Brand your company

equine estate planning liability releases equine contracts equine businessBusiness reputation is important in the horse world. In this blog, I am going to explain how registering your trademark is an important way to protect your professional reputation.

I once knew someone – we’ll call her Sally – who moved cross country after riding with a trainer – we’ll call her Mary – for years in Florida. Sally started to search for a new riding horse in her new home. She came across one on a horse sales website that interested her and went to the listed website to learn more about the horse and the person selling the horse. She was shocked at what she found. On the main page of the website was the logo for Mary’s barn! It was flipped, as if appearing in a mirror, but it was clearly the same logo. Sally knew that Mary’s brother had hand drawn the logo several years before. She immediately contacted Mary to tell her about the stolen logo. Mary was a highly-successful trainer so she said she wasn’t worried about it. She said that no one would confuse her training services with the trainer who had stolen the logo. Besides, Mary lived all the way across the country. Sally never pursued the horse she found that led her to the website. She figured if that trainer would steal a logo, what else would she do that was dishonest.

horse law questions jo belascoMary didn’t think there was a problem with the other trainer using her logo because Mary was a higher-level and more famous trainer, plus she lived across the country. But such thinking can leave an equine professional open to problems. What if Mary decided she wanted to expand her training to that area? What if people looking online simply assumed that Mary and the trainer who stole her logo were somehow affiliated and that trainer engaged in deceptive practices? Or was a bad trainer? Or abused the horses under her care? Mary might be losing clients and gaining a bad reputation without even knowing it.

Mary could have prevented these problems by registering the logo with United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The USPTO defines a trademark as 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.” If Mary had a registered trademark, then she could have had an attorney force the trainer to take it off her website, either through a cease-and-desist letter or a lawsuit.

One of the main reasons for registering a trademark harkens back to horses and livestock. It relates to branding. You may have heard that you should brand your company. Branding your company is a way of identifying your business and setting you apart from your competition. Registering a trademark is an important part of branding. Why? Because one of the main issues the USPTO considers when determining if a trademark should be granted is whether it creates confusion in the marketplace. Let’s say you want to create a company that provides packages of natural supplements to horse owners. And you want to call it SmartyPak. Your chances of getting that trademark approved are slim to none Why? Because SmartPak, the supplement company, already has that name trademarked. Allowing for two similar trademarks would cause confusion in the marketplace.

What happens if you don’t register your trademark? Well, someone else could register the same or similar name. That may not seem like a big deal but think of this. Once someone has a registered trademark, they can enforce it by issuing cease-and-desist letters to companies that are using their trademark. They can even take that company to court. Let’s say you are using a certain business name and another company trademarks it. Even if you can avoid court, you will have to rebrand. What does that mean? You have to choose a new name and reform your company with that new name. You have to change all of your merchandise to the new name. You have to let your customers and clients know. It can be a very expensive and time-consuming endeavor, as you might well imagine.

Save yourself the time, money, and headache. Call me at 617-991-8905/413-829-0717 or send me a message. I can talk to you about the registration process and discuss my flat fee with you.

 

 

Bob Baffert as the Greatest Coach in Sports

equine estate planning liability releases equine contracts equine businessFor far too many years, the standard response to horse people who insist that what we do with horses is athletic has been, “Horse activities aren’t a sport because the horse is the one doing all the work.” So you’ll no doubt be pleased to learn that even before 3-year old thoroughbred powerhouse Justify won the Triple Crown, CNN  recognized his trainer Bob Baffert as “the Greatest Coach in Sports.”

Bleacher Report writer Tom Weir opened his case by pointing out that the span of Baffert’s winning career exceeds that of Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots and Gregg Popovich’s NBA Spurs. This, despite the fact that a horse’s racing career means that “no coach in any other sport has as much turnover or as small a window to reach stardom.” You can explore the rest of Weir’s reasons for lifting horseracing trainers to superstar status among sports’ coaching professionals in CNN’s June 8 Bleacher Report.

