Business Dispute Lawyer Charlottesville, VA
In the age of technology and the Internet, many businesses are more concerned than ever about protecting trade secrets, and may rely on a business dispute lawyer in Charlottesville, Virginia at Dale Jensen, PLC for advice and information. Data shows that trade secret litigation in federal courts continues to spike each year. In the majority of these cases, the person alleged to have misappropriated trade secrets was either or business partner. It is estimated that businesses lose hundreds of millions of dollars every year due to the misappropriation of trade secrets.
The reality of today’s job market is that very few employees will remain with one company for their entire career. As a result, one of the biggest threats to businesses when it comes to trade secrets is current and departing employees. It is essential that businesses be proactive in safeguarding trade secrets, not only as a means of avoiding costly litigation, but to protect the bottom line.
Trademarks, Patents, and Copyrights
The U.S. federal government issues three major kinds of legally enforceable intellectual property protections. It issues trademarks for advertising tools that allow companies to distinguish themselves and their products/services in the marketplace. It also issues patents for inventors and copyrights for creative works of expression.
The only major form of intellectual property that the federal government does not specifically protect itself involves the trade secrets of various companies. When businesses want to protect their trade secrets, they do not look to federal agencies for help. Instead, they work with an attorney in order to safeguard their secrets through various contractual means.
Definition of a Trade Secret
As a Virginia business dispute lawyer in Charlottesville can explain, the United States government passed into law the Uniform Trade Secrets Act in 1979, which can be found in Civil Code § 3426. Under Civil Code Sec. 3426.1 (d). The majority of states in this country have adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act as the law that governs trade secrets in their state. According to the statute, a trade secret is defined as:
Information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process that:
- Derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to the public or to other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and
- Is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.
The law makes clear that in order for trade secrets to be legally protected, a business must take reasonable steps to safeguard and maintain the secrecy of that information with the help of a business dispute lawyer in VA from Dale Jensen, PLC.
What You Can Do to Safeguard Trade Secrets
Non-compete clauses in employment contracts are largely unenforceable in most states as a matter of public policy. Although your state may have some limited exceptions, employers should assume that employees are free to work for competitors when they leave and plan accordingly. The following includes just some of the steps that can be taken to help prevent misappropriation of trade secrets:
- Require employees who will or currently have access to trade secrets to sign proprietary information or confidentiality agreements.
- Adopt and enforce personnel policies that prohibit employees from emailing information that contains trade secrets to personal email addresses.
- In order to assist employees in understanding what they are required to protect, clearly mark documents that contain trade secrets or sensitive information as “confidential.”
- Limit access to confidential information or trade secrets to employees who are required to use this information as part of their job.
Trade secrets allow companies to maintain “a competitive edge” in the marketplace. A business dispute lawyer in Charlottesville help businesses safeguard these secrets primarily through non-disclosure agreements, non-compete clauses and other contractual tools. In a nutshell, companies must take care to legally bind anyone exposed to its trade secrets to maintaining discretion. Once contractually obligated to honor a company’s trade secrets, employees, contractors, vendors and even other businesses may be held legally accountable in the event that they breach these contractual mandates.
It is therefore important that businesses whose trade secrets do allow them a competitive edge in the marketplace work closely with an attorney to protect these trade secrets in legally enforceable ways. Depending on the secret in question (and the legal status of those exposed to the secret) an attorney may be able to use any number of legal tools to safeguard the proprietary information.
This information may manifest in the form of formulas, production design, manufacturing processes, blueprints, etc. If a “piece” of intellectual property is not covered by the laws of trademark, copyright or patent, chances are that it will be treated as a trade secret under the law. A Charlottesville, VA business dispute lawyer can help you determine what kinds of protection your company’s secrets may benefit from and/or how existing protections may be appropriately enforced.
It is therefore critically important not only to ensure that these secrets are protected, but also imperative to ensure that they are protected in legally enforceable ways. As a result of this proactive legal behavior, a company will be able to hold would-be infringers accountable if they ever decide to reveal privileged information.
Resolving Business Disputes When You’re Buying a Business – Your Options When a Seller Doesn’t Honor the Terms of Your Agreement
When a business changes hands, things do not always go smoothly. If an issue does arise, it is usually the buyer failing to properly compensate the seller. However, sometimes the buyer of a business receives the short end of the stick. What options does a buyer of a new business have to ensure he or she gets everything agreed upon in the contract? If you are reeling from a seller’s failure to honor the terms of your business agreement, an experienced Charlottesville, Virginia business dispute lawyer from Dale Jensen, PLC can help to provide clarity concerning your options.
