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Trademarks, Service Marks and Copyrights – How The Laws Have Changed As Of October 2010

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When clients engage us to create a logo for their brand, we are often asked whether they need to register the logo as a trademark or service mark. While it is not a requirement, doing so provides broad-reaching legal protection for the use of the mark in commerce.

Whether a trademark attorney should handle the registration is another common concern. Our advice is that you may attempt to do the registration yourself for a maximum filing fee of approximately $375 but the involvement of an attorney who would conduct formal searches and submit acceptable proofs of use in the registration process may prove to be a wise decision when considering the liability, inconvenience, expense and negative outcome of conflicts of rights or flawed filings.

What is a trademark?

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), “a trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.” That means that logos, taglines and slogans may be eligible for trademark registration if they meet all qualifying parameters and are approved by the registrar.

What is a service mark?

The USPTO defines a service mark as “the same as a trademark, except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product.” The terms “trademark” and “mark” are used equivalently to refer to both trademarks and service marks.

What is a copyright?

The United States Library of Congress’ Copyright Office, which is the registrar for copyrights, describes a copyright as “a form of protection provided to the authors of ‘original works of authorship’ including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished.” Protecting the form of expression rather than the subject matter of the writing, a copyright would only prevent others from copying the description. It would not prevent others from writing a description of their own.

When to use the superscript symbols: TM, SM and ®

Another question we are often asked to address involves when it is appropriate to use the superscript trademark, service mark or registered trademark symbols: TM, SM and ®. The use of the first two symbols is a way to formally claim eventual intent to register either the trademark or the service mark but such registration is never a requirement. Furthermore, if use of the trademark or service mark can be adequately shown with dates of use clearly evident, the inclusion of the superscript symbols TM or SM in conjunction with such usage is not a requirement as proof of ownership. The symbol ® can only be used after formal trademark registration has been completed and approved by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and doing so without approval would be noncompliant with federal law.

When to use the Copyright Notice

To protect your “original work of authorship,” it is recommended by the Library of Congress Copyright Office that a copyright notice be placed on copies of the work “to inform the world of copyright ownership that generally consists of the symbol or word ‘copyright,’ the name of the copyright owner, and the year of first publication, e.g., © 2008 John Doe. While use of a copyright notice was once required as a condition of copyright protection, it is now optional.”

What the Copyright Protects

It is important to note that documentation from the United States Copyright Office states that “a copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something. You may express your ideas in writing or drawings and claim copyright in your description, but be aware that a copyright will not protect the idea itself as revealed in your written or artistic work.”

According to this office of the U.S. government, “your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created.” Such “work” now includes websites, but not domain names, which are registered and protected as such through The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit organization responsible for domain name system management and administration through accredited registrars.

Why Register a Copyright

Copyright registration is strictly voluntary but will be required in the event that you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement. It is helpful to have your certificate of registration a matter of public record, possibly making your work eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. Proving copyright infringement requires skillful understanding, interpretation and defense of the frequently changing copyright laws which contain many gray areas of application and usually deter legal pursuit due to inordinate expense.

How to Register a Copyright:

If you choose to file online, registration of your copyright is $35 per work. If you file conventionally, the fee is $50 per work. You are not required to disclose your real name; pseudonyms are acceptable forms of identification. Also, it is advisable to keep in mind that your registration will become a matter of public record so you should be careful about disclosure of your private information. With more than 600,000 submissions received by the United States Copyright Office per year, the registration process can take up to six months if filed online, and up to two years or more if filed on paper. Fees are nonrefundable. You must also submit at least one nonreturnable electronic or hard copy of the work(s) you wish to register subject to an array of other requirements depending on the type of work, whether published and other variables. The length of this process should not impact your plans to publish either the copyright notice or the work itself. Only your need to file copyright infringement may be affected by the date of actual registration. For more information about this, go to http://www.copyright.gov.

How to Register a Trademark:

Before applying for trademark registration, a formal search of existing or pending trademarks is conducted in order to avoid conflict of rights. This can be done for free by the registrant or his attorney via the online federal TESS (Trademark Electronic Search System) database as well as at selected public search facilities nationwide. In the event that the trademark is defined by a unique design, it will need to be searched with the use of a design code available within the government’s Design Search Code Manual. If a possible conflict is detected, it can be checked further by searching the federal TARR (Trademark Applications and Registrations Retrieval) database. In order to conduct this type of search, you will need the serial number or registration number of the conflicting mark.

