Five Stories That Matter in Michigan This Week – March 22, 2024

  1. The Uniform Power of Attorney Act

The Uniform Power of Attorney Act (UPOAA or Act), 2023 PA 187, was signed into law in November 2023 and goes into effect July 1, 2024. It repeals Michigan’s current statutory law on durable powers of attorney, specifically Sections 700.5501-700.5505 of the Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC). The UPOAA is not part of EPIC, instead, it is a stand-alone statute located at MCL 556.201 et. seq.

Why it Matters: The UPOAA will apply to all powers of attorney in Michigan beginning July 1, 2024, with certain exceptions. Read more from attorney Melisa M.W. Mysliwiec.

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  1. Can an Out-of-State Patent Attorney Represent Me?

Securing a patent for an innovative idea involves maneuvering through a complex, multifaceted process. And having the right guide—patent legal counsel—is an essential part of the process. A common misconception is that a party hoping to secure a patent must turn to a local attorney for help. This belief, while understandable considering that many legal matters require local expertise and licensing, overlooks the dynamics of how things work with patent law.

Why it Matters: The truth is, in the digital age, the geographical location of your patent attorney matters less than their expertise, experience, and ability to navigate the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (“USPTO”) requirements. Learn more from attorney Andrew Martin.

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  1. Michigan CRA Publishes February Data: Average Price Decreases

Per data released by the Cannabis Regulatory Agency (CRA), the average retail price for adult-use sales of an ounce of cannabis in February was $91.94, a decrease from $93.20 in January. This is an increase from February 2023, where the average price was $86.00.

Why it Matters: While the prices of cannabis and cannabis-related products continue to decrease and make consumers happy, growers on the other hand are seeing profits decrease resulting in them seeking ways to halt new licenses to be granted in an effort to steady prices. Contact our cannabis law attorneys if you have any questions.

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  1. CRA Warns of Scam Targeting Michigan Cannabis Businesses

On March 8, the Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency (CRA) sent out an advisory bulletin warning cannabis businesses of an individual posing as an agent of the CRA demanding payment of license fees under the threat of revoking their license(s).

Why it Matters: The CRA noted, “Licensees and applicants are reminded that administrative rules require they notify the CRA and local law enforcement within 24 hours of becoming aware – or within 24 hours of when they should have been aware – of the theft or loss of any product or criminal activity at the marijuana business.”

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  1. Fraser Trebilcock Attorneys Secure Summary Disposition for Firm Client

Fraser Trebilcock attorneys Danielle Lofton and Gary C. Rogers have obtained summary disposition and dismissal of a lawsuit in favor of the firm’s client in a personal injury case pending before the Kalamazoo County Circuit Court.

Why it Matters: Attorney Lofton successfully argued the motion, convincing the trial court that the plaintiff’s injuries did not rise to the level of serious impairment of body function, following mediation in which the plaintiff, who was represented by a prominent plaintiff’s personal injury firm, rejected the settlement recommended by a mediator, and wanted to proceed to trial before a jury. Instead of accepting the mediator’s recommended settlement amount, the plaintiff will now receive nothing. Learn more.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Trusts & Estates | Melisa M.W. Mysliwiec
Intellectual Property | Andrew Martin
Cannabis Law | Sean Gallagher
Insurance Law | Danielle Lofton
Insurance Law | Gary Rogers

Five Stories That Matter in Michigan This Week – March 15, 2024

  1. Michigan Senate Passes Bill to Require Dyslexia Screening in Schools

On March 12, the Michigan Senate overwhelmingly (37-1) passed a bill that would require schools to screen all students for signs of dyslexia. It would also require programs to educate prospective teachers on dyslexia’s characteristics.

Why it Matters: This bill is part of a larger effort to improve reading in Michigan. In spring 2023, one-third of Michigan third grade students scored not-proficient in reading.

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  1. Michael E. Cavanaugh Selected as a Member of Michigan Lawyers Weekly “Hall of Fame Class of 2024”

Fraser Trebilcock attorney Michael E. Cavanaugh has been selected as a member of Michigan Lawyers Weekly “Hall of Fame Class of 2024.” This special award recognizes esteemed members of the legal profession who have been in practice for at least 30 years. “I am extremely honored to be recognized by Michigan Lawyers Weekly as a member of their Hall of Fame Class of 2024,” said Mr. Cavanaugh.

Why it Matters: Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s annual “Hall of Fame” award recognizes Michigan’s legal leaders who have been in practice for 30 years, highlighting their successful careers and valuable contributions to the community. These legendary lawyers have made their mark, either in the courtroom or the boardroom, in their law firms or legal departments, with community organizations, and with local, state and national bar associations. Read more.

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  1. Fraser Trebilcock Attorneys Secure Summary Disposition for Firm Client

Fraser Trebilcock attorneys Danielle Lofton and Gary C. Rogers have obtained summary disposition and dismissal of a lawsuit in favor of the firm’s client in a personal injury case pending before the Kalamazoo County Circuit Court.