The Buyer’s Options
Your options will depend on exactly what the seller is doing (or not doing) to fail to honor your agreement. As you would expect, the first thing you should do is speak with the seller and have a conversation about what ways they are dropping the ball. If you are lucky, the seller may have simply forgotten or the issue may be the result of a miscommunication.
Once you have done the civil thing, if it does not improve or the issues reappear down the road, you may need to take more significant actions. These actions may or may not include filing a lawsuit. However, it’s important to speak with an experienced Charlottesville, VA business dispute lawyer before making any assumptions about whether you’ll need to take legal action to get what you bargained for. If you could significantly benefit from filing legal action, know that breach of contract lawsuits are very common and straightforward, so you should not be afraid to file. Depending on your circumstances, such action may be fairly straightforward. A Charlottesville, VA business dispute lawyer will be able to give you specific advice and let you know how strong a case you have based on the contract you signed.
Other Important Considerations
- If the seller is failing to fulfill non-financial obligations, such as providing consulting for the business, you may have a harder time filing a lawsuit. In these situations, you may be better off simply letting the loss go. But again, it’s important to speak with a Charlottesville, VA business dispute lawyer before making assumptions about your options under such circumstances.
- If the seller has failed to fulfill an obligation that has a tangible financial value, it is much easier to have the court order the seller to fulfill this obligation. The courts will generally include back pay in restitution orders.
- Keep in mind that most lawsuits take at least a few months to resolve. It may simply not make financial sense to pursue legal action, depending on your situation.
- If the seller disagrees about fulfilling his or her obligations, you may or may not want to consider arbitration as an alternative to filing a lawsuit. A Charlottesville, VA business dispute lawyer can provide clarity concerning this option.
What to Do When a Vendor Doesn’t Pull Through
A business dispute lawyer Charlottesville, VA trusts knows that as a business owner, you may work with a variety of vendors. You have contracts with them and expect them to keep up their end of the bargain. What happens when a vendor doesn’t pull through and you are left in a bad situation? The following are some steps to get you started on fixing the situation.
Determine the Type of Breach
When your vendor doesn’t deliver everything you paid for, it could be a breach of contract. Before you pay for anything, you should understand the contract so if you suspect a breach, it can be founded on fact. There are two types of breach: material and minor. When a vendor fails to deliver the goods you paid for, the court may consider the following to determine if it is a material breach.
- Do you benefit at all, even without the right delivery?
- Is it possible for the vendor to compensate you for damages?
- What hardship is the vendor experiencing?
- Can the vendor deliver the rest of the goods?
- Was the vendor negligent or willful in breaching the contract?
A minor breach may include a situation in which your contract didn’t actually specify an exact date or time for delivery. If you receive half your delivery one day with a reasonable delay before the rest of your goods are delivered, it may be a minor breach with lesser consequence to the vendor.
With your attorney’s assistance, you will need to collect several items as evidence for your breach of contract case. Some items you’ll need to include a clear definition of the standard of performance you expected, clear examples of the material breach, a written notice of breach that you should have sent to the vendor and specific examples of the damages you suffered because of the mistake.
Be Prepared for the Future
Dealing with a vendor that doesn’t pull through with their end of the bargain is not a fun situation to be in. For the future, you can do a few things to help ensure you don’t find yourself in this situation again. Some of those things include doing a full investigative look into the vendor before working with them, understanding the details of the contract and always ensuring you have a communication trail to document any dealings you have with them.
Contact Your Lawyer Today
A Charlottesville business dispute lawyer is a great person to turn to when you find yourself in a situation in which your vendor did not deliver everything you paid for. If your vendor has put you in a similar circumstance, contact your lawyer today for assistance.
Legal Guidance Is Available
If you have questions related to protecting your company’s trade secrets and/or other intellectual property, please do not hesitate to connect with a member of our legal team. Trade secrets and other intellectual property tend to serve as some of a company’s most valuable assets. Depending on the company in question, trade secrets may serve as the single greatest asset available to a business. We can help with other business questions as well. Speak without trusted business dispute lawyer in Charlottesville, VA from Dale Jensen, PLC.