Indiana Legislature and the Chamber of Secrets

As I sit in my family room on the final weekend of this holiday season, surrounded by loved ones, colorful Star Wars socks, and the warm glow of personal electronic devices, I can’t help but look back to 2017 and reflect upon some of the year’s more significant Indiana Legislative events.  Even though our media, both mass and social, somehow managed to sink even further into the “All Trump, All the Time” quagmire, there actually were other things going on in the legal world right here in Indiana.

One demonstrative example of how the legislative sausage is made is the current effort to modernize Indiana’s antiquated alcohol laws.  This topic overall is far too involved to adequately cover here in one short blog.  Instead, the immediate focus is more on how our legislature works.  I anticipate additional discussion of interesting alcohol-related specifics down the road, perhaps in a trilogy format.

The complexity involved with comprehensive statutory revision runs far deeper than traditional political party lines.  As with any substantial body of law, a significant amount of time and money was involved in creating the current system under which alcohol-related businesses must operate.  A broad range of businesses and individuals are directly affected by these statutes, rules, and regulations with which they must comply.  Not surprisingly, these affected parties will typically utilize any means available to influence policy and legislation.  This is not to say that any particular person or group has done anything illegal or unethical.  However, the average citizen may not be fully aware of everything that goes on behind the scenes, and it’s not quite as simple as portrayed in Schoolhouse Rock!

During the previous legislative session, the Indiana Legislature once again failed to figure out how to allow people to purchase carry-out alcohol on Sundays.  Apparently, the previous session’s efforts to change the law would have led to the complete downfall of civilized society, and thus they obviously had to be sacked.  It certainly had nothing to do with money or lobbying, but instead was founded on “Traditional Hoosier Values.”  Regardless, efforts continue to not only eventually allow Sunday carry-out alcohol sales, but also cold beer sales at grocery and convenience stores, despite the carnage caused by such cold beer sales in states where it is already allowed.

Having attended a few hours of legislative hearings on various proposed changes to Indiana’s alcohol laws, it is heartening to know that the issue is being taken seriously.  Legislators heard testimony from numerous sources, and they even formed an Alcohol Commission to study Indiana’s alcohol laws.  Unfortunately, despite a demonstrated interest in modernizing Indiana law to better serve a greater proportion of constituents and the businesses they own and for which they work, it will likely remain a slow road to progress.

Indiana’s “blue laws” prohibiting Sunday sales may have a religious origin, but the continuation of this prohibition is due to business models which developed as a result.  Package liquor stores have operated without having to be open on Sundays, and without Sunday competition from big-box or grocery stores.  Changing the rules under which these businesses have formed and operated in the middle of the game could have a significant negative financial impact on package liquor stores and their owners, resulting in their significant and expensive lobbying efforts to maintain the current system.

Proponents of change point out that there is no legal justification to prohibit something on one day of the week that is perfectly legal the remaining six days of the week.  There is certainly a liberty-based interest in being able to transact otherwise-legal business with minimal government interference and reasonably limited, sensible legislation.  Many may not realize that there are similar arguments in favor of package liquor stores, which are currently prohibited from selling most grocery items, like milk, cold water, cold soda, and certain paper goods.

There are certainly more hard-hitting and far-reaching legislative concerns affecting Indiana citizens, but our convoluted alcohol laws have significant effects, financial and otherwise, on businesses and individuals.  These laws serve as a prominent example of why legislative modernization and revision is needed on numerous fronts to keep pace with an ever-changing business and social climate.  The struggle is in keeping a fair balance between those seeking sensible change and those who have invested their livelihoods in an industry accustomed to operating under a certain set of rules.  This balancing act is perfectly evidenced by the current proposed Senate bill, which would allow Sunday sales, but only from noon to 8 PM.

WKD

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of Will Doss and do not necessarily reflect the policies, ideologies, positions, or points of view of BSC or its employees.  The information in this blog is accurate and authentic to the best of Will’s knowledge, but everyone makes mistakes.  This most definitely is NOT legal advice, and your reliance on anything in or related to this blog is at your own peril.  Will Doss and BSC are not liable for anything you choose to do after, before, or while reading this blog, and improper use may result in serious injury or death.  Be kind, rewind.  No trees were harmed in the creation of this blog, but several million electrons were slightly inconvenienced.