Why it Matters: Attorney Lofton successfully argued the motion, convincing the trial court that the plaintiff’s injuries did not rise to the level of serious impairment of body function, following mediation in which the plaintiff, who was represented by a prominent plaintiff’s personal injury firm, rejected the settlement recommended by a mediator, and wanted to proceed to trial before a jury. Instead of accepting the mediator’s recommended settlement amount, the plaintiff will now receive nothing. Learn more.

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  1. Can an Out-of-State Patent Attorney Represent Me?

Securing a patent for an innovative idea involves maneuvering through a complex, multifaceted process. And having the right guide—patent legal counsel—is an essential part of the process. A common misconception is that a party hoping to secure a patent must turn to a local attorney for help. This belief, while understandable considering that many legal matters require local expertise and licensing, overlooks the dynamics of how things work with patent law.

Why it Matters: The truth is, in the digital age, the geographical location of your patent attorney matters less than their expertise, experience, and ability to navigate the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (“USPTO”) requirements. Learn more from attorney Andrew Martin.

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  1. Corporate Transparency Act ‘Unconstitutional’ says Federal District Judge

A U.S. District Court in Alabama has determined that Congress overstepped its constitutional authority in passing the Corporate Transparency Act (“CTA”) (see National Small Business United v. Yellen, No. 5:22-cv-01448 (N.D. Ala.)). The CTA requires the disclosure of the Beneficial Ownership Information (“BOI”) of millions of American corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities.

Why it Matters: In the wake of this decision, FinCEN seems to have accepted the decision but only insofar as it affects its enforcement of the CTA against the named plaintiffs. The reporting obligations for the remaining 30 million or so entities is unchanged. Time will tell if FinCEN will appeal the decision and/or how it will deal with the seemingly inevitable series of similar cases that will start filling up courts across the country. Read more from attorney Bob Burgee.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Labor, Employment & Civil Rights | Michael E. Cavanaugh
Insurance Law | Danielle Lofton
Insurance Law | Gary Rogers
Intellectual Property | Andrew Martin
Business & Tax | Robert Burgee

Can an Out-of-State Patent Attorney Represent Me?

Securing a patent for an innovative idea involves maneuvering through a complex, multifaceted process. And having the right guide—patent legal counsel—is an essential part of the process.

A common misconception is that a party hoping to secure a patent must turn to a local attorney for help. This belief, while understandable considering that many legal matters require local expertise and licensing, overlooks the dynamics of how things work with patent law.

The truth is, in the digital age, the geographical location of your patent attorney matters less than their expertise, experience, and ability to navigate the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (“USPTO”) requirements.

Understanding Legal Representation at the USPTO

When it comes to securing a patent, the role of registered patent attorneys is pivotal. Unlike the localized nuances of general legal practices, such as commercial litigation or employment law, patent law operates under a unified federal legal framework, overseen by the USPTO. This means that any attorney registered to practice before the USPTO can represent inventors nationwide, regardless of their physical location.

Becoming a registered patent attorney isn’t a simple feat. It requires specific qualifications that are vetted by the USPTO. Candidates must pass the Patent Bar Exam (a notoriously difficult test), and have a background in science or engineering. This helps ensure that registered patent attorneys have not only a deep understanding of patent law, but also the technical grounding necessary to comprehend the complexities of the invention for which a patent is sought.

This combination of legal acumen and technical expertise positions registered patent attorneys as specialized guides through the patent application process. Accordingly, when selecting a patent attorney, their registration status with the USPTO is a necessity, ensuring they possess the expertise necessary to represent your interests.

Dispelling Myths about Local Patent Representation

The belief that effective patent representation requires a local attorney is a myth rooted in traditional views of legal counsel, and the ways clients typically hire attorneys. However, when it comes to patent law, harboring this belief often limits inventors’ access to the best possible expertise. The digital age has transformed how we communicate and collaborate, making physical proximity to a service provider, such as a patent attorney, less critical than ever. In the specialized field of patent law, where the expertise of a registered patent attorney is paramount, regardless of their geographic location, this shift is particularly relevant.

One of the biggest advantages of looking beyond local options is the potential for cost savings—often referred to as “geographic arbitrage.” The fees charged by patent attorneys can vary significantly depending on their location, often reflecting the cost of living in their area. Attorneys working at big firms in metropolitan areas with higher living costs typically charge more—much more—than those in regions where the cost of living is lower. For someone like myself, who practices patent law in Lansing, Michigan, it can be shocking to see what some patent lawyers practicing in larger markets charge. Living in a lower cost of living area, allows me to charge much more reasonable rates in comparison to large markets like Chicago or D.C.

This discrepancy provides an opportunity for inventors and businesses to engage highly qualified legal representation at a more budget-friendly rate without compromising on the quality of service or expertise. By expanding the search for a patent attorney nationwide, clients can leverage these geographical cost differences to their advantage.

Moreover, the specialized nature of patent law means that finding the best match for your specific technological or industrial sector is crucial. Limiting your search to local attorneys could mean missing out on working with a professional who not only understands the intricacies of your invention but also has a proven track record of success with similar patents. The goal is to secure the most competent and effective representation for your patent application, ensuring it stands the best chance of approval by the USPTO.

