Identity Theft, Fraud & How It May Affect YOU

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America today. It happens more often than you think. In fact, you most likely know someone or are someone who has been affected by a telephone scam, credit card theft, or even identity theft. Now, with technology on the constant rise, the risk of theft becomes even more likely. It could happen to you.

Millions of people have been affected by such scams, and the number of reports are only increasing. In 2017, Javelin Strategy & Research reported that an estimated 16.7 million people were impacted by identity theft. (https://www.lifelock.com/education/how-common-is-identity-theft/).

It may seem that there is nothing that you can do to prevent this type of theft from happening to you. One thing you can do when you find yourself in a possible scam scenario is to reach out for help. Do not be afraid to ask questions. There are numerous resources that exist to guide you towards finding an answer.

Scam artists might email you, call you on the telephone, write you a letter, or simply research your name online (e.g. social media, google) to get information they need. If a scam artists calls you on the telephone, they will most likely use your emotions against you. A scam artist may reference that a loved one is in need of help. If this happens, don't forget to fact check the situation. Although it may be difficult if they are saying that your loved one is lost in a foreign country or has been put in jail and they need money fast, take a step back and ask yourself, "Does this really make sense?". When was the last time that you spoke with this loved one? Would it make sense for him or her to be in the situation as alleged?

In order to avoid possible data breeches that help scam artists get your information, take precautionary measures in your privacy settings on social media and other networking sites. Be proactive in throughly checking your credit history, mail, and online data to avoid the simple ways that scam artists can get information. For a small fee, our office can help you with the steps necessary to freeze your credit report.

Remember, should you find yourself part of a scam – It is OK to seek help. Don't be afraid or embarrassed to ask questions. It can happen at any time. Identity theft can cost you thousands of dollars and countless hours to fix. There are answers waiting for you, as long as you aren't afraid to look for them. Protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft.

For more information, please visit the Indiana Attorney General's Office website. http://www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/.

If you find yourself in a situation where you feel as if you may be part of a scam, take a step back and assess the facts of the situation. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact our office to schedule a free one hour consultation.

 

Can I change my patent application after it is filed?

Once a patent application is filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, it is a recognition of what the inventor has at the time of filing. Invariably, the application will get rejected within the 1st two years. After a rejection, an inventor does have an opportunity to make modifications to the application. However, there are important restrictions to making any amendments. One is the prohibition against adding new stuff to your invention.

Making a change after you as the inventor have revealed what you know to the patent office could change the scope of what you said was your invention. Any change to your previously filed patent application could expand upon the contents you originally disclosed at the time of filing. This upsets the assumption of the examination process, i.e. that you fully disclosed your invention at the time you filed your application. Thus, the patent laws prevent an inventor from amending a patent application after filing that would add new matter to that application. 35 U.S.C § 132 ("No amendment shall introduce new matter into the disclosure of the invention.")

This problem is based on the idea that when an inventor makes an application for patent that application is considered a statement by the inventor that the invention itself "was made at the time the application was filed" Automatic Weighing Mach. Co. v. Pneumatic Scale Corp., 166 F. 288, 293 (1st Cir. 1909). Adding new matter means that the inventor could not have completely disclosed the invention when the application was filed, which would have made the examiner's work on that application a waste of time and effort.

So, yes an inventor can change the patent application after it has been filed but cannot add new matter in so doing.

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.