 

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Client Spotlight: 250ok

 

Greg Kraios (left) and John Brannon (right)

Recently, 250ok Founder & CEO Greg Kraios sat down with us to discuss a variety of topics, including what’s next for the burgeoning tech company. Greg took his deliverability expertise from ExactTarget and Den of Deliverability, starting 250ok in 2011. The business has seen significant success since then.

As one of our fastest growing clients, 250ok made news with their recent  Series A funding , led by Arthur Ventures’ 2.6M investment.  We couldn’t be happier about the trajectory of their company.

How did you first end up working with our firm?

GK: Several people that I trust explicitly recommended Brannon Sowers & Cracraft PC, and John Brannon’s name specifically, along with another guy at the firm, Kevin Erdman. As I pressed my network further, I received enough recommendations that I finally said “I’ve heard enough,” and we set up a meeting.

What has worked about the partnership?

In working with John, he rolled up his sleeves early on and took the time to learn the nuances our business. The result was an IP strategy that fully aligned with our business focus and one that we continue to execute today. There are many occasions when he’s said ‘no, we don’t need to do that’ or ‘that’s really not necessary.’ His honesty has saved 250ok tens of thousands of dollars, if not more.

The first project we worked on involved Kevin helping us file a patent on a unique feature of 250ok, and Danton (Bryans) played an important role in that process. Throughout that project, I spent a lot of time with John and felt a genuine connection with him. At that this point, I don’t consider myself a client of his; I consider us partners. That’s what makes it work for me, and that’s what made me an evangelist for Brannon Sowers & Cracraft PC. I often tell him ‘you know, John, if you keep treating me this way, you’re going to make me think that all attorneys aren’t bad people.’ (laughter)

What’s on the horizon for 250ok?

GK: The first phase of our business was building a competitor to the longtime market leader in our space, Return Path. We’ve achieved that goal. The second phase is to build tools no one has seen before, tools that will change the way businesses manage email. I expect that 250ok’s product roadmap over the next 18 months will inspire an industry that hasn’t seen much innovation over the past decade.

Thanks to Greg Kraios for taking the time to chat with us. Brannon Sowers & Cracraft is proud to be your IP legal partner. We can’t wait to follow the progress of 250ok. 

We’ve made the historic Morrison Opera Place our new home!

This has been a busy month for us as we have relocated to our new offices on the top floor of the 146-year-old Morrison Opera Place, a historic downtown building located at 47 South Meridian Street.  With its exposed bricks and beams it provides a casual and comfortable elegance, making the space inviting to clients and a generous work space for our attorneys and legal staff.

If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and see us!

Client Spotlight Teaser: 250ok

Recently, we sat down with 250ok Founder and CEO, Greg Kraois. We wanted the latest on their company’s massive growth and recent successes in an exploding sector. They just raised 2.6M in venture capital from a single North Dakota based investor, Arthur Ventures.

Stay tuned for our colorful conversation with one of our most entertaining and insightful clients, Greg Kraois. In the meantime, read the full IBJ article here.

Client Spotlight: Trade Secret Chocolates

As a small law firm, we pride ourselves on partnering with our clients to help them reach their goals in every way we can. Periodically, this blog will spotlight a client who is doing amazing things that the world should know about. Today’s feature is Trade Secret Chocolates.

Matt Rubin was among John Brannon’s first clients when the firm first opened its doors in 2008. Trade Secret Chocolates was created when Rubin started experimenting with various chocolate formulations after his wife Sarah developed food allergies, putting most chocolates into a forbidden category. Subscribing to the “happy wife, happy life” philosophy, Rubin took action. The result? Trade Secret Chocolates, a hand-crafted gourmet product that is gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free and uses only the highest quality ingredients. With Rubin’s background in chemistry (among other things), the innovations started early and have continued.

Founder of Trade Secret Chocolates, Matt Rubin

Today, TSC is on the cusp of launching a revolutionary new product, SoChatti. SoChatti is a countertop liquid chocolate dispenser that maintains the integrity of the chocolate for long periods of time and across dozens of applications. Think of it as one of those popular counter-top beverage machines for the highest quality chocolate you can imagine. Simply put, it is chocolate on tap. 

