Just filmed a new YouTube Channel Trailer with JVR Productions

Hi, folks.  I just had a film shoot with JVR Productions and will have some new content to share in the near future.  Here is a link to my new YouTube channel trailer.

Please subscribe for weekly business tips on topics ranging from employment law and intellectual property protection to commercial leasing and buy-sell agreements.  Put my 30 years of legal experience to work for your business!  Thank you.

Understanding the Basics of Copyright

I received a phone call from a lady today who thought she might have a claim against Nicki Minaj for the song “Barbie Dreams”, because she thought of the idea of a singer as a Barbie Doll before the song ever came out.  So, does she have a case?

The short answer is “No”.

First, there is the practical consideration of how much money it costs to bring a lawsuit in the first place.   It can cost tens of thousands of dollars to bring a copyright infringement case like this against a recording artist.

Then, there is the additional fact  that Nicki Minaj has a record label behind her who makes money from the sale of her songs and want to defend that right, and Nicki herself is very successful financially so that she could fight you as long as you want to fight in court.

But you have to look beyond those practical considerations, to try to see whether the person may have a real case.

So I asked her some questions.  “What is it that you created?”  “Did you write it down, or how did you ‘come up with’ this concept?”

It turned out, that all she really had was the idea.  She hadn’t recorded it as a song, she hadn’t written lyrics that Nicki allegedly copied.  She hadn’t filed any copyright registration paperwork with the Library of Congress.


All she had, in reality, was her memory that she thought of this concept before Nicki Minaj turned it into a song.  As we chatted, I tried to explain to her that copyright law doesn’t extend to the protection of an idea.  We don’t want to prevent people from using useful, creative or novel ideas to make new things.  The link below describes the different things you can –  and cannot – register for copyright protection:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/102

As my intellectual property professor used to say, back when I was in law school, “You can’t copyright the number four.  People need to use that.”

The purpose of copyright law is not to take away people’s ability to express ideas.  It’s to prevent the unauthorized copying of things.

That’s why we have a different category of legal protection for truly “new” ideas – they are called patents.

So, what is copyright good for, then?  Copyright law protects against people copying the physical goods that you make and sell, such as books, paintings, clothing designs, movies on DVD, designer watches, or music files that you download from iTunes.

In order to recover damages for unlawful copying, which can be substantial, you should register your artist creations with the Copyright Office.  Doing so entitles you to “statutory damages” – this means an amount of compensation that is set down in the copyright law itself, based on the type of improper use.

The basic level of damages is between $750 and $30,000 per work, at the discretion of the court. Plaintiffs who can show willful infringement may be entitled to damages up to $150,000 per work.  Statutory damages are really useful when it may be difficult to determine how much money someone made, or diverted away from you, by selling what are essentially counterfeit goods that are copies of something that was made by you.

If you are a creative professional, and you want to learn more about how to protect your work, and whether copyrights, trademarks, patents or trade secrets are the right type of intellectual property protection for you, feel free to email me at mattvanrynesq@gmail.com, or call me at (315) 877-1741.

Too Much Retail Space Means Opportunity for Small Business Owners

I saw an interesting article that talks about how e-commerce (especially Amazon) has taken away so much business from traditional retail stores that there are bargains to be found right now for business owners.

The US has 5 times as much retail space per person as they do in Europe. Tenants have never had more leverage than they have today to get a great deal. Talk to me about your leasing needs.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardkestenbaum/2018/06/24/how-retail-real-estate-continues-to-change/#16d5a4317ae1

I have clients here in Syracuse who are located in a couple indoor shopping centers that are suffering from lack of tenants, which is a problem all over the country.

While the downside is that there is not so much foot traffic to generate walk-in customers, if you have a more “community oriented” kind of use (think health club, after-school programs like gymnastics, kickboxing, karate, community theater programs, etc.), then landlords who own these indoor malls want tenants like you – usually at a very affordable rent – just to get “live bodies” into the shopping center.

