In this week’s REWIND of international business news,
- Trademark owners and applicants will be happy to learn that the cost of filing or renewing a trademark application will be a little lower in 2015. Scheduled to take effect on January 17, 2015, the USPTO has reduced the cost of applications by $50, meaning that the fee for an application will go from $325 per class to $275 per class. To take advantage of the reduced rate, an applicant must agree to file all documents electronically and permit email communications with the Trademark Office. In addition the Trademark Office will reduce the fee for a TEAS application to renew a registration by $100, with the fee going from $400 to $300 per class. The reduced charges are an effect of the American Invents Act, which seeks to stress efficiency in the USPTO and increase the usage of electronic filing and processing of trademark applications.
- In what may become a more common occurrence, Coca-Cola has filed trademark applications to register two Twitter hashtags. The applications, which are for the hashtags “#smilewithacoke” and “#cokecanpics,” were filed with the Trademark Office in December. Though Coke is not the first entity to seek registration of a hashtag, this appears to be it’s first foray into seeking protection for parts of its social media campaigns, and may signal a growing trend in intellectual property protection.
- According to a notice issued by its Central Government, China is seeking to triple the number of filed patents by 2020. To further its goal, the country indicated it will strengthen its laws and policies to better protect intellectual property. In addition, China will try to reduce the amount of time to review and process patent and trademark applications; the country hopes to reduce the time to review patent applications from 22.3 months to 20.2, and the time to review trademark applications from 10 months to 9 months by 2020.
- The names of iconic hotels, such as the Ahwahnee Hotel, and other concession properties in Yosemite National Park face the possibility of being changed. The contract between the National Park Service and Delaware North, the entity that has run the concession properties in Yosemite for over 20 years, is scheduled to expire this year. The Park Service is currently soliciting bids from companies to act as the park’s concession operator; this may result in someone other than Delaware North acting in this capacity. Delaware North has asserted that if that is the case, any such new entity would have to pay them $51 million to acquire its “intangible assets,” which include the trademark registrations for all of the concession properties in Yosemite. While it is not clear if Delaware North will truly be able to assert and enforce its ownership claims over the registered marks, there is a possibility the Park Service may change the names to avoid becoming embroiled in a legal dispute.
This week, Melinda Fellner Bramwit discusses opting-out of the offshore voluntary disclosure program and how and why one would go about doing this. Check in next week to learn about the streamlined filing program.
In part 3 of her video series, Melinda Fellner Bramwit answers the difficult question of why one should come forward to the IRS about any offshore assets they may have.
Stay tuned next week to learn about opting out of the offshore voluntary disclosure program.
Last month, we talked about 1-9 requirements here.
This month, I was interviewed by The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel regarding I-9 Compliance.
Below is a more detailed description of I-9 requirements and steps a company can take to avoid inadvertent errors:
The I-9 form is required for every employee of the company, including its officers, executives or partners. It is important to remember that the review and certification of an employee’s documents must be done in person with the original documents. The I-9 must be filled out prior to the start of employment, and the employee must be given the option to choose the documents required to prove employment eligibility. The company cannot dictate which documents should be used. In addition, where employees have authorization for only a limited period of time, the company should be certain they have a calendaring system that allows them to be reminded to re-verify in a timely manner. It is also important to remember that in the case of former employees, companies are required to retain I-9 forms for a period of at least three years from the date of hire or for one year after the employee is no longer employed, whichever is longer. Once outside that period, it is a good idea to dispose of those I-9s as you are not required to keep them on file. I-9s kept on file after the mandatory retention period can still be found violative if they are not compliant. I always recommend that a company undergo internal audits on a periodic basis to make sure that their paperwork is in order. It is important that the company have only a limited group of people who are trained specifically in preparing the I-9 and maintaining the files. This helps to prevent errors. If the internal staff is not well trained in I-9 compliance, then it is further recommended that the company hire an attorney to supervise an audit. When I prepare an audit for a company, in addition to looking for errors to correct, I also keep an eye out for particular trends or tendencies that may lead to repeat errors. Tendencies I often see include paperwork that is not properly signed, missing documentation, reliance on the wrong type of documentation – e.g. a passport or visa instead of an approval notice that lists the document’s expiration – and not tracking expirations, or tracking expirations but not re-verifying the initial document. Once my review is complete, I not only correct the errors, but also prepare a report that companies can use to show good faith compliance efforts should they receive an audit. Finally, I will meet with the HR staff to train and educate them on what they are doing incorrectly so that they can be more efficient and accurate in the future.
Check out the full interview here.
Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for a Happy, Healthy, Prosperous and Peaceful New Year!
In this week’s REWIND of international business news,
- Uber Technologies continues to face legal scrutiny around the world. Last week, authorities in Taiwan declared the car-hailing service provided by Uber to be illegal. Click here to read more. Meanwhile in China, an Uber training session was raided by police last Wednesday. Click here to read more.
- In Italy, TripAdvisor, the American travel website that allows reviewers to rank and comment on hotels and restaurants, has been fined 500,000 Euros ($610,000) by the Italian competition authorities for failing to prevent false reviews on its web site.
- With the rouble in distress, the Russian government has ordered a handful of government-held exporters to sell their foreign currency reserves. Officials say that private companies will not be required to take similar actions. Click here to read more.
- Alibaba has spent over $161 million since 2013 protecting customers and combating counterfeit goods, in efforts to turnaround its prior mention on the U.S. Trade Representative’s list of “notorious markets” for intellectual property infringement. Click here to read more.
As an extension and follow-up to the 2012 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program, the IRS offers taxpayers reduced penalties with income from offshore accounts. The program offers significant benefits for taxpayers to disclose foreign accounts and avoid the risk of an audit and possible criminal prosecution.
In Part 2 of her video series, Melinda Fellner Bramwit explains the current program options for an Asset-Based Penalty or an Income-Based Penalty. Enrolling into the program admits an intentional violation of a legal duty and the first step is to submit an application for preliminary acceptance by sending a fax to the IRS. Most taxpayers will hear back within 60 days and be accepted into the program unless they are under an audit or criminal investigation. The next step is to send a letter to the Criminal Investigation Department with an attached list of assets being reported. Typical turnaround time is 60-90 days for preliminary acceptance and the beginning of the document production phase.
Melinda details the process more closely in the video below.
The basis for imposition of tipping liability for insider trading has been clarified by the Second Circuit.
In United States of America v. Todd Newman, Anthony Chiasson (Nos. 13-1837-cr (L), 13-1917 cr), the Second Circuit has vacated convictions for insider trading for two hedge fund portfolio managers convicted of trading on information obtained from analysts who had received nonpublic and material information about public companies in the technology sector. The Second Circuit held that in order to hold the trader liable for insider trading, the Government had to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt that the tippee knew that an insider disclosed confidential information and that he did so in exchange for a personal benefit.” p.4. This is a significant reversal for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which has been very aggressive of late in pursuing insider trading violations.
Melinda Fellner Bramwit discusses one’s options for disclosing offshore assets in the first video of a six-week series. Stay tuned over the next few weeks to learn more about the offshore voluntary disclosure program and the streamlined filing process for residents and non-residents.
This week, in the REWIND of international business news, we discuss Sweden raiding a popular file sharing site, Spain introducing a ‘Google Tax’, and Uber’s growth challenges.
Sweden captures pirates, but fails to sink their ship.
Authorities in Stockholm raided the servers of Pirate Bay, one of the world’s most popular file sharing sites, and successfully took the service offline this week. Anti-piracy advocates expressed concern, however, that file sharing sites like Pirate Bay, which had facilitated the sharing of pirated software, music, movies and other electronic media for 11 years, have changed consumers’ behavior. These sites have arguably created an entire generation of consumers that expects to have access to electronic media without cost. Despite laws prohibiting the distribution of copyrighted material, this sense of entitlement to free media leads otherwise law abiding citizens to enjoy free media without remorse.
In search of protection for local publications, Spain introduces a ‘Google Tax’ that might reduce the traffic directed to such publications.
A new intellectual property law will be introduced in Spain that will permit Spanish publishers to charge aggregators like Google News for showing even the smallest snippet from their publications. Publishers in Germany quickly discovered the value of Google News after a similar law led traffic to German publishers’ sites to plunge. As we highlighted in a previous post, Google has been under scrutiny in the EU. While Spanish publishers might later advocate against these restrictions if they experience a similar fate as their German counterparts, for now, this evidences further challenges for the search giant on the horizon.
‘Ubermentum’ hits speed bumps.
We previously chronicled potential trouble for Uber as it continues to rapidly expand to additional cities around the world. Uber’s continued rapid growth has been met with an increasing number of legal challenges. From Judges in Spain banning Uber from operating in the country, to heightened scrutiny of Uber’s checks on drivers following allegations of sexual assault against an Uber driver in New Delhi, it appears that some of the ‘Ubermentum’ is fading. But a recent $1.2 billion funding round at a $40 billion valuation is evidence that investors still see growth potential. That will certainly help the company overcome regulatory hurdles.