Trade Secret Chocolates founder Matt Rubin recently updated us on how his company has evolved. He also highlighted how Brannon Sowers & Cracraft has played a key role in the process. When I asked Rubin about his experience working with Brannon Sowers & Cracraft, this is what he offered.

“It’s been a great experience. I worked for many years in and around the intellectual property industry before starting this chocolate company. Out of all the attorneys and law firms I had worked with, John Brannon was the easy choice to send our business to. There are a couple things I like about working with Brannon Sowers & Cracraft. One, they approach the job with the objective of obtaining the best asset they can without playing the game of patent prosecution. That’s a process many law firms will use to prosecute patents, which is great for filling billable hours, but doesn’t necessarily give the client the best product. You can spend a lot of money in patent prosecution; it stretches out the process and you’re left feeling like you didn’t get as much value at the conclusion. With them [BSC], I really like that they write great patents and do very well with prosecution, and the result is great issued patents.

“When we started this process, Brannon Sowers & Cracraft was great about laying out all the different things we were doing , as well as spending the time to understand our process. John explained that patents today are not so much a wall as they are a net. You need to have a wholistic approach to building a portfolio of patents that serve as an active deterrent from infringement. You can’t just rely on one patent with a single process or technology.

“Trade Secret Chocolate now has over 5 patent families with 10 subfamilies. It’s a multiyear strategy that we are executing. John [Brannon] helped us map it all out from the start. Brannon Sowers & Cracraft is also very good at identifying things that I, as a business owner and inventor, may think are very valuable, but really are not from a patentable perspective. This helps us avoid wasting time and money on things that aren’t protectable. They won’t write a patent just for the sake of writing a patent, even if their clients initially want that. They require a clear strategy going forward. 

One of many uses for SoChatti (chocolate on tap).

“In addition to our patent portfolio, Brannon Sowers Cracraft manages our trademark portfolio. I love it because we have a full service, one-stop shop for our copyrights, patents, and trademarks. It makes our job much easier, letting us focus on the chocolate.”

“When I asked John Brannon about his experience with Trade Secret Chocolates, he said, “Matt has applied rigorous engineering and design principles to the field in order to revolutionize chocolate and a create a superior chocolate experience.”  First of all, who doesn’t want a superior chocolate experience? Secondly, if only every client-attorney relationship had this much mutual admiration, right?

NOTE: You can sample Trade Secret Chocolates and their chocolate on tap at various Indianapolis are locations, including these.
— 

 

The Naked Truth about Indiana’s Indecent Exposure Laws

by Will Doss

While the antiquity and ridiculousness of Indiana’s archaic liquor laws are frequently in the news, alcohol is certainly not the only topic with regard to which our great state lags behind the rest of the country.  Marijuana legalization seems an obvious follow-up, but with the current inability to purchase cold beer at a grocery store on a Sunday in Indiana, do Hoosiers really have any chance of legally purchasing the devil’s lettuce, medicinally or otherwise, anytime soon?

Just as perplexing as our alcohol laws is the legal handling of nudity in Indiana.  With the nation’s continued focus on the equal rights of women, not to mention the fluidity of gender as merely a social construct, should our state’s laws continue to differentiate between men and women when it comes to the legal definition of nudity?  Why is it that Indiana is one of only three states, along with Utah and Tennessee, where it is straight-up illegal to bare a female breast in public, while men are free to brazenly flaunt their exposed nipples whenever and wherever they choose?

Pursuant to the federal Equal Protection Clause, nestled comfortably at the end of Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”  Indiana’s equal protection clause, the “Equal Privileges and Immunities Clause,” found in Article I, Section 23 of the Indiana State Constitution, states that “The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.”  That means Indiana law must treat everyone equally, regardless of race, gender, or any other classification by which one wishes to differentiate.

Lest the more prurient members of society think this is only about checking out women’s boobs, rest assured that there are far more significant social issues in play here.  In addition to the simple issue of equality, there are considerations with regard to breastfeeding, sunbathing, and the legal sexualization of females regardless of their intent.  While all nipples may not be created equal, under the law they should be treated equally.

