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Keep it Legal Blog

Should I Form an LLC or a Corporation?

Many entrepreneurs looking to start up a business are often curious about the differences between filing as a corporation or as a limited liability company (LLC). The differences between the two vary from state to state. In California, an LLC operates as a sort of hybrid of a corporation and a partnership. It provides its owners – commonly referred to as “members” – with limited liability to identical to that enjoyed by corporate shareholders. There are several differences between corporations and LLCs, including formalities and certain tax variances, but for the most part, the entities are almost identical from the…

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Apple’s MULTI-TOUCH and the Descriptive Trademark Issue

Apple is known, among other things, for its impressive set of trademarks, and its vigorous defense of those marks. But even Apple doesn’t win every time. The company recently attempted to register the term MULTI-TOUCH as a trademark. The United States Patent and Trademark Office rejected the application on the grounds that it was “merely descriptive” of the product and not distinctive enough for people to immediately associate the phrase “multi-touch” with Apple’s products. Descriptiveness is a common issue in trademark law. A descriptive term, a term that is used to describe the functions, characteristics, size, or components of a…

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Copyright Challenges: Software as a Work for Hire?

Who Really Owns My Company’s Software, or How Does the Work for Hire Exception to the Copyright Act of 1976 Effect Computer Software? The Copyright Act of 1976 gives the author of a copyrightable work protection through Federal law. Generally, this means that the creator of the work enjoys intellectual property rights, including legal protection from infringement – meaning, protection against having someone else copy the work. However, there is a “work for hire” exception. This doctrine applies either (a) when employees create works within the scope of their employment, or (b) where someone (we’ll call this person the “employer”…

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Unzipping California’s Zip Code Restriction

When Can California Businesses Request a Customer’s Zip Code? In February, the California Supreme Court held that businesses are no longer allowed to request zip codes from customers. In  Pineda v. Williams-Sonoma, Inc., the court held that a zip code is “personal identification information” under the 1971 Song Beverly Credit Card Act (California Civil Code § 1747.08). Under the Act, a business may not request or require the cardholder to give any personal identification information during a credit card transaction. The Act includes addresses and phone numbers under personal identification information, and the California Supreme Court held that zip codes…

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