Technology and Business Law Blog

Guy Kawasaki’s Top Sixteen Lies of Lawyers

 Here is a humorous post I found in Guy Kawasaki’s blog, all you technology lawyers out there can decide whether it is true or not. You can read it for yourself at www.guykawasaki.com. Enjoy.

1. “I’m really excited about what you are doing and will give your company my personal attention.” Once someone gets to the partner level, making it “rain” is as important as doing “work.” This is part of a standard sales pitch, so don’t let it go to your head.

          2. “Our firm is really excited about what you’re doing, so we’d like to      invest    in your company too.” Also part of the standard sales pitch. Most firms invest in most of their startup clients—it’s simply the law of big numbers: Invest in enough dumb ideas, and one will turn out to be a Google.

    3.“We can work on the billing so that you pay us when you get financed.” The final flattery in a good sales pitch. As with the others, don’t think you’re special. This is a common offer.

4. “I’ll have that to you by the end of the day.” The important question for you to ask when you hear this is, “End of exactly which day?” Because every day has an end. And you should find out how your lawyer defines the end of the day: 6:00 pm or 11:59 pm (thanks, zakstar).

5. “Don’t worry about the date on that option grant; it’s not a big deal.” Unless you enjoy getting indicted, you should run from a lawyer who utters such stupidity.

6. “The bill would be lower if it weren’t for the lawyers on the other side.” You do realize that the lawyers on the other side are saying this about your lawyers too, right?

7. “I thought you were more interested in getting it right rather than saving a few dollars.” In other words, the legal bill for your series A funding may exceed the amount of capital raised.

8. “Your case is much stronger than theirs; I’m sure we can convince them.” If your position is so strong, you don’t need lawyers. It’s when your position is weak that you need them. Also, your opponent is hearing the same thing about their case.

9. “We have relationships at the highest level in Shanghai/Munich/Mumbai/New York/LA.” In other words, someone from the firm once flew in first class to Shanghai/Munich/Mumbai/New York/LA with the vice premier’s uncle’s sister’s nephew.

10. “We’d much rather be on the company side than on the investor side.” Let me get this straight: Your lawyer would rather be on the side of two guys/gals in garage who are raising $500,000 than a venture capital fund managing $500 million whose partners play golf at the same country club?

11. “We usually don’t bill the full retainer; it only happens if there are unforeseen issues that come up.” One of two things is happening: either you’ve been sandbagged with an artificially high estimate or your lawyer just passed the bar.

12. “Sure we’re busy, but I’ll make sure you don’t get handed off to a green associate.” Translation: Your main contact passed the bar a year ago.

13. “I’ve done work with Google/Microsoft/Apple, so I know how to structure deals with them.” Translation: “My favorite search engine is Google which I use on my Windows laptop while I’m listening to my iPod.”

14. “We think you will have a very strong patent.” If you hear this, ask this question: “So if Microsoft infringes on it, we’d win?”

15. “We know the opposing attorneys, so we’ll be able to work out something quickly and cheaply.” This is like asking the hotel concierge what restaurant he recommends. There is usually no such thing as quickly and cheaply. There’s only “good and expensive,” “quick and lousy,” and “cheap and lousy.” Pick one.

16. “I can call several venture capitalists to help you secure funding.” Actually, you should select your lawyer as much for his/her connections to the venture capital community as much as legal expertise. However, take this very literally: He/she “can” call—this is different from “will” call.

February 28, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Consolidation of Health Records and Privacy

Consolidation and digitization of health records of individuals seems to be the next niche market and major players like Google and Microsoft are getting into it. Read here.

An electronic personal health file seems like the way to go where all the information can be found on-line  in one place and can be easily accessed but the downside to this will be that this kind of consolidation and accessibility can also lead to leakage of information and privacy breaches.

Health records contain personal information and intimate details about an individual that one may not want to land in the wrong hands which can affect his or her job, insurance eligibility and personal & social life. Currently under HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) health records cannot be easily subpoenaed, used for profit and must be stored securely.  Now if companies like Google and Microsoft take over the maintainence and upkeepment of these health records even if they ensure secure storage as well as privacy, issue then will be, what remedies will they offer if the information does leak out one way  or the other since they are not covered by HIPPA which  currently offers legal  protection to doctors, pharmacies and hospitals.