And when you do, you will no doubt find yourself gleeful that someone in sports has finally acknowledged what horse people have always known: that riders, trainers, and all the other people who work with horses are as dedicated, focused, hard-working, and talented as the people who make any other sports endeavor dear to the hearts of fans and participants alike. If you’ve ever wished fifteen minutes of a good posting exercise on a dismissive football fan or fun-run aficionado, just to see how sore their legs and back would be after “the horse did all the work,” you’ll appreciate this article and want to share it with non-horsey friends and family.

call text email equine law massachusetts horse attorneyWe suggest you try not to crow when you do.

At Windhorse Legal, we know how special the horseperson’s way of life really is. Attorney Jo Belasco worked as a horse professional for decades. So when it’s time to protect your horses, barn, and home in the event something happens to you, call on Jo, an attorney who really understands and appreciates the way you live.

Sales Contract Basics

equine law contracts estate planning business With spring finally sprung and show season either in full swing or happening soon, now is a popular time to buy a horse. Many people buy one on a handshake, trusting the other person at her word. Unfortunately, doing so can lead to both headaches and heartaches. Having a simple sales contract can make the experience a positive one for all parties.

A horse sale contract should include the names of the seller and buyer and all the details of the sale. A thorough description of the horse should be included and one or more pictures can even be attached. If the horse is registered, include any registration number. Keep in mind that the seller is held to whatever description is included in the sales contract. For example, if the contract says the sale is for a Paint mare, then the seller has made the guaranty that she is selling a Paint mare. If she delivers a sorrel Quarter Horse instead, she is breaching that contract.

boarding barn sales breeding training riding liabilityThe price of the horse as any payment terms should also be in the contract. Sometimes a buyer needs to make payments on a horse instead of paying the entire sale price upfront. If the seller agrees to this, the payment terms should be clearly spelled out in the sales contract, including the amounts and the dates by which they should be paid. The seller can even require the payments be made in a certain manner, such as by electronic deposit instead of by check. Terms should be included that address what happens if the buyer fails to make a timely payment or is unable to pay the entire amount within the time frame specified in the contract. If the seller and buyer renegotiate the payment terms, that new agreement should be written up, signed by both parties, and attached to the original contract.

You may see what is called an “as is” clause in a sales contract. Such a clause means that the buyer accepts the horse in the condition at the time of the sale, and the seller makes no further guaranties about the horse. Even though these situations are common in the horse world, a buyer should still be cautious. If there is a particular issue a buyer is concerned about, for example lameness or a training issues like bucking, then the buyer should make sure that issue is addressed in the contract. Even though “as is” clauses are legal, a seller may be liable if she engages in fraud. For example, a seller can’t lie about the horse, stating the horse is sound when she knows the horse is lame. If a pre-purchase exam is performed, make sure to mention that in the contract. Also include any limitations the buyer is accepting. For example, if the vet states that the horse may need hock injections in five years or is not capable of becoming a Grand Prix jumper due to physical limitations, include those restrictions in the sales contract. Doing so can prevent a future lawsuit or aid in defending one by showing that everyone was on the same page with the same expectations about the horse at the time of purchase.

contracts estate planning business trademarkThere are two sections in a sales contract that you might not have thought of including. One is an explanation of who will pay attorney’s fees if the sale winds up in court for some reason. Litigation is expensive, and you may find that you win a court case but wind up losing financially when you add in what you must pay your attorney for winning the case. You can avoid this possibility by including a section stating that the party who loses at trial will pay attorney’s fees for the party who wins. In addition, you want the contract to set forth what state will have jurisdiction if the matter goes to court. Imagine living in Massachusetts and buying a horse in California. You would not want to go to California to litigate any problems.

While it may cost a bit more, you should have an equine attorney or at least an attorney familiar with contracts draft your sales contract for you. A little bit of foresight can save a lot of time, money, and energy if something goes wrong with the sale. And at this time of year, it can help make sure that a special dream-come-true horse doesn’t turn out to be a nightmare.