Articles Posted in Small Business

DRIVERLESS CARS: THE FUTURE OF PRODUCT LIABILITY LITIGATION?201606_TE_CAR_090-header-300x225

 Any business that will contribute to the production of driverless vehicles must give serious thought to the risk of products-liability lawsuits. And that includes suppliers, even of minor parts. We may think of driverless cars as a phenomenon of the future, but that future is closer than you think.

“Driverless car” is generally defined as a vehicle which, for most of a journey, will take charge of steering, accelerating, indicating, and braking. For the near future, the technology is intended only to assist the driver, not to replace him. It is expected that the driver will be able to take control of the “driverless” vehicle at any time.

Are Employee Non-Compete Agreements Still Valid for Low-Level Employees? Non-Compete-Clause-e1417451038467-300x171

Non-compete arguments are staple in every Chicago Business Lawyer’s legal arsenal and a necessary to protect a business under certain circumstances.  A non-compete agreement, also known as a non-competition covenant or clause, is an agreement between an employer and an employee that places restrictions on the employee after the employment relationship ends.  Non-compete agreements can be useful tools for businesses that want to protect their investment in the training and development of their staff.  Typically, these agreements restrict former employees from working for certain competitors for a specified period of time.  Although Illinois courts tend to dislike non-competes, courts will enforce a non-compete agreement if drafted property.

When considering the enforceability of non-compete agreements, Illinois courts look to see if the agreement is reasonable and supported by adequate consideration.  In particular, when determining the reasonableness of a non-compete, the court considers whether the terms of the agreement are no more than what is required to protect the legitimate business interest of the employer, and narrowly tailored in terms of time, activity and place.

electronicsignature-222x300Are Digital Contracts Legal?

If you are a Chicago business owner who is over the age of thirty, you remember the days of paper contracts that were typed and then snail mailed before they were revised, retyped and then mailed again.  Once the final terms were agreed upon, the parties signed the original paper document, sometimes by coming together to sign and have signatures authenticated by a notary.

While written contracts were not necessary or even preferred in every business situation, the days of paper contracts for most types of transactions are fading into the Illinois sunset.  In the digital era, electronic contracts with electronic signatures are the norm except in those areas that the statute of frauds[1] requires in writing such as a transfer of land, a Will or a contract where performance cannot be completed in one year. If your small business is not using electronic contracts and signatures on a daily or weekly basis, you may want to consider consulting with a Chicago business lawyer who is familiar with the laws and regulations affecting electronic records and signatures and can confirm that your company is in full compliance.

crowdfunding-620x480-300x232What is Equity Crowdfunding?  Is this the Future of Raising Investment Capital?

It seems that while nearly everyone  has heard of crowdfunding, the concept of equity crowdfunding is not as well known but is gaining traction.  For those Chicago business owners that are new to this developing area, prior to May 2016 crowdfunding was available only to accredited investors (those with an annual income of at least $200,000 or a net worth of more than 1 million, not including the value of a primary residence).  Although the 2012 federal Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act[1] (JOBS) provided for non-accredited investors, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) did not authorize equity crowdfunding to begin until May 2016.

Since that time, Article III of the JOBS Act has seen 49 successful offerings with 11.5 million dollars committed according to a November 17, 2016, Forbes report[2] on the state of equity crowdfunding.  While the report suggests that the large majority of startups are not yet using non-accredited crowdfunding under Title III, it is anticipated that equity investment platforms will see tremendous growth moving forward.

CAUTION! WATCH OUT FOR THESE WAGE-AND-HOUR PITFALLSmoneycalculator-300x201

The U.S. Department of Labor has been cracking down on wage and hour infractions, and it may be time to review your overtime procedures and policies–it is all too easy to violate wage and hour regulations unwittingly.

Sometimes DOL complaints seem trivial. We lawyers have a saying–the “de minims” rule, which says “some things are too trivial to merit consideration.”

Aerial-fall-Lincolnpark-300x158Blockchain and Chicago Businesses

In September of 2015, the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software and Society’s World Economic Forum[1] predicted that by 2025, 10% of GDP will be stored on blockchains or blockchain related technology.  If you are a Chicago business owner and you are unsure what that means or how it might affect your company, you want to speak to a Chicago business attorney as soon as possible to learn all that you can about this rapidly growing technology.

What Is Blockchain Technology?

equitycrowdfundingEquity Crowdfunding – The Future of Investing?

While nearly everyone has heard of crowdfunding, the concept of equity crowdfunding is not as well known.  For those Chicago business owners that are new to this developing area, prior to May 2016, crowdfunding was available only to accredited investors or those with an annual income of at least $200,000 or a net worth of more than 1 million, not including the value of a primary residence. Although the 2012 federal Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act[1] (JOBS) provided for non-accredited investors, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) did not authorize equity crowdfunding to begin until May 2016.

Since that time, Article III of the JOBS Act has seen 49 successful offerings with 11.5 million dollars committed according to a November 17, 2016, Forbes report[2] on the state of equity crowdfunding. While the report suggests that the large majority of startups are not yet using non-accredited crowdfunding under Title III, it is anticipated that equity investment platforms will see tremendous growth moving forward.

ransomwareThe Democratic National Committee is not the only victim of computer hacking[1].  In June of 2016, Bloomberg[2] reported on black market access to 70,000 hacked corporate and business servers.  Even LinkedIn was victimized by computer hackers[3] who obtained 117 million passwords.

To further complicate things, these types of cyber attacks oftentimes have a global connection.  On September 28, 2016, one of the FBI’s former most wanted hackers[4] pleaded guilty to conspiring to receive extortion proceeds and illegally accessing computers.  Peter Romar, who had been arrested in Germany and extradited to the United States, was a member of a hacking group known as the Syrian Electronic Army.  The group hacked into the computer systems of The Washington Post, CNN, the Associated Press, Harvard University and many others, then threatened to cause damage or sell data unless the business paid a ransom.

Types of Ransomware