February 28, 2008 Posted by | privacy | 1 Comment

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Identity theft is all over the place, and it is up to us to reduce its happening. We are always giving out personal information starting from the gym to the clothing store just because it is asked in some form or paper work. It is so automatic that most people don’t even think of asking why do they need all this information that is personal like date of birth etc or even show some kind of resistence. Identity theft costs time and money and destroys your credit and good name.

Here are some common ways that ID theft happens.

When you leave our recycled bin out there with unshredded paperwork then the identity thieves rummage through it looking for bills or any paperwork with your personal information. The thieves also steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.  The electronic way of getting personal information is Phising where they pretend to be financial institutions and send out spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information. They also divert your mail and your billing statements to another location by sending in a “change of address” form. Then there is the old fashioned way of simply stealing your purses, wallets, mail, bank and credit statements, pre-approved credit card offers and new checks or tax information. They also steal personnel records from their employers or get it from other employees who have access to it.

One can take steps to deter identity theft from occurring by doing simple things like shredding paperwork and other documents that have personal information. Don’t give out our social security number because it is asked somewhere and give it only when it is absolutely necessary. Also don’t carry the social security card with you.

Don’t give out personal information when someone calls over the phone, over the Internet or through the mail if you don’t know who and for what purpose it is going to be used. Everyone who has an email id gets spam mail and attached to it are links that they are asked to click and it is real important not to click on any of the links that are sent out in unsolicited mail and it is always a good idea to use an anti-virus software , firewalls and anti-spyware to protect your computer.

Password selection is a tricky one, people normally use a password that is easy for them to remember but then it is also easy to hack into, so choose your password carefully and change it often. Don’t use your birth date, mother’s maiden name or the last four digits of your Social Security number as a password because it’s out there in the numerous forms that you filled out.

Apart from detering ID theft, you also need to be vigilant and detect suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your fiancial accounts and billing statements. Bills that do not arrive as expected, unexpected credit cards or account statements, denials of credit for no apparent reason, calls or letters about purchases you did not make are signs that require immediate attention. So, inspect your credit report which contains information including the accounts you have and your bill paying history, you can get a free copy of your credit report each year from the three major nationwide consumer reporting companies which are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can write to the Annual Credit Report Service at P.O. Box 105281,  Atlanta, GA 30348-5281 and also go to www. AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228 to get your free reports. Most importantly take the time to review financial accounts and billing statements to check if you are being charged for something that you did not authorize, make or purchase.

The final step is to defend agaisnt ID theft. This can be done by placing a fraud alert with the three nationwide consumer reporting companies on your credit reports and reviewing them often, what this alert does is that it alerts creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts. Placing a fraud alert also entitles you to free copies of your credit reports, and in the credit report look for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted, accounts you didn’t open and debts on your account that you can’t explain.

Ensure that you close any accounts that have been tampered with or has been establishe d fraudulently, call each of the companies where an account was opened or changed without your authorization and follow it up in writing enclosing copies of supporting documentation. To support the written statement use the ID theft statement found at ftc.gov/idtheft and verify that the disputed account has been closed and the fraudulent debts discharged and always keep copies of documents and records of your  converstion about the theft.

It is important to file a police report and a report with the Federal Trade Commission, these reports help as proof for creditors that the theft did happen and also a report with FTC report helps law enforcement officials across the country in their investigation. This can be done online at ftc.gov/idtheft, by phone, the numbers are 877-ID-THEFT or by mail at the following address: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, Washington DC 20580.

February 28, 2008 Posted by | Identity theft | 2 Comments

Next Level of Spams

‘Spams have been around for a while since the Internet and the e-mail systems got popular. Apart from the Viagra e-mails, for years I have been getting requests from Nigerian nationals to help get millions of US dollars out of that country, one look at these mails and it is so obvious that it is a hoax. Another notably one was when I put an ad on Craig’s list to sell my car and I get an very authentic looking e-mail from a supposedly car dealer who will not be able to take a look at the car personally but will be sending a check much greater than the amount for the car drawn on so and so bank for me to en-cash and send him back the balance. To my reply that you will need to send a money order or cashier’s check there was no response.