Criteria for Selecting the Right Patent Attorney

Selecting a competent and qualified patent attorney is a critical step toward securing your intellectual property rights. The process can be difficult, but by focusing on a few key criteria, you can ensure that you’re making an informed decision.

    • USPTO Registration: Confirm the attorney is registered to practice before the USPTO.
    • Technical Expertise: Look for experience in your specific field of invention. An attorney with a relevant technical background may understand the technology of your invention quicker.
    • Responsiveness: The attorney should be accessible for questions and updates, and proactively keep you apprised as to the status of your matter.
    • Collaborative Approach: Seek an attorney who shows genuine interest in understanding your invention and business goals. A collaborative attorney-client relationship fosters a stronger patent strategy.
    • Value and Cost Savings: Consider the attorney’s fee structure and the potential for cost savings by selecting someone based in a smaller market.

Conclusion

A patent is not just a legal document—it’s an invaluable asset that can significantly impact the success and competitive edge of your innovation. Securing this asset with the right legal counsel is paramount. The lingering myth that effective patent counsel must be local limits your options and potentially the quality of your patent protection. In reality, the right attorney, one who brings a blend of expertise, value, and a deep understanding of your technology, may not be just around the corner. By focusing on important factors beyond proximity, you can secure representation that not only safeguards your patent but also supports your broader business objectives.

If you are interested in discussing your patent questions and legal needs, please contact Fraser Trebilcock registered patent attorney Andrew Martin.

This alert serves as a general summary and does not constitute legal guidance. Please contact us with any specific questions.


Andrew G. Martin is an experienced registered patent attorney with history working in the automotive, electrical, and agricultural industries. He regularly advises startups and small businesses on the patent and trademark prosecution process, assisting clients from start to finish. You can reach him at 517.377.0834 or at amartin@fraserlawfirm.com.

Five Stories That Matter in Michigan This Week – March 8, 2024

  1. CDC Says Five Days Isolation No Longer Necessary for COVID-19

The CDC recently updated its COVID-19 guidelines, stating that Americans who test positive for COVID-19 no longer need to stay in isolation for five days. The new guidelines provide that that people can return to work or regular activities if their symptoms are mild and improving and it’s been a day since they’ve had a fever.

Why it Matters: The change will impact COVID-19-related policies of employers who still adhere to CDC guidance for their return-to-work rules.

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  1. Fraser Trebilcock Adds Cavanaugh to Firm Name

Law firm Fraser Trebilcock Davis & Dunlap, P.C. is pleased to announce that its legal name has been changed to Fraser Trebilcock Davis Dunlap & Cavanaugh, P.C. This name change reflects the addition of the surname of member Michael E. Cavanaugh, in recognition of his long tenure and significant contributions to the firm. The firm’s trade name will continue to be Fraser Trebilcock.

Why it Matters: Mr. Cavanaugh’s list of accolades is as long as it is well-deserved. Perhaps at the very top, is recognition of his leadership in the Lansing legal community. Mike has been a trusted member of Fraser Trebilcock’s Board of Directors, and he is heavily involved in the State Bar of Michigan and the Ingham County Bar Association, for which he has served as a past-president. Read more.

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  1. Corporate Transparency Act ‘Unconstitutional’ says Federal District Judge

A U.S. District Court in Alabama has determined that Congress overstepped its constitutional authority in passing the Corporate Transparency Act (“CTA”) (see National Small Business United v. Yellen, No. 5:22-cv-01448 (N.D. Ala.)). The CTA requires the disclosure of the Beneficial Ownership Information (“BOI”) of millions of American corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities.

Why it Matters: In the wake of this decision, FinCEN seems to have accepted the decision but only insofar as it affects its enforcement of the CTA against the named plaintiffs. The reporting obligations for the remaining 30 million or so entities is unchanged. Time will tell if FinCEN will appeal the decision and/or how it will deal with the seemingly inevitable series of similar cases that will start filling up courts across the country. Read more from attorney Bob Burgee.

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  1. A Health Professional’s Guide to Navigating the Disciplinary Process: What to Expect if You Are Facing a Professional Licensing Investigation or Administrative Complaint

Health professionals are committed to caring for patients with expertise, compassion, and integrity. However, in the heavily regulated healthcare field, those professionals can sometimes find themselves navigating not just the medical challenges of their patients but licensing issues of their own as well. Licensing issues can arise unexpectedly, and, when they do, they can cause tremendous stress and uncertainty.

Why it Matters: As an attorney with years of experience handling professional licensing matters for health professionals, Robert J. Andretz has witnessed firsthand how professional licensing investigations and Administrative Complaints can disrupt health professionals’ careers and their ability to provide patient care. He will explore how to navigate the disciplinary process in Michigan so that you can know what to expect if you are ever faced with a threat to your license. Learn more.

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  1. Navigating the Cost and Process of Hiring a Trademark Attorney

In the fast-paced world of business, protecting your brand is paramount. Whether you’re a startup or a large corporation, safeguarding your trademarks is essential for maintaining your identity and reputation in the market. However, navigating the legal intricacies of trademark registration and enforcement can be complex and overwhelming. This is where a skilled trademark attorney can be your greatest ally.