In February of 2017, the “Free the Nipple” movement won a victory over the city of Fort Collins, Colorado.  U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson granted an injunction against a Fort Collins ordinance which prohibited women from showing their breasts in public.  In granting the injunction on the primary basis of discrimination, the federal judge held that the Fort Collins ordinance “perpetuates a stereotype engrained in our society that female breasts are primarily objects of sexual desire whereas male breasts are not.”  As stated by Denver attorney David Lane, “Any statute that has the words in it ‘Women are prohibited from’ is almost certainly unconstitutional.”

Despite this injunction and similar holdings in other jurisdictions, and contrary to the clamoring of those who continue to support such legislative inequality, women have not taken to the streets in endless hordes, forcing their bare breasts upon the general population and permanently damaging our fragile children.  Even in the prudish conservative state of Indiana, neither alcohol sales on Sundays nor the occasional exposure of a female nipple will bring our society to its tragic and calamitous end.  Just don’t get TOO excited about the possibility of our state eventually following the rest of the country, as the statutory definition of “nudity” in Indiana also includes “the showing of covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state.”

A Conversation with John Brannon

Brannon Sowers Cracraft Director John Brannon

I sat down with Brannon Sowers & Cracraft founder and Director John Brannon a few weeks ago. I’ve known John for years, as a client and a friend. It is no surprise that he is known as one of the most interesting characters in the Indianapolis law scene. A Ceramics Engineering and Materials Scientist by education and a leading patent attorneys by practice, Brannon has been a pillar of the intellectual property landscape here for a couple decades now. After a stint with Big Law, he decided to break away and start a smaller, more agile, IP-focused firm with a decidedly different structure and culture. Read on to find out why.

CF: What was your initial guiding vision for Brannon Sowers & Cracraft?

JB: I’ll frame that by saying that I spent 5 years at General Electric where you had to have a mission statement and a vision statement, and I quickly became inoculated to that concept.  I don’t believe in vision statements.

CF: So what was the inspiration behind saying ‘I’m going to do my own thing?’

JB: What I tried to put together, and I think we’ve been fairly successful at this, is a law firm that attracts people who are good at what they do and have decent books of business. The firm allows attorneys to keep more of what they bring in, while at the same time being more economically minded for the client. We don’t charge as much, and the people who actually do the work keep more of what they earn. Everybody is compensated on the same schedule. There isn’t a different compensation structure for the owners. Actually, the first thing I did when I opened my doors was cut my rate by 27%. I still make more money on the hours that I bill. So everybody wins.

CF: What do you view as your role? 

JB: In addition to practicing law for my clients, my job at the firm is to keep things moving forward. I’m essentially a volunteer administrator, but that’s okay because I get to make the rules.

CF: I’ve known you for years, and this past 8 months at the firm I’ve noticed that you invest heavily in your colleagues in terms of both their professional and personal development. Is it fair to say that you care holistically about the people you hire?

JB: Yeah probably. Although that’s a bit mushy for my taste.

CF: What’s one thing you’d like to get better at?

JB: I need to get tougher about getting retainers up front. I love doing the work, and I don’t always pay enough attention to the billing aspect.

CF: Is there one experience that prepared you to go out on your own?

JB: Several. Big firms are willing to believe the worst about everybody that works for them. They tend to minimize problems in the most expeditious way possible rather than in the just or correct way. I got tired of that. People deserve to be treated as individuals.

Space Ghost. Brannon has an extension comic book collection.

CF: Give an example of when you’ve been particularly proud of one of your colleagues

JB: That’s easy. That would be Amy. When she and I started the firm together she was an experienced paralegal. Since we opened our doors she finished her bachelor’s degree. She then applied and got accepted into law school, attending night classes while working full time. She graduated law school a semester early, and has taken off and become a very good attorney.

CF: Ok, time for some free association. Who is the Class Clown?

JB: There are so many!

CF: The nutty professor?

JB: Kevin McLaren

CF: The social director?

JB: Patty Hughel

CF: The mad scientist? 

