Wednesday, November 7th, is our monthly Business Workshop and Networking Event

Wednesday, November 7th, is our monthly Business Workshop and Networking Event

This Wednesday, November 7th, from 5:30pm to around 7pm, we will be hosting our Millennials Who Work (For Themselves) meetup at Growler USA (upstairs) located at 314 S. Blount St in downtown Raleigh (City Market).

Join us on Wednesday for a Business Startup Social

Join us on Wednesday for a Business Startup Social

We will be reconnecting after summer break to network and talk about business.  So, if you are a small business owner or thinking about starting your own business come out to Growler USA this Wednesday.

Guest Blog! [How To] Successfully Start Your Own Business by the Founder of BMUR Branding Group

Guest Blog! [How To] Successfully Start Your Own Business by the Founder of BMUR Branding Group

The founder of BMUR Branding Group discusses ten tips and tricks for successfully starting your own business.  

A Christmas Miracle? Overtime Reform on Pause... (For Now)

Last week, a Federal district court judge in Texas ordered a preliminary injunction against the Department of Labor's Overtime Reform set to take effect on December 1, 2016.  For many of you, this is the Christmas/Holiday miracle you were waiting for.  For others, it's a reminder that overtime reform remains a controversial topic and is still not a sure thing.  Here is some key information you should know (and some thoughts for the future).

So I did all that Overtime Reform planning for nothing?!

Maybe, maybe not. The federal case that led to this preliminary injunction was initiated by various states challenging the Department of Labor's authority to initiate unilateral reform.  This is complicated legal stuff that will probably go through various appeals before a final decision is ordered.  In the meantime, the preliminary injunction preserves the status quo - meaning the current overtime laws remain in place until this lawsuit is played out.  This also means that December 1, 2016 deadline is meaningless for the time being. 

Remind me about the current Overtime laws, please.

Overtime is due to every non-exempt employee who works more than 40 hours in a workweek.  In order to be exempt from overtime (meaning that employee does not get overtime regardless of how many hours worked), the employee must meet the salary threshold and an exemption description/category.  The current law states that the salary threshold is $455 per week or $23,600 per year.  As to the exemption categories, we talked about some of there key ones in this blog post.  If the employee does not meet both the salary threshold and the exemption description/category, he or she is non-exempt and owed overtime if they work more than 40 hours in a workweek.  

^^ This will be the law you follow until the preliminary injunction expires and/or an alternative body of reform is initiated. 

What do I do while I wait?

Here's the deal:  regardless of what happens with this federal lawsuit, there is a strong likelihood overtime gets reformed.  It has been a pretty universal concept that overtime is in need of a makeover since it hasn't been updated in over a decade and the salary threshold no longer makes sense considering the purpose of overtime.  (Read more about the pros and cons of overtime reform here).  That said, I would continue to operate under the assumption that sometime (maybe soon) the salary threshold will increase.  Will it continue to be the 100%+ increase we saw earlier this year?  We simply do not know.  However, it can never hurt to be ahead of the curve and to start prepping for these changes by formulating a business plan to accommodate an increase in overtime recipients.  

To be continued.... 



To Trademark or Not to Trademark, That is the Question.

Is it Time to get a Trademark?

If you own a computer there’s a chance that at some point you have encountered Internet marketing (if you haven’t, I’m not real sure what you’re doing with you computer). It seems like every website I visit is pushing some sort of product or service. With so many marketers possessing an online presence, it is not uncommon for me to field questions from clients wondering what they can do to protect their brand. This is when I usually open the conversation about trademarks, and whether a trademark is a good idea for that client’s business.

In general terms, a trademark tells the consumer something about a good. It might indicate where the good originates or who produced the good. Trademarks take various shapes and sizes; they can be names, symbols, words, sounds, even the particular way a product is packaged.  Basically, trademarks evoke a brand’s reputation in the minds of consumers. The same applies for services, although the sticklers refer to trademarks for services as “servicemarks.”

What does it do, and how do you get it?

The benefit of having a trademark is that trademarks provide businesses a mechanism by which prevent other businesses from adopting confusingly similar names or marks that my potentially play off the reputation of the original business.  It takes a long time to earn a good reputation. A trademark helps prevent the new guy from coming to town and calling his brand of luxury car Nercadies. It is possible to enjoy some level of trademark protection by doing nothing. Common law trademarks protect brands in your local area. However, by choosing to file with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) trademark protections can extend nationally. 

What content is Trademarkable?

Before you can get excited about trademarking your business name or logo, there needs to be something distinctive about that name or logo. The level of protection a mark receives is linked to its level of distinctiveness.  Arbitrary or fanciful marks receive the highest level of protection. These are marks that have no logical connection to the products or services associated with them. Think: naming a computer company after fruit. The next category, which receives a lesser degree of protection, is suggestive. Suggestive marks describe the product or service they are associated with, but do so in a way that forces the consumer to make the mental connection. For Example, Greyhound describes a bus company that is fast . . . like a greyhound. The last category is descriptive. Descriptive marks simply describe the product or service. If you go to Huge-Burger, you expect the burger to be big. Unlike arbitrary, fanciful, and suggestive marks, descriptive marks do not automatically receive trademark protection. Secondary meaning must first be established, which is accomplished over time through widespread recognition of the mark.

Why Now?

A trademark is a great place to start for a business looking to protect its brand. By register a mark now, a business gives public notice across the country that the mark is in use. It’s a government approved method of saying “I was using it first, knock it off.” Additionally, evidence of a prior registered mark, is extremely beneficial should a trademark dispute arise.