Why it Matters: Without adequate protection, your trademarks are vulnerable to infringement, dilution, and misappropriation, which can result in lost revenue, brand erosion, and legal disputes. By securing federal trademark registration and enforcing your rights, you establish a legal foundation that empowers you to safeguard your brand and its value. Read more from attorney Andrew G. Martin.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Labor, Employment & Civil Rights | Michael E. Cavanaugh
Business & Tax | Robert Burgee
Professional Licensing | Robert Andretz
Intellectual Property | Andrew Martin

Five Stories That Matter in Michigan This Week – March 1, 2024

  1. Growing Marijuana in Michigan – No Matter the Amount – is a Misdemeanor

Late last week, the Michigan State Police shut down an illegal marijuana growing facility in Highland Park, seizing 4,000 marijuana plants and processed weed worth $6.3 million. It may surprise readers to know that, pursuant to a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling in October, 2023, the unlicensed growers may only face misdemeanor charges. In another case involving an illegal growing operation, the court ruled that violations that previously were subject to felony punishments should now be prosecuted under the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act (the “Act”).

Why it Matters: Under the Act, it’s legal to store up to 10 ounces of marijuana, possess 2.5 ounces and grow up to 12 plants. Violations for exceeding those amounts range from civil infractions to misdemeanors. It will be interesting to see if these provisions will be revisited given that black market sales have been blamed for increased competition and falling prices for legal sales.

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  1. Navigating the Cost and Process of Hiring a Trademark Attorney

In the fast-paced world of business, protecting your brand is paramount. Whether you’re a startup or a large corporation, safeguarding your trademarks is essential for maintaining your identity and reputation in the market. However, navigating the legal intricacies of trademark registration and enforcement can be complex and overwhelming. This is where a skilled trademark attorney can be your greatest ally.

Why it Matters: Without adequate protection, your trademarks are vulnerable to infringement, dilution, and misappropriation, which can result in lost revenue, brand erosion, and legal disputes. By securing federal trademark registration and enforcing your rights, you establish a legal foundation that empowers you to safeguard your brand and its value. Read more from attorney Andrew G. Martin.

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  1. Fraser Trebilcock Attorney Michael E. Cavanaugh Named in Michigan Lawyers Weekly Class of 2024 Hall of Fame

Fraser Trebilcock attorney Michael E. Cavanaugh has been selected as a member of Michigan Lawyers Weekly “Hall of Fame Class of 2024.” This special award recognizes esteemed members of the legal profession who have been in practice for at least 30 years.

Why it Matters: Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s annual “Hall of Fame” award recognizes only twenty-one lawyers each year. These lawyers truly are legends, making their mark in the courtroom or the boardroom, in their firms and with community organizations, and with local, state and national bar associations. With their guidance and mentorship, they have launched hundreds of thriving legal careers and have left an indelible imprint on the profession through precedent-setting cases, high dollar outcomes and successful resolutions for their clients.

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  1. A Health Professional’s Guide to Navigating the Disciplinary Process: What to Expect if You Are Facing a Professional Licensing Investigation or Administrative Complaint

Health professionals are committed to caring for patients with expertise, compassion, and integrity. However, in the heavily regulated healthcare field, those professionals can sometimes find themselves navigating not just the medical challenges of their patients but licensing issues of their own as well. Licensing issues can arise unexpectedly, and, when they do, they can cause tremendous stress and uncertainty.

Why it Matters: As an attorney with years of experience handling professional licensing matters for health professionals, Robert J. Andretz has witnessed firsthand how professional licensing investigations and Administrative Complaints can disrupt health professionals’ careers and their ability to provide patient care. He will explore how to navigate the disciplinary process in Michigan so that you can know what to expect if you are ever faced with a threat to your license. Learn more.

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  1. Increase in the Small Business Property Tax Exemption

Eligibility for the so-called “Small Business Property Tax Exemption” has expanded. Legislation passed last October 2023, expands the exemption by increasing the eligibility limit to from the $80,000 true cash value limit to $180,000.

Why it Matters: The exemption is only for commercial and industrial personal property (residential/individuals are not subject to personal property taxes). Once filed, and if granted, the exemption will remain as long as the small business still qualifies. In other words, there is no need to file an exemption claim every year. Read more.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Cannabis Law | Sean Gallagher
Intellectual Property | Andrew Martin
Labor, Employment & Civil Rights | Michael E. Cavanaugh
Professional Licensing | Robert Andretz
Business & Tax | Paul McCord

Navigating the Cost and Process of Hiring a Trademark Attorney

In the fast-paced world of business, protecting your brand is paramount. Whether you’re a startup or a large corporation, safeguarding your trademarks is essential for maintaining your identity and reputation in the market. However, navigating the legal intricacies of trademark registration and enforcement can be complex and overwhelming. This is where a skilled trademark attorney can be your greatest ally.

The Importance of Trademark Protection

Before delving into the process and costs of hiring a trademark attorney, let’s underscore the significance of trademark protection. A trademark is more than just a logo or a slogan; it’s the embodiment of your brand’s goodwill and reputation. Trademarks are source identifiers that distinguish your products or services from competitors and help consumers identify and trust your brand.

Without adequate protection, your trademarks are vulnerable to infringement, dilution, and misappropriation, which can result in lost revenue, brand erosion, and legal disputes. By securing federal trademark registration and enforcing your rights, you establish a legal foundation that empowers you to safeguard your brand and its value.

The Role of a Trademark Attorney

Trademark law is a specialized field that requires expertise and experience to navigate effectively. An attorney who specializes in trademark matters can provide invaluable guidance throughout the trademark lifecycle. Their services often include:

  1. Trademark Search and Clearance: Conducting comprehensive searches to ensure your proposed trademark is available for use and registration, minimizing the risk of conflicts with existing trademarks.
  2. Trademark Application: Assisting with the preparation and filing of trademark applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or relevant authorities in other jurisdictions, ensuring compliance with legal requirements and maximizing the chances of successful registration.
  3. Prosecution and Responses: Handling communications with trademark examiners, responding to office actions, and overcoming objections to secure trademark registration.
  4. Trademark Enforcement: Monitoring for potential infringement, sending cease-and-desist letters, and pursuing legal action against infringers to protect your trademark rights.
  5. Trademark Portfolio Management: Advising on trademark maintenance, renewal, licensing, and assignment to optimize the value of your trademark assets.

The Cost of Hiring a Trademark Attorney

The cost of hiring a trademark attorney can vary depending on several factors, including the attorney’s experience, the complexity of the matter, and the scope of services required. Trademark attorneys typically offer various fee structures, such as hourly rates, flat fees for specific services, or retainer arrangements.

For trademark registration, the fees may range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on factors such as the number of classes of goods/services, the complexity of the mark, and whether any office actions or objections are encountered during the process.

While hiring a trademark attorney entails upfront costs, it’s an investment in protecting your brand’s intellectual property rights and mitigating the risk of costly disputes and legal challenges down the line. Moreover, engaging a knowledgeable attorney can streamline the process, enhance the likelihood of successful outcomes, and provide invaluable peace of mind.

Conclusion

In the competitive landscape of modern business, safeguarding your brand is non-negotiable. Hiring a trademark attorney is a strategic decision that empowers you to navigate the complexities of trademark law with confidence and expertise. By enlisting the support of a skilled attorney, you not only protect your trademarks but also lay the foundation for long-term brand success and resilience in the marketplace. If you have any questions, contact attorney Andrew G. Martin or your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.

This alert serves as a general summary and does not constitute legal guidance. Please contact us with any specific questions.


Andrew G. Martin is an experienced registered patent attorney with history working in the automotive, electrical, and agricultural industries. He regularly advises startups and small businesses on the patent and trademark prosecution process, assisting clients from start to finish. You can reach him at 517.377.0834 or at amartin@fraserlawfirm.com.

Five Stories That Matter in Michigan This Week – February 9, 2024

  1. Reinstatement of Michigan’s Prevailing Wage Act Takes Effect February 13

On March 24, 2023, Governor Whitmer signed into law a bill reinstituting Michigan’s Prevailing Wage Act (the “Act”). The new Act, which takes effect February 13, 2024, will require every contractor and subcontractor in Michigan to pay the prevailing wage and benefit rates to employees working on most state funded construction projects.

Why it Matters: Contractors that fail to pay prevailing wages may have their contract terminated, be required to pay any excess costs incurred by the state for contracting with a new employer, and be fined up to $5,000.

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  1. A Health Professional’s Guide to Navigating the Disciplinary Process: What to Expect if You Are Facing a Professional Licensing Investigation or Administrative Complaint

Health professionals are committed to caring for patients with expertise, compassion, and integrity. However, in the heavily regulated healthcare field, those professionals can sometimes find themselves navigating not just the medical challenges of their patients but licensing issues of their own as well. Licensing issues can arise unexpectedly, and, when they do, they can cause tremendous stress and uncertainty.

Why it Matters: As an attorney with years of experience handling professional licensing matters for health professionals, Robert J. Andretz has witnessed firsthand how professional licensing investigations and Administrative Complaints can disrupt health professionals’ careers and their ability to provide patient care. He will explore how to navigate the disciplinary process in Michigan so that you can know what to expect if you are ever faced with a threat to your license. Learn more.

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  1. Fraser Trebilcock Welcomes Robert J. Andretz to the Firm

We are pleased to announce the hiring of attorney ​Robert J. Andretz who will work primarily in the firm’s Lansing office.

Why it Matters: Helping clients for more than two decades, Rob is an experienced criminal defense and professional licensing attorney who has successfully represented clients in both state and federal courts in felony and misdemeanor cases in more than 50 counties across the state of Michigan. He is passionate about what he does, and, understanding the direct and collateral consequences that a criminal conviction or professional licensing sanction can bring, he compassionately works with his clients to focus on what matters most to them. Learn more.

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  1. Understanding How Trademarks, Copyrights, and Patents Protect Your Business

Copyright is the exclusive legal protection that covers an original work of authorship. Copyrights vest upon creation of the work, which means placing the work onto a tangible medium.

Why it Matters: Similar to trademark law, it can be difficult to enforce your copyright if the work is not registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Learn more on this series about trademarks, copyrights, and patents from Fraser Trebilcock attorney Andrew Martin.

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  1. Client Alert/Reminder: Form W-2 Reporting Due for Employer-Provided Health Care / Disclosure Due to CMS for Medicare Part D

Unless subject to an exemption, employers must report the aggregate cost of employer-sponsored health coverage provided in 2023 on their employees’ Form W-2 (Code DD in Box 12) issued in January 2024. Please see IRS Notice 2012-09. Additionally, group health plans offering prescription drug coverage are required to disclose to all Part D-eligible individuals who are enrolled in or were seeking to enroll in the group health plan coverage whether such coverage was creditable.

Why it Matters: The filing deadline is 60 days following the first day of the plan year. If you operate a calendar year plan, the deadline is the end of February. If you operate a non-calendar year plan, please be sure to keep track of your deadline. Contact your Fraser Trebilcock attorney for any questions.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Labor, Employment & Civil Rights | David Houston
Professional Licensing | Robert Andretz
Intellectual Property | Andrew Martin
Employee Benefits | Bob Burgee
Employee Benefits | Sharon Goldzweig

Five Stories That Matter in Michigan This Week – February 2, 2024

  1. A Health Professional’s Guide to Navigating the Disciplinary Process: What to Expect if You Are Facing a Professional Licensing Investigation or Administrative Complaint

Health professionals are committed to caring for patients with expertise, compassion, and integrity. However, in the heavily regulated healthcare field, those professionals can sometimes find themselves navigating not just the medical challenges of their patients but licensing issues of their own as well. Licensing issues can arise unexpectedly, and, when they do, they can cause tremendous stress and uncertainty.

Why it Matters: As an attorney with years of experience handling professional licensing matters for health professionals, Robert J. Andretz has witnessed firsthand how professional licensing investigations and Administrative Complaints can disrupt health professionals’ careers and their ability to provide patient care. He will explore how to navigate the disciplinary process in Michigan so that you can know what to expect if you are ever faced with a threat to your license. Learn more.

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  1. Understanding How Trademarks, Copyrights, and Patents Protect Your Business

Trademark registration separates your business from your competition and makes you unique. It is one method of protecting your intangibles while publicly providing notice to other businesses or individuals to avoid copying or infringing on your intellectual property rights.

Why it Matters: But when do you need this? When do you get them? And what are they for? Learn more on this series about trademarks, copyrights, and patents from Fraser Trebilcock attorney Andrew Martin.

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  1. Ward Off 2024 Tax Season Flu – File Early and Electronically

Earlier this week, January 29, 2024, marked the start date for the 2024 filing season and the first date that the IRS will begin accepting and processing 2024 returns. The IRS will issue most electronically filed refunds within 21 days, however there are a variety of factors that can delay the issuance of any refund claim outside of the 21-day period, so one should not rely on receiving a refund within 21-days.

Why it Matters: It is important to file early and electronically to avoid any delays in receiving a refund, if applicable. If you have any questions, contact your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.

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  1. The DOL Issues Final Rule Creating New Standard for Classifying Workers as Employees vs. Independent Contractors

On January 9, 2024, the United States Department of Labor released its final rule on worker classification under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Why it Matters: This new rule, effective as of March 11, 2024, signals a return to a standard more likely to classify workers as employees than contractors. Thus, it is more likely that employers will be determined to have misclassified workers as contractors, resulting in liability. Learn more from your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.

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  1. Michigan Legal Cannabis Sales Hit New Record in 2023

Licensed cannabis dispensaries in Michigan registered a record $3.06 billion in sales in 2023. This represents a 25% increase over sales in 2022. Recreational cannabis accounted for $2.74 billion of total sales in 2023.

Why it Matters: According to an analysis by Metro Times, more than $274 million in tax revenue from cannabis sales will go to local governments, schools, and roads.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Professional Licensing | Robert Andretz
Intellectual Property | Andrew Martin
Business & Tax | Paul McCord
Labor, Employment & Civil Rights | David Houston
Cannabis Law | Sean Gallagher

Understanding How Trademarks, Copyrights, and Patents Protect Your Business

Trademark registration separates your business from your competition and makes you unique. Your intellectual assets are some of the most powerful resources your business has. These assets separate your business from your competition and make you unique – as long as they are protected. Trademarks, copyrights, and patents are methods of protecting your intangibles while publicly providing notice to other businesses or individuals to avoid copying or infringing on your intellectual property rights. But when do you need these protections? How do you get them? And what are they for?

Trademarks

What is a trademark?

Trademarks are exclusive legal protections for names, logos, sounds, and even colors as applied to a category of goods or services. Federally registered trademarks may not be used by others without your permission. Trademark owners do have a legal obligation to police their marks and provide notice to anyone that may be inadvertently or willfully using the mark without permission. Trademarks can be renewed indefinitely as long as the owner can show proof that the mark has been continually used in commerce.

What is a trademark for?

Trademarks operate to distinguish your business, build consumer goodwill and solidify your reputation as a source for the goods or services. In most cases, a trademark is a distinctive word, phrase, logo or design that is associated with or applied to a category of goods or services. Trademarks should not be merely descriptive of the goods or services and generic terms are expressly banned from trademark protection (e.g., such as the term “Supermarket” as applied to a grocery store).

Trademarks must not be confusingly similar to another company’s mark otherwise the U.S. Trademark Office will reject the mark or the opposing owner may proactively move to cancel your mark. For example, the Nike name and Swoosh logo are federally registered trademarks. Trademarks may often be referred to as service marks when applied solely to services such as the NBC tri-tone sound or United Airline’s “Fly the Friendly Skies” slogan. If you are in the business of providing goods or services, then it is strongly recommended that you consult with an intellectual property lawyer to get the best protection in a timely manner.

How do I get a trademark?

For the most part, trademark rights vest upon usage of the mark in interstate commerce (e.g., across state lines). When you select a distinctive mark for your business, you are legally considered the owner of an unregistered trademark under common law trademark law (i.e., limited protections vis-à-vis a federally registered trademark). During this initial use and while your trademark application is being examined by the U.S. Trademark Office, you may use the ™ symbol to provide public notice that you are claiming ownership rights in the mark. The ™ symbol does not have any legal significance and is simply used as a public notification tool. Your ability to halt an infringing action, obtain an injunction or obtain money damages is limited when the mark is an unregistered trademark. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you take the necessary steps to federally register your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Once registered, you may use the ® symbol and be entitled to a full range of legal protections for your mark.

When should I get a trademark?

If you are consistently using a non-generic name, logo, or other symbol, you already have an unregistered trademark. This shows your customers that it is yours. To prevent another company from using the goodwill associated with your business – or, worse, tainting your business reputation with low-quality products – you should register your mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as soon as you have finalized the word, phrase, logo and/or design.

Copyright

What is copyright?

Copyright is the exclusive legal protection that covers an original work of authorship. Copyrights vest upon creation of the work, which means placing the work onto a tangible medium (e.g., applying paint to a canvas or words to a screenplay). Stated otherwise, a copyrighted work must be more than an idea – the idea of painting a scenic mountain is not protectable until one applies the paint to the canvas. A copyright owner holds the right to prevent others from copying, reproducing, displaying or making derivative works unless they expressly provide their permission for such use. A derivative work, for example, would be making a movie based on a book. Copyright protections are not indefinite; most protections last the length of the author’s life plus 70 years. For example, the author of the book Dracula died in 1912, so the copyright protection ended in 1982 and the work entered the public domain, which means it can be freely reproduced and distributed by anyone.

What is copyright for?

Original works are copyrightable materials. “Original” simply means that there must be some modicum of creativity that distinguishes the work from others. Books and e-books, magazine or newspaper articles, software, paintings, music, plays, some websites, and movies, among other things fall under purview of copyright protection. Historical and scientific facts, recipes, ideas, domain names, surnames, inventions, methods, and events are examples where copyright protection would not be appropriate; although some of these things may be protected under trademark or patent law.

How do I copyright my work?

As noted above, copyrights vest upon creation of the work, even if it isn’t published. Similar to trademark law, it can be difficult to enforce your copyright if the work is not registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. In most cases, a copyright application entails a downloadable form, a fee, and a copy of the work submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office. The review process takes about four months to possibly one year. Registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office is definitely a good idea and it is recommended that you have an intellectual property attorney at least do a cursory review of your copyright application prior to submission. If your work is plagiarized, improperly displayed or illicitly distributed then having a registered copyright will strengthen your position in the event you decide to take legal action and file an infringement lawsuit.

Patent

What is a patent?

A patent is a legal monopoly for protecting a utilitarian device, system, machine, composition or process. A patent owner has the right to prevent others from making, using, selling or importing a protected invention for a limited time. Utility patents have a term of 20 years and design patents have a term of 14 years from the date of filing.

What is a patent for?

Design patents protect the aesthetic or ornamental, non-functional aspects of a utilitarian object. Utility patents protect useful devices, systems, machines, processes, and compositions of matter that, upon examination by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, are verifiably shown to be new and non-obvious. Almost any product, from Tupperware to iPhones typically have one or more patents at some point directed toward the product.

How do I get a patent?

The initial process for obtaining a patent is to prepare and file a patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It is important to realize that a patent is powerful asset that must be written with a variety of audiences in mind (e.g., inventor, investor, licensor, patent examiner, judge, jury, etc.) while meeting a plethora of complex and sometimes arcane rules of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Once a patent application has been filed, a patent examiner will perform a patentability search and determine whether the patent application meets the various standards such as novelty and non-obviousness. The patent owner may publicly assert that the invention is “patent pending” as soon as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office provides a filing receipt, which typically takes a few minutes if the patent application is filed electronically. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has a stated goal of examining a patent application and providing a final disposition within about 36 months, but it is not uncommon for the examination process to take longer. If the patent application successfully makes it through the examination process, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will grant an official patent number and the owner will then have a legally enforceable asset.

When should I file a patent?

The U.S. is a “first inventor-to-file” system, so it is imperative that an inventor keep the details of their invention confidential until a patent application has been filed. Also, timing is of the essence to prevent a competitor from winning the race to the Patent Office. The basic requirement to prepare and file a patent application is that the inventor must be able to describe, in sufficient detail, how to make and use the invention to one of “ordinary skill in the art,” which typically means a person versed in the industry to which the invention pertains. For example, technical and industry terms may not need to be defined if such terms are commonly known among those skilled in the art. Further, a prototype of the invention is not necessary nor does the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office required an inventor to perform a patentability search before filing. As soon as you have the aforementioned information, you should contact a registered patent attorney or agent to begin the process. Remember, confidentiality and timely filing are two primary keys to open the door of patent protection.In view of the complexities of the patent process, retaining an intellectual property lawyer is a vital step to obtaining strong patent protection in an efficient and timely manner.

Whether you are seeking trademark, patent or copyright protection, make sure to document the process carefully, and seek legal advice. The wrong protection or a badly conducted filing can make you vulnerable to legal loopholes or unnecessary rejections from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. With the right intellectual property protections in place, your business will be able to thrive and grow while keeping your competition at arms length.

This alert serves as a general summary and does not constitute legal guidance. Please contact us with any specific questions.


Andrew G. Martin is an experienced registered patent attorney with history working in the automotive, electrical, and agricultural industries. He regularly advises startups and small businesses on the patent and trademark prosecution process, assisting clients from start to finish. You can reach him at 517.377.0834 or at amartin@fraserlawfirm.com.

Five Stories That Matter in Michigan This Week – January 5, 2024

  1. Reminder: Michigan LLCs Must File Annual Report by February 15

With the new year upon us, we want to remind you that limited liability companies formed with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs must file their annual report (called an Annual Statement) by February 15.

Why it Matters: LLCs that fail to file are subject to fines. More importantly, failure to file an annual report after two consecutive years results in an LLC falling out of good standing with the state of Michigan, which may lead to the dissolution of the entity. Contact a Fraser Trebilcock lawyer if you require help with corporate filing and reporting requirements.

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  1. Michigan Minimum Wage Increased After New Year

Now that we’re into calendar year 2024, Michigan’s minimum wage has increased per the Improved Workforce Opportunity Wage Act of 2018 which establishes the annual schedule of increases. The minimum hourly wage increased to $10.33 per hour; the 85% rate for minors aged 16 and 17 increased to $8.78 per hour; the tipped employee rate of hourly pay increased to $3.93 per hour; and the training wage of $4.25 per hour for newly hired employees ages 16 to 19 for their first 90 days of employment remains unchanged.

Why it Matters: It’s important to be aware of new laws, and changes to existing laws, that have taken effect as of January 1, 2024. Contact us with any questions.

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  1. Fraser Trebilcock Announces Department Chairs for 2024

Fraser Trebilcock announces new Department Chairs for 2024: Sean P. GallagherAdministrative LawRobert D. Burgee and Paul V. McCordBusiness & TaxRobert D. BurgeeEmployee Benefits: Welfare/HealthDavid J. HoustonLabor, Employment, and Civil RightsMichael P. DonnellyLitigationJared A. RobertsReal Estate; and Marlaine C. Teahan and Mark E. KelloggTrusts and Estates.

Why it Matters: A new year brings a renewed commitment to leadership within our firm. When it matters in Michigan, we are the trusted advisor for businesses and individuals requiring planning and consulting services, or facing legal and regulatory challenges, and our capabilities extend to wherever clients require counsel. Read more.

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  1. Reminder: Prevailing Wage Act Being Reinstated in Michigan in 2024

It’s important for businesses to be aware of laws that will take effect in 2024. One is the reinstatement of Michigan’s Prevailing Wage Act (the “Act”), which will require contractors and subcontractors in Michigan to pay the prevailing wage and benefit rates to employees working on most state funded construction projects.

Why it Matters: A prevailing wage law was in effect in Michigan from 1965 until 2018 when the law was repealed. On March 24, 2023, Governor Whitmer signed the Act into law. It will take effect in March of 2024.

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  1. How do you Defend an Amazon Neutral Patent Evaluation?

Amazon’s Neutral Patent Infringement Program (NPE) is Amazon’s version of a quasi-judicial court to resolve patent infringement disputes between sellers. It is akin to an arbitration or mediation overseen by an experienced and vetted patent practitioner. NPE is not a court of law, so any of the rulings are not prejudicial on any platform or marketplace other than Amazon.com. However, it aims to provide a more cost-effective method to resolve patent disputes between sellers.

Why it Matters: The program is initiated once a patent holder submits a complaint to Amazon through Amazon’s seller portal. The accused product is immediately removed from its Amazon listing and the accused infringer is notified. The accused infringer then may negotiate a settlement directly with the rights holder or agree to participate in the NPE program. Learn more from your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals 

Business & Tax | Robert Burgee
Labor, Employment & Civil Rights | David Houston
Intellectual Property | Andrew Martin