JB: Kevin Erdman

CF: The know-it-all? 

JB: David Novak

CF: The tech nerd? 

JB: Danton Bryans

CF: The king or queen of the name drop/humblebrag?

JB: He’s no longer with the firm (laughing).

CF: What is your greatest achievement outside of your career?

JB: My son Adam. I take full credit for every success he has ever had or will have in the future. (laughter)

CF: What’s the most important thing you can teach him?

JB: Hard work, preparedness. If it’s not already out there, go out and make it happen. If it doesn’t exist, create it.

CF: What is your quirkiest hobby?

JB: My extensive comic book collection.

CF: Favorite book? 

JB: Fantastic Voyage, Isaac Asimov.

CF: Movie? 

JB: Batman 1966 with Adam West.

CF: Quote? 

JB: “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.” (Adam West in Batman, 1966)

CF: Band? 

JB: The Go-Gos. Or Billy Joel.

CF: Local restaurant? 

JB: St. Joseph’s Brewery and Public House. The stuffed jalapenos are awesome.

CF: Drink of choice?

JB: Bourbon. Neat.

CF: Conspiracy theory? 

JB: Professional wrestling is real. 

CF: Charitable organization? 

JB: Nickel Plate Art Galleries

CF: Thanks for your time, John!

Hyper-Reality: A Fascinating Look

Hyperreality   noun (pl) -ties

1.

an image or simulation, or an aggregate of images and simulations,that either distorts the reality it purports to depict or does not in factdepict anything with a real existence at all, but which nonethelesscomes to constitute reality

This video by Keiichi Matsuda is a mesmerizing look at the futuristic world of hyperreality, or Hyper-Reality as the author has used the term. According to Matsuda, this concept “presents a provocative and kaleidoscopic new vision of the future, where physical and virtual realities have merged, and the city is saturated in media.”

If you are interested in supporting the project, sponsoring the next work or would like to find out more, please send a hello to info@km.cx More at hyper-reality.co

Roundup: Make Your Next Presentations Unforgettable

Many of us have jobs where giving presentations or pitches – or at least sitting through them – is a regular occurrence. For the benefit and entertainment levels of all involved, why not make these presentations absolutely stand out? While mundane death-by-PowerPoint maybe be the status quo, imagine a world where your next pitch is something the room will not soon forget. It can happen. Here are the best ways.

In his recent article in Inc.com, “The Fireworks Principle: How To Improve Any Pitch, Presentation Or Meeting,” entrepreneur Josh Linker takes a page out of the consummate showman’s repertoire. The key as he sees it? Stop burying the good stuff in the middle and sandwiching it between requisitely boring introductions and conclusions. He notes,

“If you want to close the deal, win the investment, up-sell your clients, or delight your boss, put the most important stuff up front and at the end. If you start and end with a bang, you’ll captivate your audience at the start and leave them with a memorable conclusion. These are the places to insert your best material, bold vision, surprising conclusion, provocative stance, killer stat or gripping story.” – Josh Linker, Inc.com

Instead of turning to business experts, why not borrow more advice from the world where entertainment is king? In this article from PowToon.com, the styles of five great speakers: Tony Robbins, Steve Jobs, Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, and Steve Jobs are analyzed.

screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-10-41-09-am

 

As evident by these comparisons, there are many ways in which to captivate an audience using a handful of tools. The ubiquitous slide show is merely one of them. When slides are called for, use these tips to ensure that there won’t heads nodding off during your presentation or grumbling later by the water cooler:

  • One idea per slide
  • Use minimal text
  • Avoid bullet points
  • Focus on telling a story that will engage your audience
  • Use conversational tone and remain enthusiastic
  • Use props and non-slide visual aids when possible

For a more in-depth look at using slides effectively, this article by Dustin Wax  from LifeHack.com is helpful.  If you like learning by example, Mashable.com has put together 8 slide presentations that demonstrate all of the techniques espoused above (and then some).

No matter your personal preferences or the nature of the material, these pointers can help you make your next presentation your best yet. Not a frequent presenter? Forward this on to someone who is, and maybe you’ll find sitting through it more relevant and enjoyable.