Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC attorney Nate Wallshein appointed to the board of The Matthews House

Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC is proud to announce that attorney Nate Wallshein was appointed to the board of the Matthews House.

The Matthews House is an organization that empowers young adults and families in transition to navigate difficulties on the road to self-sufficiency. Many individuals in the program do not have a significant support system nor the skills necessary for living independently. The Matthews House provides resources and relationships necessary for those to take control of their lives and shape positive futures for themselves.

“I am humbled and thrilled to serve on the Board at The Matthews House. The staff and volunteers provide much needed services in our community by empowering youth and families in times of transition, and by providing preventive, educational, and vocational training. The incredible support from northern Colorado residents drives our success and continues to strengthen our community,” said Nate Wallshein.

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Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC provides real estate law and business law services throughout Northern Colorado. OBP has 15 attorneys spread across its two offices in Greeley and Loveland. For more information, contact Nate Wallshein at nwallshein@nocoattorneys.com or Jennifer Lynn Peters at jpeters@nocoattorneys.com or 970-330-6700 or visit www.nocoattorneys.com.

Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC attorney Lia Szasz is admitted to practice law in Colorado and Wyoming

Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC is proud to announce that attorney Lia Szasz has been admitted to practice law in Colorado and Wyoming.

Lia worked as a law clerk for the firm throughout law school. She recently passed the bar and joined the firm as an associate attorney.

Lia obtained her undergraduate degree from Washington State University and her J.D. from the University of Colorado School of Law. While in law school, Lia received the best overall combined brief and oral argument award in the Colorado Appellate Advocacy Competition, and represented CU in the American Bar Association’s Client Counseling Competition. Before law school, Lia worked for a real estate and estate planning law firm, and for a title company.

Her practice at OBP focuses on business law, agricultural law, real estate law, and complex commercial litigation.

With a background in agriculture and real estate, she is particularly adept at assisting clients with matters related to farming and ranching operations.

Lia is committed to serving northern Colorado both professionally and as a member of its community.

 

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Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC provides a range of legal services throughout Northern Colorado. OBP has 15 attorneys spread across its two offices in Greeley and Loveland. For more information, contact Lia Szasz at lszasz@nocoattorneys.com or Jennifer Lynn Peters at jpeters@nocoattorneys.com or call 970-330-6700 or visit www.nocoattorneys.com.

Turning Over the Keys to Your Business By: Jeffrey T. Bedingfield

We’ve all heard the saying that there are only two things in life that are certain – death and taxes. The same might be said for your business that you’ve spent a good part of your life building. The difference is that the death of a business can be delayed or avoided all together and that depends upon how well you plan the passing of the business to a partner or the next generation.

Only about 30% of family businesses survive into the second generation and only about 12% into the third generation. For the most part, failures can be traced to one factor, little or no succession planning.

Succession planning, or, should I say, successful succession planning really boils down to creating continuity in management, culture and leadership in the midst of a change in ownership. It isn’t accomplished at an annual retreat or a planning session with an attorney, accountant or financial planner. It is developed and executed over a period of years.

Planning for a transition in the ownership of a family business has its own unique set of difficulties because you add family dynamics to the business dynamics. There are several key components to developing a successful plan that deals with family dynamics separately from the business dynamics. The key components to the development of a successful plan that deal with family dynamics are communication and trust. The key components to the development of a successful plan addressing business dynamics include culture, management and leadership.

The culture of a business is what defines that business internally and externally. It is the value system of the company and it establishes the reputation of the company within itself and the community. It defines the vision and goals of the company. Culture is what attracts and retains employees and customers. We all know that a big part of the reason why people do business with you is because they like you. Whether or not they like you more often than not depends upon culture.

Management of a company is not so much about who owns the company, but who will do the work of the business that makes it successful. The four areas of focus for management include administration and finance, operations and customer fulfillment, sales and marketing. More often than not in a family business, several of those areas are handled by you or another family member. While you may have developed the ability to handle each of those areas as you grew your business, turning over the reins of management of the company you’ve built requires that any person taking over one of those areas has the ability to hit the ground running. Before any business can be transitioned to the next generation, you must train those who will take over your responsibilities. You may be able to fill some areas with family members, but you might have to fill gaps in other positions with outsiders. More than likely, you are the individual who provides the leadership for the company and are the individual to whom everybody looks for direction. Before you can transition out of the business, you will need to find the individual or team who will take on that leadership role and give them the opportunity to position themselves in the eyes of all employees as the source of leadership and direction moving forward.

Assessing the abilities and competencies of employees and family members is a critical, but often awkward, part of succession planning. Not only must you find the right people, you must give them enough time to grow into their positions. Simply reaching a certain point in life and turning to a child and telling them that “it’s now your turn to make it or break it,” is a sure recipe for failure.

Finally, once the culture is clearly established, strong management is trained and in place, and leadership is established, you will have reached the point of being able to successfully “pass the baton” of ownership to the next generation. This is the point at which you complete the plan and set in motion your release of ultimate control to the next generation, whether in stages or all at once. Obviously, some control will be relinquished through developing and empowering management and allowing others to develop in leadership roles, but a change in ownership is really the transitioning of the ultimate control and responsibility for the business. A succession plan is as unique as each business and the owners of that business. There are many different tools available to the professional helping you develop your succession plan. They involve not only the structures for change in ownership, but also for providing incentives to retain key management and leadership and policies to create loyal employees.

The additional and unique nature of family dynamics in a business succession plan are more often than not accomplished through clear communication of the plan and the building of trust that the plan will be followed. Before the next generation can buy into any succession plan, they must first understand what that plan is. In addition, trust that the plan will be followed and executed can only be accomplished by the business owner fulfilling the promises and goals established by such a plan. Successful business succession planning is really most about preparation, common sense, communication and execution. It takes commitment to develop a plan and even greater commitment to follow it.