Then there are these phony bank notices which look like real sophisticated and authentic and states something like this:

We detected irregular activity on your credit card and for your security, your online banking profile has been locked due to inactivity or because of too many failed log-in attempts“, and then the email asks you to click on a given link which would lead to an authentic looking bank home page where you are asked to log in and provide your account number, expiration date etc.We need to be real alert and watch out for little tell tail signs like misspelling, not the exact company logo, wrong URL, incorrect copyright notation.

Now, taking it to the next level according to this article in the Washington Post, people are getting e-mails telling them that they are about to be killed but if the recipient of the e-mail would pay a stated amount of money then they will be spared. This is real cyber space extortion and in these kinds of e-mails even if a few people responded to the mail out of fear and revealed their personal information then the sender has benefited in the process.

There are also e-mails from supposedly FBI agents and the State Department asking for banking information. It is best not to click on any of the given links and not respond to the e-mails. It is a good idea to register a complaint with the Internet crime complaint center at www. ic3.gov.

February 27, 2008 Posted by | Cyber safety, Fraud, spam | Leave a comment

Surveillance Law Not Extended

In continuation to my last post the House of Representatives defied the White House yesterday by refusing to make an expiring surveillance law permanent and accused the Bush administration of administration recklessness and fearmongering. Read here. It is time the Democrats stood up to the Bush adminstration and it’s tactics of bulldozing it’s agenda by installing fear and pessimism in people’s minds. It is time to clean up the country and let America stand for what it represents to the world and it’s people– life without fear, to be what you want to be, to stand up and speak your mind and live a life without an oppressive government monitoring every move of it’s people.

February 15, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Our Privacy in Jeopardy

Unwarranted searches at U.S. borders to eavesdropping and illegal spying into private telephone conversations have become the norm of the day. It was a victory for the telecom companies and the Bush administration when the Senate today voted to preserve retroactive immunity from lawsuits for telecom companies and approved the Surveillance Bill. It is a classic example of caving into pressure.

The EFF site statesthat “Despite the strong leadership of senators like Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold, the Senate failed today to block provisions of a pending surveillance bill that would grant immunity to phone companies that assisted the government in illegal electronic surveillance.The Dodd-Feingold amendment to remove immunity from the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) failed in a 31 to 67 vote, and final Senate passage of the FAA is expected later today”.

Numerous organizations like the ACLU, EFF etc had filed lawsuits against telecommunications companies like AT&T, Sprint etc alleging that the companies had violated privacy laws. This warrant-less surveillance violates the Fourth Amendment, the  Act, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) and the Electronics Communications Privacy Act.

The Senates action today is one step further into giving permission to the government to violate an individuals privacy without the individual having any recourse. These kinds of warrant-less searches are done under the umbrella of the Protect America Act which gives the government almost unlimited authority to conduct such surveillance on anybody without requiring any form of warrant.

Now, this Act was passed to monitor the calls of ‘suspected terrorists’ but court documents filed in these class action suits will show that the phone lines of ordinary citizens were were tapped and the American public were the ones affected.

February 12, 2008 Posted by | privacy | Leave a comment

Google Knows!

While growing up if we did not have the answer to a question, we would say “God Knows”, but now for answers to all my questions I turn to Google. Whenever I have a query, need some information, a recipe, find an address, need to dig into someones background, need to sound knowledgeable I turn to Google and 8 out of 10 times I am rescued, so the new mantra is “Google Knows”.

My five year old is constantly typing stuff in the Google side bar and looking up stuff to watch on the computer, she knows that you can go there and search for sites like ‘star fall’, ‘PBS kids’ etc and need not have to know the address of the website and is probably more tech savvy than me.

Nowadays, if someone is talking about something I don’t know, I make a note and promptly ‘Google it’ and usually I get the information I am looking for and in the process learn a lot and I don’t have  to feel like a dork. Information and knowledge is power and it is at our finger-tips, it is amazing how I can find land, apartment prices or anything in the other corner of the world, all while sitting in the comfort of my home.

Now when I had to get out of my home to get information, I got to interact with people who could offer the information or do physical research and if that did not yield the needed data I said ‘God Knows’, now God has delegated all his knowledge and made Google his spokesperson and of-course Google is more accessible than God, so I prefer Google knows to God knows. Also with Yahoo having rejected Microsoft’s takeover bid Google is the closest messenger to God!

