North America

Trademark protection in the new domain frontier

My January 2011 column addressed the importance of trademark protection for names of PR firms. This topic is particularly important now, due to two new developments involving domain names. PR agencies that have not already filed a federally registered trademark in the name of their firm now have an added reason to do so.

The worldwide Internet domain name system is coordi- nated by a nonprofit entity called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN recently implemented two new domain name suffixes known as generic top-level domains (gTLDs). Perhaps the most familiar gTLDs are “.com,” “.org,” “.net,” and “.edu.” ICANN just introduced two new suffixes – .XXX gTLD and the unique or branded gTLD, in addition to the familiar and traditional suffixes previously mentioned.

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Tax Alert: IRS rolls out worker classification program…

Does your business have an independent contractor issue?

There has been significant focus by the IRS and other governmental agencies over the last few years on whether businesses are appropriately characterizing workers as employees or independent contractors.  The IRS has unveiled a new voluntary compliance program to help businesses that have improperly classified their workers as independent contractors.  Under this program, employers who voluntarily change the classification of their workers from independent contractors to employees will essentially not be penalized and will not be subject to audit for prior years.  The terms of this new program are very favorable and should be considered by any business that has an independent contractor whose status as such is questionable.

To qualify for this program, the business must:

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Ohio Statehouse Update: Week in review — September 23, 2011

1. Governor holds Energy & Economic Summit

Governor Kasich this week held his 21st Century Energy & Economic Summit at The Ohio State University, produced by Battelle Memorial Institute. The Governor criticized the federal government for not having an energy policy and said that the Summit was meant to be the beginning of a comprehensive, jobs-friendly energy policy for Ohio. He indicated that he would not favor one energy industry over another, noting that some reporters have tried to get him to say that he would like to do away with the renewable energy standards included in Senate Bill 221 from the 127th General Assembly, which require that 25 percent of the state’s electricity come from alternative energy sources by 2025. The Governor said that the state needs wind and solar energy, but that they must be realistic about the cost and availability of these sources.

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Labor Board Takes Another Step into Management Decision Making

By: James S. Frank and D. Martin Stanberry (Admission Pending)

On August 23, 2011, the National Labor Relations Board (“Board”) ruled that a hospital whose nurses are represented by a union does not have the authority to unilaterally implement an employee flu vaccination program because, in the Board’s view, ensuring patient safety is not a core purpose of the enterprise.  Virginia Mason Hospital, 357 N.L.R.B. No. 53 (August 23, 2011).  Specifically, the Board rejected the employer’s reliance on what is known as the “Peerless defense,” and held that the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) prohibits a hospital from implementing public safety programs without first bargaining over the proposal with a union that represents its employees.

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Get Ready for the Summary of Benefits Coverage under PPACA

On March 23, 2012, another requirement under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the “Act”)  will be effective-the requirement to provide group health plan participants and beneficiaries with a summary of benefits coverage that accurately describes the benefits and coverage available under the plan and a uniform glossary of terms (“SBC”).  These requirements were incorporated under the Internal Revenue Code and ERISA (in addition to existing summary plan description requirements).  Under currently proposed regulations, health insurance issuers will also be required to provide this type of information to group health plan sponsors at the time of application or request for information regarding coverage within seven days of the request (including an obligation to update such information should it change); this information must also be provided upon renewal (30 days in advance of a new policy year in a case of an automatic renewal).  

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is seeking public comments on proposed amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (the Rule), which gives parents control over what personal information websites may collect from children under 13 years of age.

Specifically, the Rule imposes certain requirements on operators of websites or online services directed to children under 13 years of age and operators of websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information online from children under 13 years of age (collectively, operators). Among other items, the Rule requires that operators provide notice to parents and obtain their verifiable consent prior to collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from children under 13 years of age.

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Mergers and Acquisition Alert: Changes to Hart-Scott Rodino filing requirements…

Recently adopted changes to the notification requirements under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Anti-trust Improvements Act of 1976 (“HSR”) will likely substantially increase the quantity of information and documentation which must be submitted to the federal government in connection with certain merger and acquisition transactions. These changes will require M&A transaction parties to plan carefully for possible HSR filings during the initial stages of the transaction process in order to avoid possible delays while awaiting clearance of the transaction from the federal government.


Overview of HSR

HSR requires parties considering a merger or acquisition of a certain size to prepare and file a notification regarding the transaction to the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”). Any transaction that involves:

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Estate Planning Alert: Attention executors and beneficiaries: more time….

Estate tax return deadlines deferred

After months of uncertainty as to Estate Tax filings for decedent’s who died before December 17, 2010, the day the President signed the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (TRUIRJCA-covered in prior alerts and referred to “the Act”), the IRS announced on September 13, 2011 that the normal six month extension of time to file Form 706-US Estate Tax Return will be available with an extension of time to pay the estate tax that would be due. The due date for the Form 706 for those decedents had been set by the Act as September 19, 2011, nine months after enactment and later than the normal due date for all decedent’s who died before December 17, 2010. Normally, the estimated estate tax must be paid with the request for the extension of time to file.

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Environmental Alert: The President abandons a tighter Ozone Standard: What it means

What it means

On Friday afternoon, September 2, 2011 of Labor Day weekend, President Obama made a surprising announcement. His administration decided to abandon the proposed tightened Ozone Standard by which we measure the country’s air quality, thereby suggesting that the haze in those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer would be with us at current levels for two more years. Environmental groups saw the President’s decision as a betrayal and capitulation to congressional and business pressures. Business and manufacturing groups saw the decision as the only logical choice in a job-strapped economy.


What is the Ozone Standard?

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Settling an FLSA Collective Action? Not So Fast!

By:  Amy Traub and Christine Fletcher

Once a settlement has been reached in an FLSA collective action, the defendant-employer typically wants that settlement to go into effect and end the case as soon as possible, so that the company can get past the myriad of distractions brought by the suit. However, as litigants increasingly are finding, the parties’ agreement to settle an FLSA collective action is nowhere near the end of the road, or the end of the case. There is a “judicial prohibition” against the unsupervised waiver or settlement of claims brought under the FLSA. Settlements must be “supervised” by the Department of Labor or a court, and gone are the days where the court would rubberstamp the parties’ FLSA collective action settlement agreement. Instead, courts nowadays are scrutinizing the settlement to ensure the “fairness” of the agreement.

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