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Portland Business & Commercial Law Blog

Claims over contracts fuel litigation regarding landfill

Oregon business litigation involves many lawsuits over contracts between public agencies and private businesses. Many municipalities contract with private companies to collect garbage, provide water supplies and perform a myriad of other services that the municipalities find burdensome to administer themselves. The sheer volume of such arrangements leads to a steady flow of contracts litigation in the state and federal courts.

In one example of a somewhat typical dispute, a company sued two county governments that it contracts with to provide landfill services. The counties jointly own the landfill properties and have commissioned the company, Clark Floyd Landfill LLC to conduct its daily operations. A problem has recently come up because state environmental regulators will require a new operating permit next year.

Attorney gives critical input during business formation process

Business formation in Oregon is a stage of the startup process where the business law attorney has a strong role in assisting the business owners in choosing and setting up the right legal structure for the business. Business formation is important because it will usually impact on the method of taxation that the business will follow. The paperwork involved can be a massive amount or it can be much less, depending on the legal structure that is chosen. 

A popular structure for small businesses is the Limited Liability Company, called an LLC. This entity probably requires less official paperwork than any of the other formats. The LLC also allows for "pass through" taxation directly to the shareholder's personal return, thus avoiding double taxation. By not requiring two separate tax filings, an LLC owner can avoid the pitfalls of double taxation.

Business litigation often involves trademark infringement claims

Oregon has its fair share of trademark infringement and business interference claims. These claims are generally considered to be business litigation torts. In a nearby state, two organizations are battling over similar issues in court. One group, a growers' association, is suing an orchard enterprise, Boa Vista Orchards, on a claim that the orchard is usurping the association's trademark name and interfering with its business operations.

The orchard was a member of the growers' association but has been expelled since the controversy developed. The court case, filed by the association in a federal district court in October, is currently awaiting a hearing and a decision on a motion to dismiss filed by the defendant. The fight over use of the growers' association trademark started in 2013. At that time, the association began to complain about the way in which the orchard was using the association's name.

Pay to play? 5 things to know about changing net-neutrality rules

As a business owner, you know how important your web presence is in reaching customers. You may therefore be wondering about the decision this month by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to eliminate so-called "net neutrality" rules.

Those rules have regulated internet service providers since 2015. They have prevented internet service providers (ISPs) from taking actions such as blocking certain websites or charging more for faster load times or other higher-end service.

Here are five important things to know about how the new regulations could affect your business.

Court rules trade secrets were taken in business litigation case

Misappropriation of trade secrets is a common subject for litigation in Oregon and other states. In one business litigation case in another state, a federal district court judge recently ruled in favor of a trade secrets claim made by The Manitowoc Company, Inc. against Sany Heavy Industries and Sany America. Manitowoc is a major international manufacturer of cranes and lift mechanisms.

The specific details of how Sany misappropriated trade secrets of the crane maker has not been revealed in press reports. However, the federal district court judge ruled favorably on Manitowoc's motion for a summary judgment, finding that Sany was liable for trade secret misappropriation. A trial of the damages aspect of the case is set for 2019.

Business law principles are used in selling the business

When selling a business in Oregon and elsewhere, there are three steps to take in getting the business ready to sell. The first step in such a business law transaction is to get an appraisal. The appraiser uses recognized valuation methods to put a sale value on the business. This includes the elusive but important value of the good will of the business.

The seller should take care to see to it that a properly credentialed and certified appraiser is used. It is best to interview and interact with several appraisers prior to selecting one. Once selected, the appraiser will determine a fair market value, which is then used as an asking price. The second thing that must be done is that the seller must make financial disclosures regarding certain aspects of the business.

Business law attorneys may help a company facing a crisis

In Oregon as well as elsewhere, an outside law firm is sometimes called upon to assist a company in a crisis situation. These are usually unexpected chains of events that require the company to make some important decisions about how to respond and how to handle the problem. Business law attorneys may be critical in some circumstances in helping the company to start off on the right track and stay there.

Many crises that companies encounter are not relatively serious when they start out. However, it sometimes happens that a botched corporate response takes the business entity into a spiral of bad events coupled sometimes with increasingly damning press coverage. Experts assert that the first few days after the crisis hits are the key days when a tone-deaf, unknowledgeable response may create a full-blown crisis or even a major scandal. For example, the data breaches encountered by Target or Sony, and most recently, by data giant Equifax, were handled with unwieldy, uninformed gloves for the first few days.

Business formation: Buying an existing business may be better

The business entrepreneur in Oregon who is contemplating opening a new business will also face the issue of whether it might be better to purchase an already existing business. Sometimes, the overwhelming range of activities needed for business formation from scratch will deflect the entrepreneur's enthusiasm for the project. The effort of buying an existing business instead of new business formation has some attractive benefits that may make it easier for an investor.

An ongoing business has a flow of income already started, subject to evaluation by the records of the company. It is well-known that starting a business from scratch usually means some extended period to get the operation to turn a profit. However, with an existing business the operational tools are already in place and functioning, making it easy to keep making a profit that was already established.

The hiring process and criminal records: an FAQ for employers

As a business owner or manager involved in the hiring process, it’s important to know what your rights and obligations are regarding applications with criminal records.

After all, given America’s high incarceration rates, the percentage of people who have served time or had other brushes with the law is remarkably high. And a growing list of governments have passed “ban the box” laws restricting what prospective employers can ask candidates about their criminal history on job applications.

Employee handbook may be written in the business formation stage

There are various standard legal procedures required to start a business in Oregon. One important component of a small business is an employee handbook, which is generally most useful if prepared and distributed before the business formation process ends. Unfortunately, only about one in four small businesses have an updated handbook. There really is no downside to having a good manual to assist workers in understanding the rules of the workplace, benefits, rules of etiquette and other general guidelines for the job.

Employee handbooks are not legally required but are considered wise business strategy on the part of the company owners. The handbook has the advantage of not only setting forth the rules of the workplace, but it also stands as source book for articulating the company's culture, philosophy and values. The handbook also makes it clear that employees are hired on an "at will" basis, which means that they do not generally have a contract of employment to protect them from being terminated.

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