If your kids are going to be at an activity for an hour or two, what else would a parent do, aside from a little shopping? There are deals to be had out there, if you are looking for an affordable space to grow your business.

ARC Run 2018 – A Great Family Event

Hi, folks! I wanted to let you know that the ARC of Onondaga Dunkin Run 2018 will be coming up soon, on the Saturday after Labor Day at Long Branch Park.

This is a great event for the whole community – serious runners can enter the half-marathon or the 5K, while there is also a Kids’ Mile Fun-Run.  People also can walk the 5K, if you want to take it easy on your knees, like me.  LOL

I am also proud to announce that JVR Productions will be shooting a series of promotional videos that will begin airing soon on local television.  This is Jordan’s first time getting her work on TV! 

Here’s a look at the video she shot at last fall’s event:

So, if you want to have a great time while helping a great cause, sign up for the ARC Race at this link:

ARC Run 2018 – Sign Up Here 

Obtaining a Trademark Can Be a Challenge Sometimes

I recently finished up a trademark application for a client who manufactures security equipment in a foreign country. 

From the time of the original application, until it passed the 30 day “publication period” for anyone to come forward to oppose the registration of this trademark, took a total of 3 1/2 years.  You read that right; three and a half years!

But we did it!  We got the mark, and now my client is also registering it in China, Israel and the European Union, and selling their products in new markets, reaching a global audience.

 So you might wonder – why did it take so long? 

The fact of the matter is that almost every trademark application receives a letter from the trademark examiner called an “Office Action” that sets out certain “concerns” or potential issues with your application, from a likelihood of confusion with another company in the same or a similar business, whether your description of the goods or services you sell is too vague, or overly expansive, or whether the mark is displayed properly in connection with the sale of your goods and services.

Once you receive one of these office actions, that is  just the beginning of the dance.  From then on, it is up to you and your attorney to persuade the examiner that your company, product or service is worthy of protection.  It is, at heart, a negotiation. 

The client and the attorney need to be on the same page, and the client has to work with the attorney to provide accurate samples of the goods or services for sale in interstate (or international) commerce.  

Sometimes, this takes multiple letters, phone calls and submissions of specimens of the trademark in use.  You can feel like you are going in circles sometimes. 

But if you persevere, be patient and respectful of the examiner (you likely understand your client’s business a lot better than they do ….), and try to faithfully answer the examiners’ questions, you can usually obtain a positive result for the client. 

It may take time, and lots of effort, but obtaining trademark protection is one of the best things you can do to help ensure the future success of your business.

For more information about the trademark process, please watch this video, or call me at (315) 877-1741.  Thank you.

Email:  mattvanrynesq@gmail.com

Being Grateful is Essential for a Successful Business – and a Happier Life!

Why are we in business?  Why do we do what we do? 

Yes, we go to work each day to put food on the table, pay our bills and plan for the future, but isn’t there something more to life than that?  It turns out that there is.

We are all in the business of fulfilling other people’s dreams.

Your job is to deliver results for the people you serve: your clients and customers. Those are the people who put the food on your table. Gratitude is essential in business. 

But don’t just take my word for it; take a look at this article from Forbes magazine, “Why Expressing Gratitude is Good for Business and People”.

Gratitude is Good For Business

What the author, Camille Preston, tells us is that as humans, we crave positive reinforcement.  We need to give and receive thanks as part of our daily interactions to be at our best.  But the reality is that we get ten times more negative feedback during our day than the amount of positive feedback we get.

In business, it is essential that we try to give the best of ourselves to our clients, business prospects, co-workers and people in the community. 

In these challenging times, when the media makes everyone more angry and on edge, one of the most important things you can do is to try to show kindness and gratitude to those people you meet with in your everyday life. 

Make your little corner of the world a little better.  It’s good for how you feel, and it also happens to be good for business.  

