Thursday, July 10, 2014
Friday, June 27, 2014
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Thursday, May 8, 2014
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
For the last 25 years, the Arizona Registrar of Contractors’ enforcement procedures have been best described as “complainant driven.” That is, the ROC typically deferred to the claimant (usually a homeowner) as to whether a citation should be issued (even if the agency’s own investigation found the complaint to be without merit) as well as whether to request a formal hearing. The ROC was less a regulator and more a referee between the complainant and the contractor.
Under the ROC’s new procedures, instituted in late 2013, citations will not be issued solely at the request of the person filing the complaint. Rather, the ROC will first determine whether the evidence provided by the complainant and gathered by the ROC investigator supports a finding that there has likely been a substantial violation of law by the contractor. This procedure will place the ROC in line with other regulatory agencies both inside and outside Arizona. It will also likely result in fewer citations being issued. The intent of these changes is to allow the ROC to focus its regulatory efforts on “problem contractors” rather than on minor violations of law.
The ROC investigators are now charged with gathering all facts and making an initial determination as to whether the allegations in the complaint are substantiated. If the investigation reveals no substantial violations of law, the investigator will close the file with no further action. Notably, the complainant will have no recourse if the ROC determines that there has been no substantial violation of law.
If however, the investigator determines that there is a substantial violation of law, the ROC will have the option as to what type of discipline to pursue. Under its new graduated disciplinary scheme, if the ROC determines that there has likely been a substantial violation of law, it can choose to issue: (1) a Letter of Concern, (2) a Written Directive or (3) a Citation.
A Letter of Concern is a written warning that advises the contractor of the ROC’s concerns and that the case is closed. In its warning, the ROC can also inform the contractors that it reserves the right to reopen the matter or that it may use it as an aggravating factor in the event of future complaints. A Letter of Concern is not considered discipline and, therefore, the contractor has no right to seek a hearing on the appropriateness of its issuance.
A Written Directive is similar to the old “Corrective Work Order.” In the directive, the ROC instructs the contractor to address or rectify a claimed deficiency. The matter remains open until the ROC determines that the contractor has complied with the directive. If the contractor complies, the case is closed. If not, the ROC may proceed to issue a citation.
A Citation involves a formal complaint by the ROC charging the contractor with a substantial violation of law and the matter is referred to an Administrative Hearing. The ROC is the named complainant and it has the burden to prove the alleged violation of law. Prosecution is performed by the Arizona Attorney General’s office. In response, the contractor can choose to defend the claim or, alternatively, request a settlement conference to attempt to resolve the matter.
These changes make it even more imperative that a contractor provide the ROC with its position on the claim, preferably in writing. Contractors need to prepare to aggressively defend any claim at the outset.
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
John Blattner knows brands for a living. In particular, he knows what is trademarked, what can be trademarked, and how to stop another brand from infringing on your trademark. Why is this important? Because trademarks can protect a brand’s recognition and equity and that’s where trademark attorneys like John come into play.
John is a Member in Dickinson Wright’s Ann Arbor office. He practices brand creation and protection law, including trademark counseling, clearance, registration, maintenance, and enforcement both in the U.S. and overseas. He went into law after an 18 year career in publishing, marketing and nonprofit development which exposed him to his fair share of marketing and trademark issues.
“It was kind of a natural outgrowth [becoming a lawyer] of my publishing career,” John says. “I bumped into a fair amount of trademark issues that enable me to bring real-world business experience into my practice, including the fashion, financial services, cosmetics, sporting goods, automotive, technology, pharma, publishing and other industries.”
How can companies protect their brands? John says first to get clear on what trademarks you actually have. “I frequently look at a client’s web site and find names, slogans, designs, or other things that are functioning as trademarks but that the client isn’t fully aware of,” John says. The next step – especially when choosing a new trademark – is to do a clearance search to make sure someone else doesn’t already have rights: “There’s no sense setting yourself up for a cease-and-desist letter.” Then apply to register the trademark, not just in the U.S. but also in other countries where the business is or will be active. Finally, monitor the marketplace to make sure third parties aren’t infringing your rights.
All of these questions will form the answers to what John can do to help you protect your brand, especially if you feel another company or person is infringing on your brand. Trademark infringement can lead to confusion among consumers and dilute the strength of your brand in the marketplace. Proper protections need to be in place to combat trademark infringement.
John has extensive experience in IP enforcement, including a wide range of patent, trademark, copyright, and antitrust litigation in state and federal courts; appellate litigation in state and federal courts of appeals, including the Federal Circuit; and opposition and cancellation proceedings before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. All of this experience has led to an adjunct professorship at the Michigan State University College of Law where he focuses on trademarks and unfair competition.
“I teach my courses from a practitioner’s point of view,” says John. “You inevitably have to cover a lot of ground throughout the semester and I choose certain areas of law based on my experience. What I try to impart on my students is when you are learning an area of trademark law, to not only think about it from a lawyer’s point of view but to think about it as if you are the business owner as well.”
His prior career and his practical views on trademark law make John a valuable commodity to his clients. He hopes in the end, that his real-world experience and his passion for brand awareness will help his clients think about the legal implications first when trying to launch a new product/program rather than having to scramble afterwards when that inevitable cease-and-desist letter shows up on his client’s doorstep.