If no conflict is revealed, the next step is to prepare a “drawing” of the mark you intend to register. There are two formats possible for mark registration: (1) standard character format; or (2) stylized/design format. The USPTO describes the first as a mark that includes “word(s), letter(s), number(s) or any combination thereof, without claim to any particular font style, size, or color, and absent any design element. Registration of a mark in the standard character format will provide broad rights, namely use in any manner of presentation.” The second format would seek to protect a mark having a particular stylized appearance, such as logos we design for our clients. In the past, such a drawing had to be submitted in black and white with a range of patterns to depict differentiation of tones used. Today, the drawing can be submitted in color with precise accompanying descriptions detailing where the colors are used. Such drawings must be consistent with proofs of actual use also required for submission in the application process. These proofs are referred to as “specimens.”

In the registration of a product trademark, as opposed to a service trademark (or service mark), an acceptable example or specimen must show the mark used on the actual goods or packaging for the goods. This includes a tag or label for the goods; a container for the goods; a display associated with the goods; or a photograph of the goods that shows use of the mark on the goods. Actual products are not acceptable examples in the registration process.

When seeking to register a service mark, the USPTO states that approved samples of use can include “a sign; a brochure about the services; an advertisement for the services; a business card or stationery showing the mark in connection with the services; or a photograph showing the mark as used in rendering or advertising the services.” However, it is specifically stated that if the mark does not include terms that describe what kind of service is offered, it would not be an acceptable specimen of use.

It is essential to file the trademark registration form and its required components of application properly to avoid ensuing problems and delays in the process. If filing electronically, an immediate reply with a serial number of the application should be expected. However, the entire process can take up to several years depending on what legal issues arise during the course of the examination of materials. Findings by a federal attorney citing conflict of previously registered or pending rights, or failure to qualify as a trademark are common reasons for delay. These may include use of a surname or determination that the mark is purely ornamental or even deceptive in its presentation. Such criticisms can be appealed but often are unsuccessful and tend to add further postponements and additional expense to the process if you have engaged an attorney to represent you.

If all obstacles are overcome and the mark is approved, the registration remains valid for a period of approximately five years at which time a subsequent Affidavit of Use must be filed, with a Renewal filing due prior to expiration at ten years. Should any of these deadlines be missed, there is a six-month grace period allowance for either filing with the payment of additional fees.

In any case, it seems that the major reason to pursue formal registration of a trademark, service mark or copyright is to provide tangible grounds for suit if unlawful infringement of rights becomes an issue. For some small businesses, the cost to prevail in such a lawsuit would probably be so prohibitive that the decision to bring a case forward would be ultimately discouraged, rendering the effort and expense to submit all trademark or copyright registrations an exercise in futility. Therefore, the value of such registrations is dependent on the circumstances affecting each individual case.

For further information from The United States Patent and Trademark Office, go to http://www.uspto.gov/

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Which States Allow Criminal Record Expungement?

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With so many laws being passed and repealed every day, it’s hard to keep up. And although most people are unaware of new laws being passed in their state, there is one new law that many cannot afford to ignore. Criminal expungement is now legal in several states within the country. This new law allows past criminals to seal or restrict their past arrests and convictions from public view. There are endless benefits to this law, but not all states have approved it yet. Continue reading to learn more about criminal record expungement and which states have approved the law.

Expunging Criminal Records

The new criminal record expungement laws have the ability to change people’s lives in a dramatic way. With certain criminal records weighing over a person’s head and lingering on their public record, there are certain consequences. Aside from criminal stigma and judgement, a criminal record can hold a person back from any benefits that require a background check. This includes applying for a loan, renting an apartment, getting a job, and more. Now, in cooperating states, people have the opportunity to have these past criminal records sealed or restricted from the public, with the exception of police and government officials. This allows people to take advantage of certain benefits, like better jobs and home loans, and live a better life.

Most states have adopted this new criminal record expungement law, but some are still lingering on the back burner. Since most states have not approved and passed this new law, it is more efficient to list the ones that have so far. Here is a list of states that allow expungement:

  • Indiana
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Ohio
  • Utah
  • Texas
  • Tennessee
  • Washington

Although these states have approved the law, it is not a permanent law. They have only approved it for a trial period. And since there are several opposed to this law, there is no telling when or if it will get repealed. This means it is important to take advantage of this opportunity while it lasts. The only catch is that not everyone will qualify for criminal record expungement. There are guidelines that one must meet to be eligible to conceal or expunge their records. This is why it is necessary to hire a licensed criminal attorney for accurate and professional help. A person can only file one time in their life, and just one mistake can take that chance away. A lawyer can determine your eligibility and ensure everything is carried out precisely.

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The Business Legal Checkup – Preventive Advice For the Legal Health of Your Business

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More than 250 years ago, Benjamin Franklin famously said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. He was advising Philadelphia homeowners to insure their homes against fire to avoid catastrophic losses. Franklin’s advice is just as applicable today to the legal issues of your business.

In this article, we explain a new legal service, Canadian Business Legal Checkup, an audit of legal matters affecting your business. Business Legal Checkup is a diagnostic tool most small and medium size businesses could use to verify if legal aspects of their operation comply with the law and to minimize risk, litigation and expense. When the Business Legal Checkup is completed, the business owner receives a lawyer’s report red-flagging matters which need correction, improvement or further legal advice.

A closer look at the Business Legal Checkup

Your business is built on a foundation of laws and legal procedures. As a prudent business owner, you have probably considered the following legal matters:

o You had to incorporate your business. The corporation has been properly set up. All shares are properly issued. Directors and officers have been appointed. The corporate minutes and register are up-to-date.

o You and other directors of the corporation know exactly what your duties and liabilities are. All directors are protected from liability by sufficient insurance coverage.

o You have a shareholders’ agreement so that all shareholders know their roles. All partners are treated fairly. There is an orderly method for valuation and termination of the corporation. You understand the minority shareholders rights requirements of the Business Corporations Act.

o You filed a business registration and have a system to renew it before expiry and you have registered any business names that you are using.

o You filed trademark, patent and copyright applications to protect the intellectual property of your business.

o Your URL (web address) is trademarked. You have audited your website to check for breaches of privacy law, defamation and technology law issues. Your online sales portal is set up to avoid legal problems with privacy law, identity theft and contract issues.

o Your licencing and registrations are up-to-date. If your salespeople have to be registered or licenced, you have a system to ensure that their registrations are up-to-date and that their regulatory requirements are being monitored.

o You have a long term lease for your plant or office. You had your lease vetted by a lawyer. You know what it says, including the extra rent the landlord can demand. You know the deadline for your right to renew.

o You use several legal standard forms and contracts in your business. These have all been vetted by a lawyer to comply with applicable laws including the PPSA, the Interest Act, the Consumer Protection Act, the Sale of Goods Act, the Mercantile Law Amendment Act and the Bills of Exchange Act and contract law.

o If you extend credit, you know that your service charges don’t exceed the “criminal rate of interest”.

o You know prohibitions against misleading advertising and unfair competition in the Competition Act.

o You understand the privacy legislation and you have a system to ensure that you comply each time you collect, use, or disclose personal information.

o Your employees have signed agreements which spell out the length of notice they are entitled to receive if you terminate their employment. You know who is entitled to how much and what to do if you decide to terminate an employee, whatever the reason. You understand your obligations under the Employment Standards Act.

o Your employees have all signed non-competition covenants and non-solicitation agreements to prevent them from taking away your best clients, business procedures, best employees and trade secrets if they leave to set up shop on their own.

o You have a procedure to prevent violation of the Human Rights Code and you know the protected grounds of discrimination. You also understand all of the elements of sexual harassment and you know how to deal with it.

o You know your company’s rights and obligations under the Workplace Safety Insurance Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

o You have liability and multi-peril insurance and you know what it covers.

o Your manufacturing and distribution processes are set up to avoid potentially devastating product liability and class action lawsuits. You have minimized risks.

o You keep up-to-date with changes in the law which affect the corporate, contractual, insurance and employment law issues in your industry.

o You have complied with the filing requirements for income taxes, sales taxes and GST. You have had your business and municipal tax assessment vetted.

o You know what precautions to take to help prevent litigation.

o If you are about to get involved in litigation, you have an action plan to maximize your chances of success and to keep the cost in check. When hiring a lawyer, you know what you need and what to expect.

Stop the presses – before we continue – do we hear you saying there are many items on this list that you haven’t looked after, that you haven’t thought of or which could be updated?

We’re not surprised. In our experience, small and medium-sized business owners don’t get around to dealing with many important legal issues involved in organizing their business relationships with partners, shareholders, customers, employees and government and in preventing or managing the risk of expensive litigation. Often, agreements are not fully thought through.

Small business owners tend to do only what they absolutely have to do to comply with the law and are reluctant to spend money for top drawer legal services when an inexpensive shortcut appears to do the trick. Your focus is getting your business up and running, getting your product to market, making sales and keeping costs down. You could be lucky and run your business for years without anything going wrong.

Fair enough, but if you disregard preventive legal measures like the ones mentioned, your business is like a driver without a seatbelt in a car that has never been serviced —in other words, a catastrophic accident waiting to happen.

Here are two examples of business legal nightmares that could have been easily avoided with a program of preventive law such as the Business Legal Checkup. These are actual cases, decided in Ontario courts:

o A Toronto RV dealer sold a motor home to a customer. After using it for a couple of weeks, the customer complained that the salesperson had misled him about a “rental program” and brought the motor home back and refused to make any payments. The dealer sold the motor home as a used vehicle and suffered a $25,000 loss for which it sued the customer.

The Ontario Court of Appeal decided that customer was entitled to return the RV and cancel the contract because the salesman’s Motor Vehicle Dealers Act registration expired and was not renewed. This made the contract illegal. The RV dealer didn’t have a system to check if all their salespersons’ registrations were current. The dealer not only lost $25,000 but also had to pay about $30,000 to their own lawyer and almost that much in legal costs to the customer’s lawyer. A Business Legal Checkup could have saved this business most of the $100,000 and a lot of aggravation.

o A southwestern Ontario company was a wholesale distributor of car alarm systems, which started as a basement operation and developed into a successful business. The owner used contract forms he found on the internet. Why pay a lawyer when forms were right there for the taking? His standard form contracts had statements that he didn’t fully understand but if they were on the internet, they must be OK. He didn’t have a lawyer check them. The standard form agreements didn’t create a problem for several years.

The distributor extended credit to CAG, a company owned by a Mr. Don for more than $90,000 worth of car alarms. He wasn’t worried about payment because Mr. Don signed the standard form contract — the one he found on the internet for free — which stated that Mr. Don was personally liable for everything CAG ordered. When CAG went out of business, the distributor sued Mr. Don. The Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed the claim against Mr. Don because the personal liability clause in the standard form agreement was unclear and was capable of two meanings. The distributor didn’t recover his $90,000 and had to pay legal fees to his own lawyer and costs to Mr. Don’s lawyer. A Business Legal Checkup could have saved him almost $150,000 and possible financial ruin.

These examples are the tip of the iceberg. As you read this article, you can probably think of other examples that affected your business. In each case, it’s more than the legal expenses that are at stake. The business owner has to devote time and sleepless nights to the legal dispute and loses time from running the business.

How does a Business Legal Checkup work?

o You will be asked to complete some forms to provide confidential information about your business.

o You will have a discussion with the lawyer to assess the scope of the Business Legal Checkup. For example, it doesn’t cover tax law, environmental law or succession planning unless special arrangements are made.

o A basic Business Legal Checkup will provide a diagnostic review of the legal status of the following issues in your business: (1) Set up and governance of your corporation; (2) Relationships among the owners of the business; (3) Relationships with employees; (4) the contracts and forms used in the business; (5) Competition Law and Illegal Advertising; (6) Intellectual Property, Trade Secrets, Confidentiality and Privacy; (7) Safety and risk management; (8) Risk analysis and efficient management of existing litigation; (9) Internet Issues; (10) Regulatory licencing issues.

o A Business Legal Checkup can also be customized to meet the business owner’s specific requirements. This may require consultation with outside legal experts.

o In preparation for the Business Legal Checkup, you will be asked to provide documents and information concerning each category of the analysis.

o After the documents have been reviewed by a lawyer, consultation may be required with other lawyers. Further clarifications may be required from you and other senior officers of your business.

o A report will be prepared explaining the status of each topic and red-flagging issues which require attention and indicating their level of urgency.

o When the Business Legal Checkup report is ready, the business owner may prefer to have the Business Legal Checkup lawyer or legal team present the findings orally. An oral presentation followed by a Q&A session can assist the business owner to plan the next steps efficiently.

o The Business Legal Checkup legal team will facilitate referrals to lawyers who are specialized in resolving the legal problems identified by the Business Legal Checkup.

How much will a Business Legal Checkup cost?

For a small startup business with less than five employees, operating out of a single location and having only one business entity, a Business Legal Checkup can usually be completed for about $5,000 to $7,500 if there are no unusual problems.

Who needs a Business Legal Checkup?

Every business needs to know whether its legal processes are efficiently compliant with the law. Public corporations are obliged to provide certain levels of legal compliance to government and regulatory bodies. A small private corporation does not have the same levels of mandatory compliance but failure to do so voluntarily is like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand.

A Business Legal Checkup is also useful for a business owner who is considering the sale of his business or for a prospective purchaser of a business. Minority shareholders could insist on a Business Legal Checkup annually or bi-annually to ensure that management and the majority shareholders are meeting their obligations to the corporation.

A Business Legal Checkup may also be a credibility tool for a business seeking financing or government contracts. Unlike a financial audit, ISO9001 and ISO 14400 compliance standards, the Business Legal Checkup is a confidential report to management only and expressly excludes reliance by outside parties. If an outside party, such as a lender or investor, will receive a copy of the report, the Business Legal Checkup legal team must be informed in advance so that concerns relevant to these outside parties can be taken into account.

Where can my business get a Business Legal Checkup?

So far as we know, the Business Legal Checkup, as a fixed-price legal diagnostic tool for private small and medium-sized businesses is a new legal service in Canada. Interested business owners are invited to contact us for information.

Benjamin Franklin’s famous advice has evolved. A Business Legal Checkup can be much weightier than an “ounce of prevention”. It could provide “tons” of preventive advice to save your business from damaging or catastrophic expense. The Business Legal Checkup will also provide the business owner with peace of mind which, as another saying goes, is “worth its weight in gold”.

