July 4th, Independence Day, celebrates the day that the American Colonies declared their independence from the British. The American Colonies sought independence after they claimed the British’s Stamp Tax infringed on their freedoms. Many immigrants have since come to The United States for the alluring freedoms and opportunities. Remember to secure your business' legal rights, including trademarks, to avoid infringements and utilize the legal advantages of The United States’ laws.
This blog includes a brief history of The United States and an outline of the most important legal rights for businesses.
By: Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Fort Lauderdale Attorney
Updated July 2022
What is the history of the United States?
The history of the U.S. begins with the Colonies.
Many people may be wondering: ”What is the history of the United States?” The United States officially became a country in 1776 with the July 4th Declaration of Independence, and is noteworthy for its quick climb to leader of the free world.
The American continent, though, was occupied for thousands of years prior to the formation of The United States of America.
The North American continent was first inhabited 12,000-15,000 years ago. The native tribes spanned from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts.
As the tale goes, in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. He was searching for an alternate passage route to India. He never found the Northwest Passage route but he did create interest in further exploration of the American continents.
In 1607, the English set up its first lasting colony named Jamestown (located in present–day Virginia). The first permanent British colony in Roanke mysteriously disappeared. Their settlement was empty when supply ships arrived. The only potential clue was a carving that said “CROATOAN.” Thus, the two prominent theories are that they either merged with the local Indian tribe or they were completely killed by the local Indian tribe.
The British eventually established 13 colonies along the North American east coast. The colonists then rebelled when the British imposed a stamp tax. The colonists did not agree with the cost and lack of representation in the legislature. “No taxation without representation.”
What was the Revolutionary War? The Colonies rebelled during The Revolutionary War.
The colonists issued the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Revolutionary War ensued. The British army’s bright red coats made it easy for the colonial guerrilla armies to shoot their targets. The colonists won the war and named themselves the United States of America.
What caused the Civil War? The Civil War erupted over slavery.
About 100 years later, the country faced another major war. This time it was at war with itself. The Civil War lasted from about 1861-1864. In a nutshell, the northern states sought to abolish slavery. Their move was based on part altruistic and part economic motives.
The southern states insisted on preserving slavery. General Robert E. Lee led the Confederate Army against President Lincoln’s northern Union army led by General Ulysses S. Grant. The Civil War was the largest loss of American lives with 600,000 soldiers killed. The war ended in 1864 when Lee surrendered and President Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation.
What was the Reconstruction Era?
After the Civil War, the Reconstruction period began wherein enslaved Africans were “free” per the 14th Amendment to the Constitution but the former enslaved and descendants experienced continued discrimination and injustice.
The southerners during the Reconstruction Era banned African Americans from their establishments, lynched African Americans, and denied African Americans access to voting and the courts.
When was the Civil Rights Era? The Civil Rights era was about 100 years after the Civil War.
About 100 years after the Civil War, a social reform gained momentum with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was against federal law to discriminate against a person on the basis of their race. The “separate but equal” segregation mentality was no longer sanctioned by the government.
In 2020, the continued racial inequality received increased attention after mass protests.
The government is encouraged to address the racial inequality to maintain its place as leader of the free world.
The American Colonies sought independence after they claimed the British’s Stamp Tax infringed on their freedoms. Many immigrants have since come to The United States for the alluring freedoms and opportunities. Remember to secure your legal rights, including trademarks, to avoid infringements and utilize the legal advantages of The United States’ laws.
So what are the main legal rights for businesses? What do you need to run a business? The 4 main areas of business law are business formation, contracts, copyrights, and trademarks.
What does business formation mean?
Business formation means forming an entity to conduct business instead of conducting it personally in your own name.
The major benefit is that your personal assets can be separated from the company’s assets. For example, if you get sued, a creditor can only recover from the business’s bank accounts or assets (instead of your personal bank account and/or personal home). There are exceptions this if you commingle funds between the personal and business accounts.
