift, a credit in the production or even the first generation version of the product. The “Veronica Mars” movie started as a listing on Kickstarter, and just this month LeVar Burton raised $1 million in one day to bring back the hit TV series “Reading Rainbow.”

This exchange of money for access is called rewards-style crowdfunding. According to a 2013 report, the global “we” has raised $2.7 billion for more than a million passion projects. It’s clear that the people are out there and they’re willing to put their money where their, uh, keyboard is.

A second type of mass fund collection system is called equity crowdfunding. More than two years ago, President Obama signed into law the JOBS Act (short for Jumpstart Our Business Startups), which allows anyone to become an official investor in “emerging growth” companies. Equity crowdfunding takes the best part of a platform like Kickstarter—the broad reach and individual contributions—and combines it with a stake in the businesses. Contributors are no longer just fans of the idea; they are now more deeply invested in the product’s success—and potential profits.

The JOBS Act is currently under review by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission but is widely expected to pass later this year. Once approved, it would allow companies to sell up to $50 million in shares and list up to 1,000 shareholders.

With the ease of collecting seed capital in this way come certain challenges that some analysts fear might be cumbersome for extremely small organizations. Part of the JOBS Act calls for the release of financial reporting and documents, including early stage business plans and equity compensation plans. However, as one analyst mused, putting up your business for equity crowdfunding could validate key parts of the business and its measures of success on a broader scale.

Equity crowdfunding eases some of the restrictions around raising capital as it is currently done and could be a boom for smaller start-ups without access to large networks of investors or venture capital firms. In an industry hell-bent on disrupting other industries, it’s almost as if Silicon Valley has found a way to disrupt its own way of doing business.

Are you working on a great idea and want to make sure you cover your bases on the legal side? Celebrate Innovation with us and save 10% on select intellectual property protection services.

Written by Bilal Kaiser

June 20th, 2014 at 8:32 am