October 2008. © Igor Ellyn and Orie Niedzviecki

This article is for information only and not legal advice.

Igor Ellyn, QC, CS and Orie Niedzviecki, Partners

Ellyn Law LLP, Business Litigation Lawyers, Toronto

http://www.ellynlaw.com

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What Is an IP Phone?

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An IP Phone is a telephone that operates on a data network instead of traditional telecoms networks. It is designed as a networking device, running over the TCP/IP suite of protocols, where the speech is digitized and encapsulated in a series of IP (Internet Protocol) packets for transmission over copper or fibre transmission lines. An IP Phone is more traditionally referred to as a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone because it is because it uses technology that come under the general heading of VoIP.

VoIP telephone calls can be made over the Internet or private IP networks run by companies and organisations. Just like traditional telephony, VoIP needs to use signalling and control protocols for the setup, control and clearing of the calls. SIP (Session Control Protocol) is the most popular control protocol in use today, and most commercial IP Phones support SIP. On the Internet, Skype is the most popular Voice over IP system, but it is proprietary and doesn’t support Industry standard protocols.

Voice over IP technologies also support multimedia as well as voice, and there are many video applications that are supported by VoIP.

In order for the IP phone to operate in a digital network then the analogue speech input via the microphone must be digitised so that it can be packetized ready for transmission on the IP network. There are many variations of the processes for digitization and they generally come under the heading of a Codec (Coder / Decoder). One codec that is also used in the digital telephone networks is the ITU-T G.711 codec, which digitises the analogue speech through a process of sampling and quantization. The first part of the process is PCM (Pulse Code Modulation), where the analogue speech is sampled at a constant rate of 8khz to produce 8 bit binary words which represent the original analogue speech. It must be noted that when the binary data is reconverted to an analogue form at the receiver, there is a drop in quality due to what we call quantization error. Other popular codecs include G.729, G.726 and G.723, and a lot of IP phones support multiple codecs.

Traditional telephones can be used on VoIP systems provided an intermediate device is used to provide conversion and connection to the data network. These devices come under the heading of Analogue Telephone Adapters or ATA.

VoIP Phones can communicate directly with each other over a data network, but they are often used with an IP PBX which is a hardware or software device that emulates the operation of a traditional PABX as used in the Telecommunications industry. The IP PBX will provide such functionality as registration services for the phones, proxy services and supplementary services such as Call Divert, Call Forwarding, Ring Groups and Voice mail. Indeed an IP PBX should be able to provide all the services currently supplied by traditional PABXs.

Just like any other IP networking device such as a PC or Server, an IP Phone needs some basic configuration parameters such as a valid IP Address, Network Mask an MAC Address. The phones can be manually configured with IP Addresses or can be supplied with IP Addresses from a DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server like most network devices in our IP networks today.

VoIP Phones need a power supply, just like any other network device and in recent years technology has been developed to supply these phones with DC power direct from network connection with the local switch. The power is passed down the Ethernet patch cables using the previously unused copper pairs within the cable. A standard known as IEEE 802.3af was released in 2003 and it can provide up to 15.4 watts of DC power to each device direct from the switch port. The standard was updated in 2009 as IEEE 802.3at to provide up to 25.5 watts of power per device.

IP Phones have to compete with other network protocols in our packet based data networks, but because they are conveying Real-Time information in the form of speech, they must be afforded some kind of special handling or prioritisation in the network. The methods of affording some network protocols prioritisation over others is known as QoS (Quality of Service). In other words, we must minimise the amount of delay across the network for the IP Packets containing the digitised speech. Too much delay across the network will result in a two way conversation being difficult to manage, rather like talking over a Satellite phone where the delay to and from the satellite makes the conversation difficult unless the users are disciplined and understand the problems. Variable delay, often referred to as packet switching delay, is where the delay between individual packets varies in sympathy with network conditions. This type of delay normally comes under the heading of jitter, and there are a number of techniques that can be employed to alleviate the effects of jitter.

There are many manufacturers of IP Phones, and if you are purchasing a VoIP Phone then you must ensure that it supports the standards supported elsewhere in your network such as the correct codecs, inline power standard and of course the features that you require.

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Traffic Tickets

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What are traffic tickets?

Traffic tickets are writs issued by the traffic police officers to road users whenever they cross traffic rules. The road users who receive these writs range from motorists, car drivers to bus drivers. These traffic ticket cases are heard in the traffic courts and the tickets are issued there.

Types of traffic tickets

Traffic tickets are generally issued for two major types of traffic crimes namely,

1. Moving violation

2. Non-moving violation

Moving violation is defined as those traffic crimes that are committed when the vehicles are in motion. The most frequented type of moving violation is over-speeding, that is, when a motorist exceeds the speed limit of that road or highway.

