One of the most common focuses on the primary profit-generating activities of a business, for example:. There are many other divisions and subdivisions of businesses. Most businesses must accomplish similar functions regardless of size, legal structure or industry. These functions are often organized into departments. Common departments include but are not limited to :. Management is sometimes listed as a "department" but typically refers to the top level of leadership within the business regardless of their functional role.
Understanding Soft Intellectual Property
Most legal jurisdictions specify the forms that a business can take, and a body of commercial law has developed for each type. Some common types include partnerships, corporations also called limited liability companies , and sole proprietorships. Many businesses are operated through a separate entity such as a corporation, limited partnership or limited liability company.
Most legal jurisdictions allow people to organize such an entity by filing certain charter documents with the relevant Secretary of State or equivalent and complying with certain other ongoing obligations. The relationships and legal rights of shareholders, limited partners, or members, as the case may be, are governed partly by the charter documents and partly by the law of the jurisdiction where the entity is organized. Generally speaking, shareholders in a corporation, limited partners in a limited partnership, and members in a limited liability company are shielded from personal liability for the debts and obligations of the entity, which is legally treated as a separate "person.
Where two or more individuals own a business together but have failed to organize a more specialized form of vehicle, they will be treated as a simple USA: general partnership. The terms of a partnership will be partly governed by a partnership agreement if one is created, and partly by the law of the jurisdiction where the partnership is located.
No paperwork or filing is necessary to create a partnership, and without an agreement, the relationships and legal rights of the partners will be entirely governed by the law of the jurisdiction where the partnership is located. A single person who owns and runs a business is commonly known as a sole proprietor, whether he or she owns it directly or through a formally organized entity. Most commercial transactions are governed by a very detailed and well-established body of rules that have evolved over a very long period of time, it being the case that governing trade and commerce was a strong driving force in the creation of law and courts in Western civilization.
As for other laws that regulate or impact businesses, in many countries it is all but impossible to chronicle them all in a single reference source.
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There are laws governing treatment of labor and generally relations with employees, safety and protection issues OSHA or Health and Safety , anti-discrimination laws age, gender, disabilities, race, and in some jurisdictions, sexual orientation , minimum wage laws, union laws, workers compensation laws, and annual vacation or working hours time.
In some specialized businesses, there may also be licenses required, either due to special laws that govern entry into certain trades, occupations or professions, which may require special education, or by local governments who just want your money.
Professions that require special licenses run the gamut from law and medicine to flying airplanes to selling liquor to radio broadcasting to selling investment securities to selling used cars to roofing. Local jurisdictions may also require special licenses and taxes just to operate a business without regard to the type of business involved. Some businesses are subject to ongoing special regulation.
Understanding Soft Intellectual Property
These industries include, for example, public utilities, investment securities, banking, insurance, broadcasting, aviation, and health care providers. Environmental regulations are also very complex and can impact many kinds of businesses in unexpected ways. When businesses need to raise money called 'capital' , more laws come into play.
A highly complex set of laws and regulations govern the offer and sale of investment securities the means of raising money in most Western countries. These regulations can require disclosure of a lot of specific financial and other information about the business and give buyers certain remedies. Because "securities" is a very broad term, most investment transactions will be potentially subject to these laws, unless a special exemption is available. Capital may be raised through private means, by public offer IPO on a stock exchange, or in many other ways.
Most countries with capital markets have at least one. Business that have gone "public" are subject to extremely detailed and complicated regulation about their internal governance such as how executive officers' compensation is determined and when and how information is disclosed to the public and their shareholders.
Other Western nations have comparable regulatory bodies. As noted at the beginning, it is impossible to enumerate all of the types of laws and regulations that impact on business today.
In fact, these laws have become so numerous and complex, that no business lawyer can learn them all, forcing increasing specialization among corporate attorneys. No single contractor has the full recipe; each is tasked to prepare only parts of the classic blend. The company has kept the secret for over a century by purportedly storing it in a vault in downtown Atlanta, and restricting access to only a handful of executives. Coca Cola could have patented the formula, but that would only give the company twenty years of exclusivity rights to their classic taste.
Instead the formula is locked up, literally and indefinitely. A well-kept trade secret could theoretically last forever. But there is a risk. Unlike with patents, it is perfectly legal to reverse engineer and copy a trade secret. A patent lasts only 20 years, but during that period, the protection is far stronger: independent invention is no defense in a patent suit.
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They claimed to have succeeded in mare urine extraction where others had failed. This, of course, represented a serious threat to a hugely profitable product. If the horse ranchers had indeed been independently and honestly lucky in their discovery, Wyeth would have lost its market dominance.
Such was not the case. The court issued a sweeping and devastating judgment against these new competitors, ordering a permanent stop to the use of the trade secret. Patents and trade secrets present opposing choices. Trade secrets derive their legal protection from their inherently secret nature. Patents, by contrast, can only be protected through public disclosure. In fact, a patent will be invalidated if the inventor refrains from describing important details.
This requirement, called enablement , requires a patentee to disclose enough information for others to use the invention after the patent has expired. Budget constraints and the costs for filing a patent force a smart evaluation of your options.
Has Your Business Been Damaged by Misused or Stolen Trade Secrets?
When facing the choice of patenting or hiding a valuable innovation, you must first ask yourself whether the invention is patentable at all. Does is it meet the legal requirements of non-obviousness, novelty, and usefulness to be granted a patent? Even if it does, ask yourself:. The answers to these questions are company- and invention-specific. A company that has high turnover among its employees and that uses a range of partners in its production process might rightly fear going the path of trade secrets.
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Importantly, as with Premarin, trade secret law and patent law can coexist. Different forms of intellectual property rights can be used to protect valuable information. Patents often protect the broad concept, while trade secrets protect the production details.