What contracts do you need for a business?
Every business needs contracts. There are several contracts that businesses often need.
Businesses often need operating agreements. Operating agreements explain the rules for the company. For example, the operating agreement can set out the terms for voting on procedures, dissolving, repaying loans, issuing stocks, and more.
Independent Contractor Agreements
Independent contractor agreements are common contracts that businesses use. Independent contractor agreements are contracts between the company and a third-party hired to perform a service for the company.
For example, a company can use an independent contractor agreement if it hires a graphic designer to create a logo for the company. The independent contractor agreement will contain all the necessary terms of the agreement, including, the term length, payment, choice of law, and what to do if there is a dispute.
Service Agreements are another popular contract that businesses use. Service agreements are also called Client Agreements.
A business uses a service agreement if someone hires the business for a service. A business uses service agreements for its own clients.
Service agreements are important because it clearly lays out the terms and the clients understand what to expect.
Written agreements and servicing agreements are important to enforcing payment terms. In Florida, a court will not enforce an agreement over $500 if it is not in writing. This concept is known as the Statute of Frauds.
Non-Disclosure Agreements are often used by companies in their hiring packets. An employer can also have an employee sign a non-disclosure agreement after the employee has been hired under certain conditions.
Non-Disclosure Agreements protect a business' confidential information from being revealed to the public, and especially the business' competitors.
Confidential information can be marketing strategies, customer lists, pricing strategies, and secret formulas.
Copyrights are an important aspect of a business.
According to the U.S. Copyright Office:
Copyright is a type of intellectual property that protects original works of authorship as soon as an author fixes the work in a tangible form of expression. In copyright law, there are a lot of different types of works, including paintings, photographs, illustrations, musical compositions, sound recordings, computer programs, books, poems, blog posts, movies, architectural works, plays, and so much more!
A business should protect its social media posts, blogs, and website, by registering its copyrights.
Copyright rights attach automatically but registering the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office comes with additional benefits like statutory damages and attorneys fees.
Remember never to take an image from the internet without confirming that you have permission or that you can use it otherwise.
Lastly, trademarks are a vital part of a business. A trademark is a brand identifier. A trademark can be a name, logo, slogan, or design.
The trademark process is two steps. First, a business should always conduct a trademark clearance search to determine whether the mark it wants to use is not already taken by someone else. The desired mark cannot be too similar to another mark or the business could be sued for trademark infringement. A different spelling can still result in a lawsuit for trademark infringement.
Second, after the business analyzes its mark in a trademark clearance search, the business should file an application with the USPTO to register its trademark.
Registered trademark owners receive additional benefits:
First, a registered trademark can prevent and preclude others from copying your trademark. You are going to spend money, time, and resources promoting your marks and your business. Someone else should not be able to ride on the coattails of your hard work. Protect your investments.
Second, a registered trademark can save a business owner money on legal fees in the future. A registered trademark establishes certain presumptions in a lawsuit that would otherwise have to be established by a party to the lawsuit. The more work it takes to establish a presumption means the more money you have to pay an attorney to establish that presumption for you. A trademark helps to skip that step and therefore helps to avoid extra money you would have to pay your lawyer at a trial. Moreover, the due diligence search helps reduce the risk of being sued for infringing on another brand.
The third major benefit to having a trademark is that a proprietor and their business can more efficiently expand their brand. The USPTO will not grant registration if a mark is too similar to another mark. That means that you might not be able to expand your business into a new category if you do not register the name/design and someone else does. For example, if you do not register your marketing company's name and someone else registers the same name for an SEO platform, you could be prevented from using that name for your future SEO platform.
As we celebrate this Independence Day, let us remember to also protect our business' legal rights to help ensure that our businesses are on a fair and equitable grounds.
If you have any questions, please contact Attorney Melissa Ramnauth anytime at https://www.mdgrlaw.com/contact-us.