Non-moving violations are those traffic violations that are committed when the vehicle is stationary. The most common non-moving violation is the parking violation, that is, when the vehicle is parked in a no-parking zone or if the vehicle is parked in an unlawful way.

Two-wheeler riders are prone to commit moving-violations more than four-wheeler drivers commit the same. At the same time, four-wheeler drivers (car owner, in particular) are prone to commit non-moving violation like parking violations.

Levels of traffic tickets

There are different levels of traffic tickets given to those who commit traffic crimes. The punishment level depends upon the intensity of the crime committed.

The most common punishment given for traffic crimes are for those who do parking violations. Generally, traffic police issue a small amount as fine to those who park their vehicles in “no parking” zones or if they park them in unlawful ways. Issuing fines are the least severe writs given to the offenders. However, the amount of money charged as fine will also vary depending upon the severity of the crime.

Crimes like over-speeding, disobeying the lane rules, traveling in one-way roads, careless and reckless driving, disturbing the public while on the drive and damaging public properties etc are a few notable ones that result in fines. There are chances that these crimes may be upgraded by the traffic officials to traffic courts rather than settling off through traffic tickets. This usually depends on the demeanor of the driver.

Traveling without a valid license, traveling in uninsured vehicles, possessing fake registration identities for the vehicle and road taxes for the vehicles left unpaid etc are some of the crimes that are settled only in traffic courts. In such cases, the traffic police officials issue a traffic ticket to the concerned driver and summon them to the traffic courts on specific days. Failure to obey this is considered a serious crime and may result in the person being detained.

The above mentioned crimes and traffic ticket issuing methods are followed in a majority of the countries. The list includes the United States, Canada, Cuba and other countries of North America, England, Scotland, France Italy and Germany among others. Certain other countries like India, Pakistan, China, Russia etc follow a similar kind of strategy expect for the fact that they do not issue tickets but settle of the issues through on the spot fines. Some countries around the world use a “traffic points” system wherein the drivers accumulate points for each crime they commit and at a point of time when they reach an unacceptable level, their license stands canceled and serve a permanent infraction from riding vehicles any further.

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Social Media Integration With Your Business in a Digital Era

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Social media is evolving in a big way, and everyday we are presented with a report that displays the impact of social networking channels like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Blogs, community forums and others on small and large businesses alike. It is transforming business in every way. Business models are changing with more access, choice and maturity in the cloud or on the SaaS platform.

Thus it not only transforms brands but also impacts the brand/customer relationship like no other communication method used previously. It’s simply about finding the best way to communicate with a customer. With the slow economy, customers are becoming more cautious in their approach and want to be better informed before they use a service or buy a product. They have access to a plethora of information that can be sourced online.

Businesses have moved to exploit social networks to reach an audience that was untapped before. It is bound to consume all areas of marketing strategy because of its ambiguity and ubiquitous nature. But how exactly companies will go about capturing information dispersed across multiple media platforms is anyone’s guess.

There is nothing new in the social media we are using. It is the same content that has been in use: images, audio, video and text. It is how we utilize it and open up new channels of communication.

Take the Marketing Initiative

Instead of thinking of social media as a technology, think of it as a communication tool wherein you can connect with the customer and build a long term relationship. It’s simple: shifting conversations to a different medium; allowing for easier updating of content; and reaching a wider audience.

Every organization needs a social media implementation and integration framework.

a) Managing Content Aggregation – At the onset, businesses need to better understand market behavior and interaction within their marketplaces. Deploying Google Alerts, Twitter Search,Radian6, and PR Newswire’s Media Metrics to track conversations and instances associated with key words helps in understanding the market better.

b) Audience Reaction – Based on the reactions to their content on these social networking sites, companies can respond and improve the content, define future launches or engagements and connect.

c) Data Analytic Metrics – It is a managed service for multiple social media channel monitoring and reporting activity in order to show the trend, usually in the form of friends, followers, conversations, traffic and reach.

d) Enterprise Integration – Any department affected by external activity will eventually socialize. Organizational transformation will gravitate towards a top-down hierarchy of policy, education, and empowerment across the entire organization and provide on-going support for content development and community building initiatives. Enterprise integration links social analytics with existing CRM and BI tools.

Incorporating social media solutions into your client’s or company’s existing content strategy does not have to be a painful process. By hearing and observing the responses and interactions of the customer, we can touch on the pain points, source new ideas, foster improvements, learn and integrate a sense of purpose into our social media programs, thus opening the door to new possibilities.

Any individual or organization that sells products or offers services should value open communication as a goal. If your client or company does not have one, social media integration might be a good starting point.

