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San Diego Business Law Blog

Investment firm and software developer reach settlement

San Diego business may be interested in the conclusion of one multi-million dollar intellectual property infringement lawsuit that has been fought for nearly five years. The companies have settled and both appear to be satisfied with this conclusion.

In 2003, financial software firm Business Logic, based in Chicago, began to provide investment firm Ibbotson Associates when software technology to help its clients manage their 401(k) accounts. In 2009, Ibbotson was acquired by another Chicago-based company, Morningstar. After the purchase, Morningstar began development on its own software to track and manage 401(k) investments. Business Logic then filed a lawsuit against Morningstar, alleging that they misappropriated Business Logic's trade secrets and breached contracts between their firm and Ibbotson in developing this new software.

Dish disapproves of merger between Time Warner and Comcast

Many California residents may have heard about the pending merger between Time Warner Cable and Comcast that is being reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission. Satellite-TV provider Dish Network has announced its own opposition to the business merger and has petitioned federal regulators to block it.

According to Dish, the merger between Comcast and Time Warner would result in the new company's widespread control of national broadband infrastructure and television channels and influence approximately one in three U.S. homes. Moreover, Dish expressed concerns that the company that results from the merger would be free to impose itself upon television content providers. For these reasons and more, Dish says the merger proposal should be denied. A Comcast representative stated that Dish disapproves of its merger because Dish does not want its competition to become stronger.

Important steps to take when preparing to sell a business

California business owners may be interested in an article detailing some of the steps that should be taken when preparing to sell a business. Finding and proving the business's worth to potential purchasers can be a daunting task, but with the right moves and some professional help, it can prove successful.

Reports show that in the last three years, acquisition prices have grown by 30 percent. In this climate, business owners should be aware of some issues to keep in mind when preparing to sell their company. First, the owners should assess their willingness to be purchased, including discussing any pertinent legal and taxation issues that could come with a sale. Next, an analysis of the company's readiness for purchase should be done. This includes having a professional do a valuation of the company and being prepared to discuss market positioning and other metrics that can make the company attractive to buyers.

TRI Point Homes $2.8 million merger: largest of its kind

According to reports, the California-based TRI Pointe Homes Inc. has recently merged with the Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Company. As one of the 10 biggest public homebuilders in the United States, the deal is also the biggest mergers among homebuilding companies, settling at $2.8 billion. In the merge, TRI obtained Winchester Homes, based in Bethesda.

A representative for TPH Pointe said that it will retain Winchester's present operational team members as well as the company name which has been in place for 35 years. Besides Winchester, Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Company owns four other homebuilder companies including Trendmaker Homes in Texas, Maracay Homes in Arizona, Quadrant Homes in Washington State and Pardee Homes in Las Vegas and Southern California. Winchester, which builds homes around the region of Washington, is reported to have built an estimated total of 12,000 townhome communities and single-family homes located in the D.C. areas of Virginia and Maryland.

Tyson Foods purchases Hillshire Brands

Companies and businesses in California and across the nation are watching as Tyson Foods and Hillshire Brands came to a merger agreement just a couple of days after a similar deal to merge Pinnacle Foods with Hillshire Brands fell apart. The $6.6 billion deal between Hillshire and Pinnacle suffered serious criticism, which resulted in a bidding war for Hillshire. Pilgrim's Pride, backed by JBS, a Brazilian company, was also interested in a business merger but offered $8 less per share than Tyson Foods. However, industry speculation is buzzing that the price might have been too high. The expected savings of Tyson Foods through the acquisition of Hillshire Brands is about $300 million annually. Industry experts think that Tyson became over-anxious in the bidding war, which boosted the price of the company. Although they could recoup their losses, it could take a few years.

Hillshire Brands formerly operated as the Sara Lee Corporation and focuses most of its business on packaged meats along with frozen baked products. The wholesaler sells to grocery stores, warehouses and food retailers across North America.

Implications of the AT&T-DirecTV merger

On May 18, AT&T announced its intent to acquire DirecTV, the California-based satellite TV service provider. During the months following the announcement, news of the merger received resistance from members of congress, as did AT&T's unsuccessful efforts to acquire T-Mobile in 2011. Other acquisitions in 2014 that have drawn criticism from Congress include the Sprint-T-Mobile merger and the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal. Congress does not have direct jurisdiction over the mergers, but it does have influence over the regulating committees that do.

Upon receiving regulatory approval, AT&T is expected to acquire DirecTV for $48.5 billion. The telecom's CEO contends that the move may serve as a bargaining advantage with TV programmers and could generate downward pressure on prices. DirecTV's national coverage may help augment AT&T's U-Verse service, which is only available in 21 states. The telecom would be increasing its customer base by 38 million video subscriptions between the Latin and U.S. markets. The announcement came shortly after the No. 1 cable provider, Comcast, expressed its intent to purchase the No. 2 provider, TWC.

Determining when to file for a trademark

A common concern for entrepreneurs in California who are starting a new business is when they should establish their trademark. Some may wish to immediately trademark their name, while others may prefer to wait until they are ready to commence operations. There are certain factors that should be considered regarding the timing of submitting a trademark application.

A company receives rights recognized under common law when it begins to use its name in commerce. This allows companies to have a right to their name once they start selling their product or service without officially having to register their name. However, these basic rights pertain to the geographic location where the trademark is utilized and protection that the court might lend if another party uses the same name or a similar one. Companies are more protected when they officially have their trademark registered.

Washington Redskins lose trademark registration

California pro football fans have no doubt been reading about the controversy surrounding the Washington Redskins and the feeling shared by many that its name is demeaning to Native Americans. Earlier in June, an arm of the U.S. Patent Office cancelled the team's trademark registration on that basis. Although that seemed to open up the door to several problems, many attorneys feel that may not be the case.

Trademark registration is not necessary to claim ownership of a name or a mark. In fact, there has to be a showing that it is being used in a commercial manner in order to obtain registration. Common law will still provide protection to the owner against infringement by other parties even in the absence of registration, although some methods of enforcement such as a cease and desist order may be more difficult to obtain. In this case, the franchise has been using and selling apparel and other items with the "Redskins" name and logo for decades, so its right to its continued use as well as its right to sue potential infringers is not in doubt.

Business planning in the modern age

Experts say the most effective way that individuals hoping to launch new businesses in California and other parts of the U.S. can increase their enterprises' chances for success is by developing a comprehensive business plan. Drafting a business plan offers prospective business owners a way to think about their company's fundamentals within the framework of their industry as a whole as well as within the context of their specific market segment and the competition they face for their market share.

Business planning has evolved, however, as times have changed, and today's business plans must integrate the new realities of the marketplace. Business owners must know how to leverage new concepts in order to interest potential customers and investors. The start-up process these days is considerably leaner as new business owners learn to harness innovative technologies that will streamline their business processes and allow them to come to market on the cheap. These technologies include the use of the Cloud, which offers businesses access to sophisticated software without a staggeringly high price tag.

Trademark loss may not hurt Redskins' business

California residents following the controversy over the name of the Washington Redskins may wonder about the financial impact of a recent ruling by the U.S. Patent Office. In its 2-1 vote, the office determined that the franchise's name is disparaging to the Native American community. Accordingly, the team is no longer permitted to trademark its name.

One of the most serious implications of this decision may be the lack of protection of the team's name under trademark law. As a result, it may seem that others could use the logo and name to earn money without the need for official agreements with the franchise. Additionally, it may appear that there is no requirement for compensation to be made to the organization when outside use of these materials occurs.

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