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Kerkman & Dunn
757 North Broadway, Suite 300
Milwaukee, WI 53202

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Milwaukee Business & Commercial Law Blog

Protecting trade secrets can be critical for many businesses

Organizations that use proprietary materials, designs or processes have strict policies regarding the protection of their intellectual property. Unfortunately, not all employees comply with these policies, and some misappropriate trade secrets for their own benefit or to benefit another organization. This can lead to unfair competition, as well as causing serious financial damage to the company whose secrets were stolen.

Employers who want to protect their information should make clear to all employees that Wisconsin law prohibits employees or competitors from stealing, concealing or carrying away an employer's trade secrets.

Why and how do workers file a complaint against their employers?

There are times when a company's former or current employee may file a complaint against their employers, alleging that the employer has failed to pay wages. Complaints that allege a business has violated one or multiple labor standards, such as minimum wage, child labor or overtime, are also common. In accordance with the Wisconsin Business Closing and Mass Layoff Law, proof that the filing party was "affected" due to lack of notice period is required to file a complaint. Claims for wages due must be filed in court within two years from the date they were due.

When it comes to complaints regarding labor standards, investigators in charge of the case will mail the employer requesting them to provide a written response to the complaint. When the allegations are based on child labor, the investigator will seek access to the employer's payroll and time records for every employee.

Wisconsin frozen food company files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

A Wisconsin-based manufacturer of frozen foods recently notified the state Department of Workforce Development of its intention to lay off all the employees from its two Plover, Wisconsin, processing plants as a part of a bankruptcy filing and in preparation for sale of the company. Golden County Foods reportedly filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month and is also in negotiations to sell the company to Monogram Appetizers. However, the proposed sale has yet to be approved by the U.S. bankruptcy court.

A Golden Food County spokesperson said that the company will terminate its employees before closing the sale as a part of the agreement with Monogram Appetizers. However, the spokesperson said it is expected that the employees would be re-hired after the sale. She also said Monogram is expected to continue serving the company's customers after sale.

How a mediator may help resolve a contract negotiation impasse

Wisconsin's Employment Relations Commission provides mediation services to private sector employers and employees to help settle issues, such as contract disputes. Statutes authorized by WERC encourage voluntary settlement so WERC provides the services of its commissioners or mediators to assist parties in reaching an amicable settlement of contract grievances and contract negotiation disputes.

WERC's mediators can only assist parties in reaching a settlement; they do not have any authority to decide and enforce a decision for the matters at hand. The mediator first contacts both parties to provide the basic information pertaining to the matter and then provides and notifies both parties of a date, time and place to meet. The mediator then asks for contract and bargaining positions in writing from both parties.

A general overview of the theft of trade secrets

U.S. business law considers the misappropriation of a trade secret intended for use in interstate or foreign commerce by an employee for his or her own benefit, or for the benefit of any other organization, a serious legal transgression. The law prohibits employees or competitors from stealing, concealing or carrying away the intellectual property of any business by fraud or without prior approval.

The term "trade secret" identifies all forms of confidential business information, including those derived from business, financial, technical, economic or engineering activities. This information may include designs, patterns, plans, methods, techniques, computer codes or programs and manufacturing procedures, whether tangible or intangible.

Big Wisconsin bank to expand its reach with new acquisition

Baylake Corporation, one of top banks in Wisconsin, is set to acquire the parent company of Union State Bank for almost $10 million. According to Baylake, the acquisition of New Brancshares, Inc. will help increase the bank's market share in Kewaunee and Brown counties, and enhance the bank's presence across northeast Wisconsin.

The CEO of Baylake Corporation said the company is looking forward to serving Union Bank's customer base, which has a good mix of loans and deposited assets. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Baylake Corporation, which has more than a $1 billion in assets, made a total profit of $9.8 million last year.

Bankruptcy 101-how to file or avoid filing a Chapter 11 case

Helping businesses and young entrepreneurs file Chapter 11 bankruptcy is routine work at Kerkman & Dunn. The quality of the services we offer are undisputed quality and our extensive experience representing business in Chapter 11 filings has helped build our reputation in Wisconsin. We believe that there are other alternatives and resorting to Chapter 11 may not always be the best possible avenue. Our experience and expertise in the field of getting businesses back on their feet enable us to resolve our clients' cases in tactful and intricate manners.

To arrive at an appropriate solution to a case, we first interview our clients to get a better understanding of their business goals, operations and the challenges they face. By obtaining a wider perspective, we then assess the situation to provide various options and alternatives that set the business back on the right track to success. Negotiating a debt settlement with lenders and creditors often plays a key role in finding a resolution.

Wisconsin-based crane company wins patent case

In today's volatile economy, it is important for Wisconsin businesses to protect their trade secrets to avoid unfair competition and to maintain their competitive edge. Misappropriation of trade secrets cannot only wreak havoc on a company's reputation, but also on its profits.

A similar case of misappropriation of trade secrets by a Chinese equipment manufacturer, Sany, has come into the limelight lately. The U.S. International Trade Commission has ruled that a part found on the company's crawler crane violates patents and trade secrets of Manitowoc, an American company operating in Wisconsin that makes equipment used in the food service and construction industries. According to the U.S. Tariff Act of 1930, the Chinese equipment manufacturer produced equipment with a design that infringed on one patent and six trade secrets.

Some debts cannot be discharged through Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Business owners in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, may be aware that Chapter 11 bankruptcy is often a good option for obtaining debt relief. However, some people may not understand that Chapter 11 bankruptcy often requires an in-depth understanding of the entire bankruptcy process and errors along the way may cause some issues. Business owners should also know that there are certain debts that cannot be eliminated by Chapter 11.

A business's bankruptcy filing under Chapter 11 implies that the firm's finances will be reorganized rather than the assets being liquidated. Liquidation may be possible but that option generally lies with the creditor rather than with the debtor. In a typical Chapter 11 liquidation case, a business cannot have all of its debts discharged and; therefore, the business chooses to liquidate assets in order to repay creditors. Even in a Chapter 11 reorganization plan, the majority of creditors must agree on the repayment plan.

The challenges of Wisconsin closely held businesses

Owners of small businesses in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, may need to seriously consider the consequences of selling or transitioning into a business. For closely held businesses, the owners sometimes fail to plan what they will do in the event that they die or become incapacitated and unable to run their business. A lot of time and effort is spent on establishing a business, but improper planning or judgment may put the business at risk.

In the event of an untimely death of an owner in a closely held corporation, the corporation may have to face reorganization. The legal or personal representative of the deceased shareholder may request that the corporation buy the full shares of the person who has passed away or ask to dissolve the corporation itself. However, this depends entirely on what is in the shareholder's will.