John Kolanz is a partner with Otis, Bedingfield and Peters, LLC in Loveland. He focuses on environmental matters and can be reached at 970-663-7300 or JKolanz@nocoattorneys.com.

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A Deeper Look Into Trademarks By: Shannan de Jesús

Shannan 120A DEEPER LOOK INTO TRADEMARKS

By: Shannan de Jesús

If you read the June article about trademarks and copyrights (or have some knowledge of intellectual property law), you know that a trademark (or service mark, but I refer to trademarks in this article for ease of reference) is a word, phrase, logo, symbol, color, sound, or smell that links your goods or services to your company and helps distinguish your product from those of your competitors. The more your customers see your trademark, the more they think of your business – and the quality of it. Indeed, if your customers are familiar with your trademark and have liked your products in the past, simply seeing your trademark on a new item might convince your customers that they will like that product before they even try it. This article takes a deeper look into trademarks, how to get them, and how to protect them once you do.

Clearance Searches

You may already know how important it is to run a clearance search before you start using a trademark. Without a doubt, a clearance search is critical to making sure you are not infringing on someone else’s rights when you start advertising your product. In fact, if you overlook this crucial step in the development of your business, you may spend a lot of time and money on something that you will later have to change. And, if you have to change your mark, you will be back at square one with branding, marketing, and letting consumers know that your new trademark represents your company and stands for quality. While it’s not completely failsafe, taking the time to do a clearance search can prevent future problems that would have been foreseeable with this easy, important step.

The clearance search can take many forms and is based in part on where you want to use your mark. A trademark can be registered in the state where the product or service is located, nationally with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), or internationally. Depending upon how you want your business to grow and where you will reach your customers, you may want a basic state registration, federal registration, or registration in multiple foreign countries. A trademark clearance search is used to make sure that no one is already using the mark you want to use, in your industry, wherever you are.

A state search is simple and is limited to the geographic boundaries of the state where your product or service will be located. If you own a small home design business or diner, this might be a good option for you. But, don’t make the mistake of thinking that trademark registration is unnecessary if your business is limited to one state. Someone with the same (or very similar) trademark may have a federal registration – and may insist on you renaming your business or product if you use it.

A federal search is more detailed and like the state search, evaluates marks that are the same as, or substantially similar to, your proposed mark, but nationwide. This type of search also helps determine the likelihood that someone else will oppose your use of the mark, registration, or both. Remember that even if you don’t apply for federal registration, another trademark holder can stop you from using its mark and infringing on its rights. Federal clearance searches can include researching websites/domain names, other states’ registrations, and the USPTO database, including foreign word marks. This is a good option if you plan to expand your business, have an attractive mark, or have a popular product to sell.

Finally, if you plan to have an international customer base, you may want to register your mark in certain foreign countries, in addition to nationally with the USPTO. Some countries will not recognize the same protections offered by U.S. trademark law.[1] It is important to understand what rights you will have if you want to offer your product or services outside the United States.

The USPTO Process

There are two basic ways to file for trademark registration with the USPTO: an intent-to-use basis, meaning you plan to use the mark, or a use-in-commerce basis. The process is generally the same for both types. It is important to note that there are deadlines throughout the process which must be met, or your application may be deemed abandoned and denied.

First, an examining attorney who works for the USPTO will review your application to determine whether there are grounds for denying registration (the mark does not contain the necessary characteristics to be eligible for registration, for example) or more information is needed. In that case, the examining attorney may issue an “office action,” which gives the applicant an opportunity to explain why the mark should be registered. The UPSTO may issue multiple office actions before making a final decision.

If the USPTO determines there is no initial basis for denying registration, it will publish the mark in the Official Gazette. During the publication period, any person or company who believes their rights will be affected if your mark is registered may file an opposition. If an opposition is filed, you will go through a process similar to a federal civil trial to determine your rights.

If no opposition is filed, the USPTO will issue a notice of allowance if the application was filed on an intent-to-use basis, and then you have to file “specimens” showing how your mark is being used before you can receive a registration number. If you were already using the mark and filed your specimens with your application, the USPTO will issue your registration. Again, it is important that you meet all deadlines and file all the necessary documents for the process to continue moving forward. An attorney who is familiar with trademark law can help you do this.

Protecting Your Trademark

            Once you receive your registration, you will need to “police” your mark. One way to do this is by regularly reviewing the Official Gazette. However, that publication is limited to only marks that are pending federal registration. As such, it is important to be vigilant about watching for marks that are the same as, or substantially similar (and thus potentially confusing), to yours – in your neighborhood, state, and on the Internet. If you see a mark that looks like yours, you may need to take legal action to protect your rights. This is important for making sure your customers are not deceived by another company (and thus, making your company look bad) and to keeping your trademark rights.

Finally, if your trademark is registered on the principal register with the USPTO, you may also want to record your mark with the U.S. Customs & Border Protection (“CBP”) agency, especially if your goods will be sent to other countries, or you have other reasons to believe that your mark may be infringed. Counterfeiting is rampant, and the CBP works to keep out foreign imports that infringe on U.S. registrants’ rights.[2]

If you are interested in securing a trademark, or have one you want to protect, the lawyers at Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC have the resources and experience you need to help. We would be happy to talk with you. Contact us today.

 

 

[1] http://www.inta.org/Media/Documents/2012_TMBasicsBusiness.pdf

[2] http://www.uspto.gov/trademark/trademark-updates-and-announcements/record-trademarks-customs-and-border-protection-cbp

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