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Innovative Legal Strategies

Howard County MD Business Law Blog

HP sued by MicroTech over software transactions

Maryland investors may have heard about a legal dispute that has developed between Hewlett-Packard and Autonomy. HP acquired the British software company in 2011 for approximately $11 billion, but the value of the company has subsequently been written down amid allegations of impropriety. HP filed a $5 billion lawsuit against Autonomy in the British High Court in April 2015. The lawsuit claims that the Autonomy's founders misrepresented transactions in order to make the company appear more profitable.

The legal dispute escalated on May 18 when MicroTech filed a breach of contract lawsuit against HP in California, seeking damages of $16.5 million. The company claims that it paid Autonomy $11 million in 2010 and $7 million in 2011 but never received the software keys necessary to complete the transactions with their end users. An attorney representing the Virginia-based company said that MicroTech wants HP Autonomy to either provide the software as agreed or refund the money.

Conducting annual business planning in Maryland

Many entrepreneurs only take the time to draft a business plan when they are preparing to start their company or seek funding. Going through the process of business planning on an annual basis may actually be a better idea, however.

Conducting annual business planning can help business owners to better identify problems and future threats to their business, helping the owners develop strategies for correcting them before they can cause damage. In doing the business planning, people should engage in an analysis of the business's strengths, weaknesses, potential opportunities and potential threats, then writing goals and estimating costs.

Damages available after a breach of contract in Maryland

When one party fails to live up to the terms of a contract, that party is said to have breached the contract. When a contract is breached, the non-breaching party has several remedies at its disposal. One option is to cancel the contract and another is to ask for restitution. If the contract is cancelled, neither party has any further obligation to the other. If the non-breaching party decides to seek restitution, the breaching party would have to pay to put the other party back to the position it was in prior to the breach.

There are several different types of damages that may be awarded to the non-breaching party. For instance, nominal damages are awarded when breach occurs but there is no evidence that a monetary loss occurred. Compensatory and liquidated damages aim to put the non-breaching party in roughly the same position that they were in before the breach occurred. In the event of a severe breach, punitive damages may be awarded on top of any other damages sought in court.

Workers prioritize jobs over filing sexual harassment suits

Despite discrimination laws prohibiting workplace sexual harassment, it remains a widespread problem in Maryland and across the country. The employment and education vice president at the National Women's Law Center testified in January to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that a majority of such cases are never reported because the victims are more worried about possible retaliation or losing their jobs if they file complaints.

One out of every four female workers is a sexual harassment victim, and the problem is pervasive in a range of jobs, o ften within male-dominated industries. One workplace discrimination attorney says that many employees are afraid of reprisal if they complain, such as whether they could find another job, particularly if their jobs are in certain industries.

Dealing with workplace harassment and discrimination

Maryland employers that are designing policies around harassment and discrimination may wish to inform employees about the best way to report such behavior. For example, employees should know that it is crucial to document any harassment or discrimination in as much detail as possible. This may include gathering material such as emails and voicemail. Individuals should be encouraged to turn over all the evidence they have despite discomfort about bringing witnesses into the case.

Although gathering evidence to back the claims is important, individuals should not delay reporting the harassment. Doing so might appear to minimize the incidents. Furthermore, witnesses may leave the company and records may disappear as email is deleted off the server.

Identifying online investment scams

People in Maryland who are interested in starting their own Internet business may be lured in by advertisements for online business opportunities. Although these advertisements may sound promising at first glance, potential investors should beware that many of them could be scams. Understanding some of the tactics that scammers use could help a person to avoid wasting their money.

Though it may be different than owning a physical store location, an Internet business requires hard work and extensive planning just like any other type of business venture. An email offer, infomercial, flyer or seminar that promises investors they can start a highly profitable online business with very little effort is probably too good to be true. Any pitch that guarantees high profits is also likely to be a scam, as a real business venture always involves some risk.

Taking a company public with an IPO

Many Maryland entrepreneurs hope to grow their businesses to the point where going public becomes a realistic option. Becoming a publicly traded company has many advantages, but putting together an initial public offering can be both prohibitively expensive and very time consuming. Figures provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration reveal that relatively few companies are able to launch a successful IPO. Entrepreneurs should also understand that public companies are not able to operate with the same degree of flexibility as private enterprises.

An IPO requires careful business planning and in most cases the services of an investment bank. Finding a suitable banking partner is crucial, and entrepreneurs should seek out an investment firm that has previously worked on IPOs for similar sized businesses. Investors must also be given a good reason to buy shares, and annual growth rates of less than 20 percent are unlikely to draw much interest. More information about the process can be obtained from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Understanding the different types of seperation

Maryland residents who might be having marital problems may be interested in how separation. Unlike divorce, a couple that is legally separated is still married, but a number of issues that are common in divorce proceedings might also be discussed in separation orders. Such things as property division, child custody and maintenance, and support obligations might all be included in separation proceedings.

There are also a number of different types of arrangements beyond legal separation and divorce. For example, some couples might opt for permanent separation. Under this arrangement, debts or assets accumulated by the married individuals may be considered separate property when a divorce occurs. Other couples might also choose to live separately. These arrangements may be common in jurisdictions that require a separation period before a couple might file for a no-fault divorce.

How serious illness can influence divorce rates

Maryland residents will likely be aware that a serious illness can place a great deal of strain on a marriage. However, they may be surprised to learn that the chances of a divorce only appear to increase if it is the wife who becomes sick. Researchers noticed this after looking at how cancer, lung disease, heart ailments and strokes affected 2,701 marriages, but they were unable to determine if it was the husband or wife who decided to seek a divorce.

The findings of the study looking into the relationship between serious illnesses and divorce were released in March 2015 and published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. While the rate of divorce increased by 6 percent when wives became sick, there was no corresponding higher divorce rate among couples when the husband developed a serious illness. Researchers at Purdue and Iowa State University speculate that ailing wives may seek divorce because they are unhappy with the quality of the care provided by their husbands.

Legal pitfalls new business owners should avoid

Entrepreneurs and small business owners in Maryland may be knowledgeable in their fields, but they may know less about the legal side of setting up a business. Pitfalls like failing to research ideas for business names and products may be easy to avoid, but new owners may not be aware of them. For example, being aware of other companies' trademarks might help avoid a lawsuit or costly name change.

It can also be important that business owners create a separate legal and financial entity. This protects the owner's personal assets in case of a business bankruptcy or legal troubles. In addition to creating a corporation or LLC, business owners should set up a separate business bank account and avoid mixing business and personal banking. This is important whether a new small business has 10 employees or is simply one individual offering consulting or other services from their home. More than 40 percent of small businesses faced an actual or threatened lawsuit in 2011, so even business owners who think the likelihood of such a situation is small may benefit from taking such precautions.