Making your Invention

Through experience I've learned that inventors are extremely hands on when creating. They alone think through every detail of their invention. How does it work? What materials are involved? Who can use the product best? Inventors answer these questions in their unlimited imaginations.

Soon, often when coming to meet me for patenting advice, they need to put pencil to paper and start designing and manufacturing. Inventors are daunted by this prospect, they are comfortable to create, but not to produce or sell their invention. They should either delegate the task of production, or get really good help.

Often a patent attorney works hand in hand with engineers, manufacturing experts, and marketers. Your patent attorney can be a valuable resource for information and can usually handle the details of design and production for inventors. That work is done for a fee in addition to the engineers and manufacturers. This delegation works well for seasoned inventors, but 1st time inventors may need some encouragement. There are mentors available.

There is an organization, a ServiceCorp of Retired Executives, that offer their time and expertise. Usually they provide their service without charge. Though, we recommend that inventors who meet with an executive pick up the lunch tab.

If you are not ready to delegate the design and engineering phase of your product, then search for a mentor that suits your need right away. Take them out to lunch and ask intelligent questions. Do this with the goal of getting more comfortable with the manufacturing process. Search for one here:  http://tinyurl.com/zu7q9ej.

Daniel Zamudio can be reached at (219) 924-2300 or via email to dan@zlawpro.com.

Amazon Begins Collecting Sales Tax From 3 More States

Amazon.com began collecting sales tax in Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, and Utah on January 1, 2017. Of course these states are probably thankful for that move. Many will see this as creating more fairness to small businesses already collecting and processing sales tax.

Iowa saw a decrease in sales tax from out of state sales (https://tax.iowa.gov/sites/files/idr/Fiscal%20Year%202016%20Annual%20Report.pdf, last visited 1-3-2017). This seems to go against the reports of an increase in online sales. Are sales tax dollars being lost through online retailers with no local physical presence? Probably.

In Utah, which has also reached a voluntary agreement with Amazon, the online retailer will keep 1.31 percent of sales taxes it collects from Utah customers. It is not clear whether this same deal applies in Louisiana where Amazon will also begin to collect sales tax in 2017.

Amazon currently collects sales tax in 28 states and the District of Columbia, according to the company’s website. The four additional states would bring the total to 32. While Amazon accounts for a significant number of out-of-state sales, there are still many remote retailers that aren’t required to collect sales tax. Some states are addressing this concern. Louisiana recently enacted a bill similar to a Colorado law (H.B. 1121) that requires remote retailers with more than $50,000 of in-state sales per calendar year to notify customers of their tax obligation by January 31 of each year and mandate that businesses send a report of their prior year's sales to the DOR by March 1 - Ugh.

The District of Columbia is the most recent jurisdiction in which Amazon has begun collecting sales tax, in support of a federal bill addressing the issue of taxing remote sales -- the Online Sales Simplification Act of 2016 -- released August 25 by U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.

Let's see if the trend continues with not just Amazon but other online retailers. Soon, I'm afraid, the days of tax free purchases online will be gone.

I just won my lawsuit. Can I get reimbursed for my attorney's fees?

When you sue somebody (or are sued) and win, you might be able to get the other side to pay for your attorney fees. Generally, this happens if you had a contract dispute that allowed for fee reimbursement. Sometimes the law allows reimbursement because of the type of lawsuit. Assuming you are allowed to be reimbursed, then a court can award you be paid your reasonable attorney fees.

It is unethical for an attorney to charge unreasonably. Indiana's rules on attorney conduct specifically say that a "lawyer shall not make an agreement for, charge, or collect an unreasonable fee". (Ind. Rules of Prof'l Conduct 1.5). There are many things to consider regarding whether a fee is reasonable, much of it is common sense.

In certain cases, an attorney can also charge for a paralegal's time. Generally, that is acceptable only if that paralegal "works under the direction of an attorney" and does work that "usually requires a sufficient knowledge of legal concepts and would be performed by the attorney in the absence of the paralegal." (Johnson v. Naugle, 557 N.E.2d 1339 (Ind. Ct. App. 1990)).

So, you can be reimbursed for your attorney fees if you have a right to do so (e.g. a contract) and the attorney's fees are reasonable. Discuss this with your attorney at the onset of the representation.