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Finance

Medical Liens – Healthcare & Law’s Proverbial Catch 22

Avatar Of Rajesh Khanna

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While meeting financial demands may be nothing new for healthcare facilities, for today’s medical providers a legal climate exists that has been described as an ‘economic gauntlet. Just keeping the lights on for some healthcare facilities is an issue facing far too many healthcare providers. How does this issue affect you? Let us explore this question.

Nationwide medical care providers deal with tough issues daily, in part such issues range from; rising operational costs, State and Federal funding cut backs, reduced corporate donations created by a tough economy, and Federal legislation ensuring emergency medical care for all patients. Granted while such challenges are just a sample of the issues facing America’s medical providers, make no mistake, these issues alone are reason enough for a “fiscal juggling act” providers face as demands increase while capital is decreasing.

For the federally subsidized medical institution, each provider is compelled by Federal statute to provide emergency medical treatment to all patients, irregardless of the patient’s ability to pay. To date; the financial impact such regulation has on medical providers has been defined by recent statistics that show over 50% of all emergency patients admitted annually have no proof of insurance at the time of admission. So what’s the correlation? Patients who receive emergency medical care benefit from the current legislation, as each receives medical treatment without a guarantee of financial responsible for such treatment. For medical providers the losses associated with patient care is absorbed as taxable deductions as well as passed on as increased healthcare costs to insured patients. Thus insured or not this situation affects us all.

For the healthcare providers who are profitable, a “taxable write ” for uncollected patient accounts provides an advantage, but for medical provider whose write offs exceed revenue, there’s a real paradox. For providers to meet fiscal demands while not generating sufficient capital to meet overhead, and yet expected to provide quality care, well is too much being asked? Not if you’re a patient who’s standard of care falls below that guaranteed by national standards.

For the profitable medical facility write offs provide a slight advantage, but the reality is a “business as usual” approach to healthcare can not continue as at current because the facts are; a day of reckoning in on the horizon for us all. For medical facility executives to keep the books balanced money must be available to meet financial demands and absorbing losses doesn’t meet the demands incurred by wages, salaries, supplies, utilities, equipment, bank notes and the like. And while you’re calculating the hundreds of millions in expenses just for these categories, add to the equation the legal costs of collections for unpaid uninsured accounts. Now as you wear out your calculator, are you beginning to understand the economic crunch medical facilities face when treating the uninsured and ending up on the short end of the “financial stick”?

Granted while most U.S. consumers find themselves shedding no tears for multi-billion dollar healthcare facilities, you may find yourself feeling differently the next time you’re in need of emergency medical care and none is available because, the once prosperous medical facility is closed due to the economic reasons. Something to think about wouldn’t you agree? Are there other options verses the standard way of doing business? Absolutely. Now let’s explore uninsured patients and the financial solution medical providers have available.

The “Solution”…the “Medical Lien”

The medical lien is a legal security provided to a medical provider when a patient later becomes a plaintiff in a legal case. In such a situation if settlement occurs, medical providers are compensated as the attorney of record compensates the provider out of the insurance collection proceeds. However, as financially sound as a medical lien appears to be, in a real world application, untold losses occur each year from the use of the medical lien.

While medical liens are a nationally used legal tool, for the millions of patients treated annually under this devise the facts are, all too often a medical lien leaves the providers who rely on them with the “short end of the financial stick”. Revenues the medical lien are designed to generate instead create liability for the medical facility, and thus the results are, beyond emergency care, some medical providers decline patients or at best limit the amount of patients they accept whose care is secured by the medical lien.

For the patient who becomes a plaintiff, the injured more often than not need ongoing medical care in order to achieve maximum medical recovery. “MMR” is the sought after goal for the attorney in order to achieve settlement, satisfy the medical lien providers, be compensated themselves and the patient-plaintiff.

As an illustrative example when an auto accident occurs and the uninsured injured receive emergency medical care. In such instances the patient-plaintiff needs ongoing medical treatment in order to ultimately achieve mmr which ultimately correlates to an insurance settlement. This is where for the medical provider, the patient-plaintiff, and their attorney the proverbial “catch 22” begins.

For medical providers the paradox is such must maintain positive cash flow in order to provide services. Because medical liens do not provide guaranteed compensation a growing number of medical providers refuse to provide ongoing medical care under the auspices of the medical lien. For other medical providers who limit the services provided or the amount of patients accepted whose file is secured by a medical lien, are forced to do so because of the lack of guaranteed compensation combined with the shear length of time involved in achieving compensation.

For the patient-plaintiff this paradox is critical as financial pressures and “pennies on the dollar” insurance settlement offers leave the injured with no-win choices; accepting an offer for settlement before achieving mmr, or searching for medical providers who accept medical lien patients, which in many instances takes months to receive treatment and delays a possible settlement even farther.

For the contingent attorneys in such cases the paradox occurs as their compensation is adversely affected by the amount of settlement achieved when the patient-plaintiff accepts an insurance offer without achieving mmr. Ultimately the values of the injuries sustained are not compensated for and the value of the case is not achieved.

Why then do medical providers decline or limit their care of medical lien patients? Let’s look briefly at what occurs for the medical provider:

Fact 1 Medical Liens Provide No Guarantee of Payment: For medical providers medical liens provide no guarantee of financial security if the pending litigation case is lost, period.

Fact 2 Medical Liens Take Years to Provide Compensation: Medical providers wait years for resolution as each has no leverage to enforce an “at fault” insurance carrier provide prompt payment for cases they must assume liability for.

Fact 3 Medical Liens Result In Reduced Payments: Medical providers under a medical lien are negotiated with to reduce the accounts payable after absorbing the costs of care while waiting years for settlement.

Fact 4 Vexatious Delays: Vexatious insurance companies control settlement revenue which allows the insurance company time to continue to earn interest on settlement monies in their possession while the medical provider looses revenue to interest.

Fact 5 Medical Facilities Face Loose-Loose Business Decisions: Medical facilities are forced to make “business decisions” everyday regarding absorbing losses for unsuccessfully litigated cases or spending more resources pursuing patient assets with still no guarantee of recovery.

Thus from both a financial and administrative perspective the Medical Lien Letter of Protection makes “keeping the lights on quite challenging as this legal instrument has proven after decades of use to not be the most effective solution for fiscal medical management.

Is There a More Effective Solution?

The answer is yes. A long past due financial solution has been developed as an innovative approach to fiscal medical management and has been recently launched by a professional financial consulting firm, 1st Choice Funding. As financial guru’s, 1st Choice Funding offers an amazing fiscal solution for medical providers, patients-plaintiff’s and their attorneys. This innovative financial solution has been appropriately called “No Risk…No Delay…Payment Today” Medical Lien Portfolio Funding.

As financial experts with a cutting edge solution oriented philosophy, 1st Choice Funding provides a fresh approach, an “outside the box” perspective to the medical-legal patient-plaintiff dilemma. By taking an objective approach to medical liens and the inherent issues they create, 1st Choice Funding provides a “No Risk” financial system that removes 100% of the risk for medical providers which will change the way medicine views the use of medical liens. How is such possible? Simply put: because 1st Choice Funding has unlimited investor resources which when utilized provide a guaranteed cash infusion to the medical provider who sells the medical lien portfolio which converts uncollected patient accounts into a guaranteed cash avalanche.

With “No Risk” Medical Lien Funding medical lien patient files are then converted from “potential risk-to-capital” in days. And with this programs implementation, healthcare facilities are taken out of the business of law and kept in the business of healthcare. A sound financial option indeed. With “No Risk” Medical Lien Portfolio funding, medical facilities who utilize this program comply with Federal guidelines for uninsured patient services while not being left with financial consequences for doing such. The facts are for unpaid medical lien accounts, medical providers who utilize “No Risk” capital receive:

Capital Today Instead of Capital Delay

Capital Today Instead of Capital Outlay

Capital Today Instead of More Capital Pay “No Risk” Medical Lien Portfolio Funding is just that simple. With this unique financial tool medical providers receive an unheard of ability to increase patient volume and revenue without consequence. For the first time in medical history, healthcare is being offered the most effective “financial bridge” designed to bring Government, Finance, Law, Medicine and Patient Care together effectively and simultaneously. “No Risk” Medical Lien Portfolio Funding is good for medical providers, for patient-plaintiffs, and for their attorneys. “No Risk” Medical Lien Portfolio Funding is a savvy financial solution and is a 100% winner for everyone involved.

Unlike health insurance carriers or government agencies whose red tape and never ending delays cost medical provider’s more in fiscal resources waiting for compensation, 1st Choice Funding’s investor capital is eager to provide the financial remedy without delay. For a further examination of 1st Choice Funding’s “No Risk” Medical Lien Portfolio program consider these facts:

“No Risk” Medical Lien Funding Eliminates Financial Risk For Medical Providers

“No Risk” Medical Lien Funding Provides 100% Capital on Unsuccessfully Litigated Cases

“No Risk” Medical Lien Funding Eliminates Medical Lien Collection Expense

“No Risk” Medical Lien Funding Provides a Positive Environment Improving Patient Relations

“No Risk” Medical Lien Funding Provides Cash Infusion from Lien Portfolio Sale

“No Risk” Medical Lien Funding Provides Capital When Services Are Rendered

“No Risk” Medical Lien Funding provides tomorrow’s effective financial solution….Today!

For More Information Log on to: Medical Lien Information at 1st Choice Funding [http://1stchoicefunding.com/Medical-liens.html].

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