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Kerkman & Dunn
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Milwaukee, WI 53202

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Milwaukee Business & Commercial Law Blog

What to do if bankruptcy is threatening your Wisconsin business

Most Wisconsin businesses see a number of ups and downs over time. While everything seems to be in order when things are going well, matters can be difficult in times of stress. When such difficult times occur, some businesses sustain insurmountable losses, and, as a result, the business owners are forced to consider bankruptcy. As many Wisconsin business owners may agree, there may also be certain cases where only one business partner is forced to choose bankruptcy, while the others are still in a better financial position.

It is at such times that many Wisconsin business owners face a number of difficulties. The main fear that the unaffected business partner has at such a time is the fear of the other partner's bankruptcy filing having a detrimental effect on the business, as well as on the business partner who is struggling financially. Therefore, it becomes extremely important for the unaffected business owners to protect the interests of the business, as well as protecting the business owner personally.

Espionage no longer limited to military or diplomacy

Spy movies explore the various aspects of espionage, such as stealing military secrets, carrying out political assassinations or manipulating diplomatic affairs. However, as recent reports by the FBI state, espionage is no longer limited to those realms. Espionage is now a real problem in the business world, as competitors try to steal trade secrets.

According to news reports, the FBI witnessed a 53 percent increase in the number of cases related to trade secret thefts this year. Interestingly, the FBI observed that a large proportion of such economic espionage attempts are carried out by the Chinese government. In fact, an FBI press release regarding this issue clearly highlights the concerns that the agency has regarding the Chinese government. According to the FBI, common targets of economic espionage are solar power and the pharmaceutical industry. Nonetheless, that does not mean that other industries are immune to the threat posed by economic espionage.

How does a Wisconsin business deal with product liability?

Business owners in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and across the United States, understand how important it is for their products to be safe for consumers. Businesses ensure that the products they market comply with quality and safety guidelines that are implemented by federal and state authorities. However, there may be instances in which a product that passed through all safety and quality checks was nevertheless found unsafe. In the event of such a finding, a Wisconsin business may face product liability claims.

According to product liability laws across the United States, a manufacturer can be held accountable for defects in their products. A consumer can file a compensation claim for the damages that were caused by the use of such products. Unfortunately, such events not only hamper the reputation of the business, but may also cost a large sum of money. These sums can result from a litigation loss, litigation costs or simply the amount paid to settle the product liability claim, even if done out of court.

Antitrust clearance for Wisconsin mergers

Business owners in Milwaukee, and throughout Wisconsin, considering a merger for expansion of their businesses might want to know why certain mergers need clearance, as stipulated by antitrust laws. Sometimes, antitrust clearances are difficult to get and many deals falter because they fail to pass the scrutiny of federal antitrust agencies.

Some mergers may be beneficial to consumers because they make companies function more efficiently, which will lead to lower pricing for consumers. Nonetheless, certain mergers can alter the market competition dynamics enough to cause higher prices, fewer choices and lower quality of goods. Such mergers, which substantially change the availability of goods and services from varied suppliers, might lead to the creation of a monopoly which is prohibited under the Clayton Act.

Protecting Wisconsin intellectual property in foreign countries

Protecting Wisconsin intellectual property plays an important role in most businesses today. Many Wisconsin entrepreneurs may be considering expanding their businesses beyond the boundaries of the United States. These businesses likely want to know how to protect their intellectual property in foreign countries. Acquiring protection for intellectual property in foreign countries is essential for proper commercial exploitation of their innovations and brand.

Intellectual property laws, like most other laws, are restricted in their application to the territory boundaries of the country. So, if a business owner wants to protect the trademark and patent in other countries, that person will be required to file a separate application in each of those countries under the applicable laws. In order to make the process less cumbersome, thereby facilitating international business and commerce, countries have entered into treaties and conventions. These agreements allow the citizens of those countries to acquire protection for their intellectual properties concurrently in multiple countries by filing just one application in their own country.

Helping entrepreneurs choose the best business organization

Entrepreneurs in Wisconsin who are currently thinking of starting a new business have plenty of planning to take care of, including filing paperwork with the state and federal governments, capitalizing the venture and figuring out the right organization for the business. It is essential to choose a business structure that will meet both current needs and will allow the business to grow with changes in the economy and with new challenges and opportunities.

The typical business organization uses one of four main types: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and limited liability corporation. Sole proprietorship is the easiest to set up and run. As the sole owner of the business, its founder will be responsible for all liabilities the business has, including debts and profits. The owner files the taxes on business earnings with personal taxes.

Rapper 50 Cent files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Chapter 11 bankruptcy is used to reorganize debts and pay back creditors over a pre-determined period of time. Chapter 11 protection is also used to halt all pending debt recovery proceedings, giving debtors extended time to pay off the debts.

Curtis Jackson III, more commonly known as rapper "50 Cent," has recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. He is also facing a lawsuit from a woman who alleged that he posted a sex tape of her online without her consent. The woman was awarded $50 million as compensation. There is now an automatic stay on this judgment due to the Chapter 11 filing.

Newly merged Kraft and Heinz start trading as single company

Wisconsin businesspeople know that mergers are a part of modern corporate life. For many executives, a merger is one of the fastest ways to expand a business's product offerings, customer base and financial assets. A merger also can be used to enter a new sphere of business or expand an existing business, all while making a business leaner and better able to react to market changes. The recent merger of two food giants, Kraft and Heinz, is a case in point.

In March, H.J. Heinz Co. and Kraft Foods Group merged under the direction of investor Warren Buffet. Stock for the new Kraft Heinz started trading on the NASDAQ in early July. Now the third largest food and beverage company in the United States, after PepsiCo and Nestle, the company's new KHC stock saw a 3.5 percent increase in valuation in early trading. With $9.5 billion invested in the merged company, Buffet's investment firm, Berkshire Hathaway, now owns around 325 million shares, making it Berkshire's second largest investment after Wells Fargo.

Closely held businesses and divorce

Married entrepreneurs with small businesses may lose a substantial portion of their business if their marriage ends in divorce. With no prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, the business will be divided between the spouses like any other marital property under Wisconsin's community property law.

Assessing the value of a small business can be challenging. Such businesses consist of tangible assets, such as bank accounts and equipment, but also intangible assets, such as goodwill, skilled labor and intellectual property such as trademarks and patents. Since those assets are not traded on the market and do not change hands frequently, it is a challenge to assess their fair market value.

Angie's List sues Amazon over alleged trade secret thefts

The secret processes, methods and materials that a company uses are valuable assets that can give it an edge over competitors. If somebody misappropriates such trade secrets, the company has every right to take legal action against the responsible business or person. As some Wisconsin residents may know, Angie's List recently filed suit against a subsidiary of Internet giant Amazon, accusing it of stealing provider lists and misappropriating other valuable information.

According to the lawsuit, some Amazon Local employees joined Angie's List and used their membership access to Angie's provider lists to secure company information, provider profiles and other important information. According to Angie's List, the Amazon Local executives used this information to help establish the competing service.