February 11, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rampant Piracy in Developing Countries

The IFPI — or International Federation of the Phonographic Industry — announced this week that it has filed legal proceedings against Baidu and Sohu, as well as Sohu’s associate company, Sogou. The group also named Yahoo China in a statement outlining its legal strategy to combat music piracy. IFPI also claims that more than 99% of music files distributed in China are pirated. Read here.

Piracy in a huge problem in most of the developing countries. It is not just related to music but extends to movies and books. India for example has all the necessary Intellectual property laws enacted and business entities can flaunt them to attract business projects but the reality is that there is no real enforcement of these laws. If one walks in any busy market street in major city in India, right there in the side walk shops you can openly find pirated movie DVD’s, music CD’s and bestselling author books sold for way less than what a copyrighted version would cost in a regular store. The quality is not so good but then there are places where if you pay a bit more you get a much better quality product which is pirated.

Even right here in the U.S. most of the ethnic stores make copies of the latest ethnic movies or music and rent or sell it out even before it is released in the theaters. It is a huge market and the quality is not bad, in fact the store owner will declare the print is of good quality just freshly copied! Fresh off the oven!!

February 7, 2008 Posted by | Copyright, Piracy | Leave a comment

Super Tuesday!

It is Super Tuesday and soon California will decide who it wants to run for the President of the United States. I am supporting Barack Obama and as the first lady of California Maria Shriver stated, Obama stands for what California represents- openness, creativity, hope, energy, innovation and can do attitude. America is a land of immigrants and it was built on talent and cultures from all over the world and on the hard work, sweat, tears and aspirations and hope for a better future and the belief that anything is possible if given a chance and that is what the founding fathers of this great nation envisioned and wanted it to be and Obama represents that.

Somehow along the way over the years people of this country settled in for mediocrity, apathy and let their vision get blurred and let pathetic people like Bush run their lives to the ground and dullen their senses and install a sense of false fear and prejudice in their hearts and minds. It is time to throw away our cloaks of weariness and disillusionment, draw a line in the sand to move forward to take charge of our lives and the fate of this nation. Watch this video about Obama here, http://my.barackobama.com/YesWeCanvideo

Obama represents the intercultural melting pot of America being a product of different religions, races and religions. He is a great end product from a variety of ingredients stirred together. It is interesting that Obama’s father came from Kenya, sired this boy and left the country, he literally laid the seeds of greatness and went back, maybe that was all he was meant to do. Obama represents the future, youthful, he understands technology, is a supporter of net neutrality, has opposed the Iraq war from the start and he is the collective consciousness of our nation and stands for what America was envisioned to be.

February 5, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

$1 Billion, 10 Year Contract to Compile Biometric Database

In the last nearly eight years of the Bush administration our privacy has rapidly eroded under the name of safety and terrorism. 9/11 was a God’s boon to the current administration, if not for that event what would Bush and his cronies have done to keep them occupied and ride out the term, and in the process institute all forms of laws that scare, terrorize and evade the privacy and lives of the people living right here in the U.S.

Many industries have sprung out to help the government with it’s unauthorized and illegal activities. This is not something new but it just seems to be at a heightened level now that the FBI is expected to announce the awarding of a $1 billion, 10 year contract to help create the database that will compile an array of biometric information ranging from palm prints to eye scans. Apart from the fingerprints FBI will be matching, comparing and combining biometric information like palm-prints, scans, tattoos, iris eye patterns and even facial shapes.

Any technology is fallible including this and the combination of human error with people working and processing all this technology will invariably lead to thousands of innocent people being harassed, sentenced and even silenced (for ever). Privacy advocates concerns are genuine and valid but their voices and actions seems so puny and weak compared to the “Big Brother” elephant who has and will trample all that and all those who come its way. With all this infallible technology how come the administration has not been able to track down and capture the one man, (the mission behind the evil wars or the wars against evil – it all depends on how you look at it) Bin Laden?

Hopefully, with a change in the government regime, the next head of the executive branch will have more compassion, knowledge and common sense to make an effort to distinguish between what is right and wrong, ethical and unethical and undo the evil precedent that has been set.

February 4, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment