For startups, social media can offer cheap and effective publicity. Startups must also be mindful that any advertising, including on social media, will require you to comply with federal regulations. While sponsored content regulations once went largely unenforced against social media based advertising, times are changing. Advertising on social media is increasingly drawing the eye of regulators. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations demand honesty and transparency in advertising, and fortunately, honesty and transparency will keep your company compliant.

In 2016, the FTC sued retailer Lord & Taylor alleging the company paid online influencers to post pictures of themselves wearing a specific Lord & Taylor article of clothing. The posts failed to disclose Lord & Taylor provided the clothing for free and paid each influencer thousands of dollars.  Lord & Taylor also paid for a positive review in the online publication Nylon that appeared without notice it was a paid promotion. The product sold out quickly, but the FTC sued Lord & Taylor. The case ultimately settled, and the settlement will affect Lord & Taylor for up to twenty years.  Lord & Taylor did not make the posts that got them into trouble; they only failed to require the influencers to disclose their relationship with Lord & Taylor. Your company is responsible for others’ posts if you pay for the posts—tracking paid posts to ensure regulatory compliance is obligatory.
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Most startups initially focus on incorporation, funding, and protecting their intellectual property, which is logical and practical! While these are all important and necessary, startups should also ensure that they are protecting their new startup from legal actions such as a lawsuit – the dreaded “L” word. A lawsuit is the official court process in which two or more parties seek to resolve a dispute. A legal battle can be lengthy, expensive, and create bad publicity. Startups are experiencing a rise in litigation and below we will focus on three growing risks to startups and provide practical steps to prevent these types of lawsuits.

Being threatened with a lawsuit is always frightening and unsettling but sometimes can be avoided. For example, in a sole proprietorship, both the company and owner could be liable for the damages. Structuring a startup as a corporation or a limited liability company could help reduce owner liability. Generally speaking, the creditors of a business also cannot succeed against the founders and other investors of corporations and LLCs for unpaid debts because they are sheltered by the corporate status.
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Husch Blackwell’s Caroline Chicoine is the current Vice Chair of the International Trademark Association’s (INTA) Impact Studies committee. Recently, she helped the committee finish the term strong with two important studies regarding Generation Z and the economic impact of trademark-intensive industries in Latin America.

Do Gen Zers make up a big part of your customer base? Gen Zers will make up the largest group of consumers worldwide by 2020. These consumers were born between 1995 and 2010 and are currently between 18 and 23 years of age. If you find your customer base consists of Gen Zers, the International Trademark Association’s Impact Studies committee’s recent study, titled “Gen Z Insights: Brands and Counterfeit Products” is a must-read. The multi-country study investigates the behavior of Gen Zers when it comes to their relationship with brands and attitudes toward counterfeit products. A copy of the Comprehensive Global Report covering ten (10) countries around the world, as well as reports for each country can be found here. For a comprehensive global infographic summarizing the results of the study, see here.
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The answer is “Yes” if your start-up has progressed far enough along to have hired six (6) employees. The Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA”) makes it illegal to discriminate in any aspect of employment, including tangible employment actions, because of an individual’s race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability or age (between the ages of 40 through 69).  Under the MHRA, an employer is “a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has six or more employees for each working day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.”  This means as your startup succeeds in growing, you must be aware of the 6-employee rule and the impact on your business if you violate the MHRA. 
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Husch Blackwell’s Aleks Rushing has been named to the St. Louis Business Journal’s 2019 30 Under 30 class. The annual award series honors “future leaders of the region and the local business community.” Aleks serves as legal counsel for colleges, universities and schools. On behalf of her clients, she conducts investigations, handles litigation and

Jake Brown Husch Blackwell Meghan Brennan Husch BlackwellWorking with startups recently inspired two Husch Blackwell attorneys to develop an innovation solution of their own. In 2018, Husch Blackwell hosted its first firmwide Legal Innovation Challenge. Approximately 20 teams submitted ideas and went through a rigorous selection process.

Associates Meghan Brennan and Jake Brown work with a variety of clients, including startups. When they came together for Husch Blackwell’s Legal Innovation Challenge, they found a mutual interest in streamlining the initial intake process for startup clients. Together they envisioned a diagnostic tool to assess the legal needs of growing companies. Clients can complete a quick 10-minute questionnaire that will help the attorney develop a road map for company growth and future legal needs.
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Fresh off the heels enacting the California Consumer Privacy Act, California Governor, Jerry Brown, signed the country’s first law governing the security of Internet of Things or connected devices. The bill, SB 327, is entitled “Security of Connected Devices.”

Beginning on January 1, 2020, all manufacturers of connected devices will be required to equip the device with reasonable security features to protect against the unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification or disclosure of information that is collected or transmitted by the device.
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An important aspect of developing any intellectual property strategy and portfolio is deciding which method of intellectual property protection to pursue based on the advantages and disadvantages of each method. Plants may be protected through utility patents, certificates under the Plant Variety Protection Act (“PVPA”), and plant patents. Each of these methods has their own requirements with various levels of stringency for obtaining a utility patent, certificate, or plant patent, as well as different levels of protection, as will be discussed below.

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