Another Day, Another Rating

Hi, folks.  I just wanted to share a quick update.  I have been reviewed by other lawyers I have worked with over the years, and have received Martindale Hubbell’s “High Ethical Standing” rating.

It certainly means a lot to be recognized not just by your clients for doing good work, but to get that respect from other professionals who you have fought against in litigation, or negotiated a tough deal on a lease or a contract for your client, and still have their respect when the battle is over. 

This means a lot to me.  I fight hard for my clients, but I fight fair, and other attorneys recognize and respect that.

Protecting Your Business Ideas

Once you’ve started a new business, or once you’ve been running your business for a while, you may realize that you have a special way of delivering your service, or making your product.  There may be a special feature that you have that separates you from your competitors.

When you have a “Special Sauce” that makes your business unique, as an entrepreneur, you want to protect what it is that makes your company special.  It’s your competitive advantage.

Sometimes an advantage over competitors is something that’s sustainable, and it’s going to take someone a long time to figure out how you do what you do, or to build up a community of users, or to deconstruct just how you put your business together – where you get your raw materials, how you assemble them together in the final product, and how you get your product to market.

There are many ways to protect business ideas – you can file for patents, trademarks, copyrights, or you can protect your advantage by keeping it a secret.  Those are called “Trade Secrets”, the most famous of which is probably the recipe for Coca-Cola, which has been a trade secret for over 100 years.

If you want to learn more about how to protect your business ideas, spend a few minutes and watch this video.  Then, if you have any questions, feel free to call me at (315) 877-1741, use the “Contact Us” button at the top of the page, or email me at mattvanrynesq@gmail.com.

Protect your business ideas!  They are what makes your business special.  Let us be your guide.  Thank you.

If You Plan to Have Partners in Your New Business …

Starting a new business often requires building a team of people for the business.  Some may be outside consultants, like an accountant, a lawyer and an insurance agent. 

But other people may partner with you in running your business.  It’s easier to build something new when you have the help and experience of one or more partners. Each of you may have separate specialties that complement the other.  One person may be really good at financial management, and another may be good at customer service, or operations.

Making sure that each partner knows and understands their role is critical to your chances of success. 

One of the most important things you can do, if you are going to have partners in a business, is prepare a shareholders agreement if you are creating a corporation, or an operating agreement if you are setting up a limited liability company. 

An operating agreement or shareholders agreement will say how much money, services, expertise or equipment each partner will contribute to the new business, what everyone’s title and responsibilities are, who makes which decisions, how much of the company you each own, and any plans you may make about being able to buy out a partner in the future, or plan for your retirement.

If you need help setting up your new business, please feel free to call me at (315) 877-1741, email me at mattvanrynesq@gmail.com, or fill out the Contact form at the link above.  Thanks very much.

Negotiating a Commercial Lease or Developing a Site?

When you are starting a new business, or moving your business to a new location because you are expanding, it’s critically important to get the right location, and have a favorable lease agreement with your landlord.

I have been negotiating commercial leases , construction loans, brokerage agreements and commercial development work for over 25 years.  In that time, I have worked on restaurant leases, storefronts in strip malls and shopping centers, and agreements for everything from anchor tenants to kiosks and out parcel development.

I have worked on Payment in Lieu of Taxes (“PILOT”) economic development agreements, where, if you are a developer, you use your property taxes for the site to help pay for development costs that benefit the community – usually this consists of highway improvements, turn signals, storm drainage and things of this nature.  By re-allocating tax dollars for these expenses, you can greatly decrease your overall costs of site development.

From the tenant perspective, I have negotiated leases for one of the largest shopping center developers in the Northeast and learned all the tricks and traps to avoid, in order to get lease terms to give you the best chance for success, while containing your overall risk, if your business doesn’t perform as well as you hope.

If I can be of assistance to you with your commercial real estate matter, please feel free to call me at (315) 877-1741, or send me a message on the Contact page at the link above.  Thank you, and good luck with your business.