Sunday, August 26, 2012

Los Angeles California Estate Planning Blog

Because my practice is a mix of serving small businesses and families, I am separating these two facets of law into separate blogs, so that going forward posts of interest to entrepreneurs and businesses will continue to be posted here, posts concerning estate planning, wills, trusts, etc. will be posted at my new Los Angeles Estate Planning Blog. The first post on trust protectors is up now. For now, past articles on estate planning will remain here, but I may migrate or duplicate these to the new blog at some point.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

When to Update Your Estate Plan

A recent Forbes article written by Deborah L. Jacobs serves as a helpful reminder as to when one may want to consider updating an existing estate plan:
These documents, along with the rest of your estate plan, should be reviewed at least every five years–more often if there is a change in the law, your finances or personal circumstances. The following important developments may require action on your part.

Estate Planning: Choosing A Guardian for Your Children

Choosing a guardian for one's children is but one consideration and purpose of estate planning. According to Forbes, Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, who died in 2012, and his wife, struggled with the issue and reached what appears to have been a compromise solution. Because Yauch and his wife used a trust in their estate planning, most of the rest of the details of their estate plan remain private.

"A guardian’s responsibilities range from the mundane to the monumental: everything from tying shoelaces and drying tears to selecting schools and medical care. Like Yauch, you should designate more than one person, so if your top choice is not available, your second preference is clear.

While you’re at it, you’ll probably want a testamentary trust (one created by your will at your death) to hold any assets you’re leaving minor children. In some states, if you have not made arrangements for both functions, the court will appoint a separate person to deal with the child’s money."

Yauch's will also prohibits the use of his image or music in advertising, but portions of these provisions he handwrote into his will may not be valid.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Misleading Trademark Solicitations (USPTO)

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is now warning trademark applicants and registrants about misleading solicitations sent by private companies based on the publicly available information contained in trademark office filings. Some of these solicitations offer legitimate, albeit possibly unwanted, duplicitative, and confusing commercial offerings, while others seek to profit by deception. The safest course of action for trademark applicants and owners is to refer any communications to your trademark attorney. The text of the warning, which is being provided by the USPTO to all new registrants:
WARNING: Non-USPTO Solicitations That May Resemble Official USPTO Communications

Be aware that private companies not associated with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) often use trademark application and registration information from the USPTO’s databases to mail or e-mail trademark-related solicitations. Trademark applicants and registrants continue to submit a significant number of inquiries and complaints to the USPTO about such solicitations, which may include offers: (1) for legal services; (2) for trademark monitoring services; (3) to record trademarks with U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and (4) to “register” trademarks in the company’s own private registry.

These companies may use names that resemble the USPTO name, including, for example, the terms "United States" or “U.S.” Increasingly, some of the more unscrupulous companies attempt to make their solicitations mimic the look of official government documents rather than the look of a typical commercial or legal solicitation by emphasizing official government data like the USPTO application serial number, the registration number, the International Class(es), filing dates, and other information that is publicly available from USPTO records. Many refer to other government agencies and sections of the U.S. Code. Most require “fees” to be paid.

Some applicants and registrants have reported paying fees to these private companies, mistakenly thinking that they were paying required fees to the USPTO. So, be sure to read trademark-related communications carefully before making a decision about whether to respond. All official correspondence will be from the “United States Patent and Trademark Office” in Alexandria, VA, and if by e-mail, specifically from the domain “”

If you receive a trademark-related solicitation that you believe is deceptive, you may file an on-line consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), at Although the FTC does not resolve individual consumer complaints, it may institute, as the nation’s consumer protection agency, investigations and prosecutions based on widespread complaints about particular companies or business practices.

The USPTO encourages recipients of misleading communications to contact the USPTO about them by emailing When notifying us about a misleading communication, please also:

Include a copy of the misleading communication (including the envelope it came in) if available;
Indicate whether the recipient thought the communication was an official U.S. government communication or had to ask an attorney or the USPTO whether it was legitimate;
Indicate whether fees were mistakenly paid in response to the communication and, if so, provide a copy of the cancelled check. Please also specify what services, if any, were provided in exchange for the payment made.

This document is an example of a private company solicitation about which we have received numerous recent complaints. We contacted the company (which was doing business under the name “United States Trademark Registration Office”) and have received assurance that this company has, as of March 12, 2012, ceased sending solicitations under that name. If you have received a solicitation from this company after March 12, 2012, please let us know at the above-listed email address