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.
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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.

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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.

Consider Foreign Markets When Filing a US Patent

A patent application in the United States may serve as a basis for filing patents in foreign countries with the benefit of the US filing date. This is provided for under an international treaty called the Paris Convention.  However, getting the benefit of the US filing date is not the only concern.  A patent applicant should also be mindful of the procedural and substantive laws of the foreign countries that are important to its business. 

For example, many countries exclude certain methods of medical treatments. In other words, what may be patentable in the US may not be patent eligible in a particular foreign country.  With a knowledge of which countries the US patent might be further filed, our attorneys can assist in finding alternative ways to protect such a medical treatment, thus rendering it effectively protected in those foreign countries through the US application. Sometimes this holds true even if protection for a particular aspect of the method in the US is not possible. 

There are many variations on this theme with different types of technologies and different countries. The simplest way to proceed is to figure out the range of possible foreign filings for the initial US patent application and then draft that first application with all the relevant US and foreign laws in mind. Our firm has several experienced intellectual property attorneys with foreign filing experience who can help you navigate these international complexities to your – and your company’s – ultimate benefit.

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Happy Holidays From Our Family To Yours

At Brannon Sowers Cracraft, we are grateful for a productive year that has allowed us to grow our team and continue serving our clients with skill and integrity. We celebrated our accomplishments  by letting our hair down with our team with a festive shindig at The Speak Easy’s  new downtown location, with food by Nameless Catering. From our family to yours, we wish you peach, health and prosperity in 2017. It is time to look ahead to another great year.

FB Messenger and the death of the telephone

Do you still shudder when a client sends you a work-related message on Facebook? Yeah, us too. It is probably time to come to terms with professional communication happening less on the telephone and more frequently on social media.

As a new generation of workforce leaders emerges and dovetails with social media and tech innovation, exponential change in communication trends is afoot. It is looking more and more like the telephone may go the way of horse and buggy and carrier pigeon.

Large organizations are making big changes as a result. After seeing the data in 2015, JP Morgan Chase eliminated 65% of their employee voicemail accounts (upon request) as part of sweeping money-saving strategies across the enterprise. They saved 3.2M in the process.

How does all of this affect the legal industry? Jordan Schuetzle of FindLaw.com reports in his recent article (Millennials, Boomers and Law Firms – Oh My!):

It’s looking like the era of the telephone is finally coming to an end. Today’s youngest adults show far less affinity for traditional communication channels, preferring Internet/Web Chat and Social Media at twice the level of telephone calls.

This graphic illustrates the generational trends. For a full report on KPCB’s Internet Trends, see Mark Meeker’s full presentation here.

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-2-44-23-pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The legal industry will likely be on the tail-end of this change, but certainly not immune. According to the 2015 U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey (FindLaw), the largest segment of clients is comprised of Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation.  Unsurprisingly, they still prefer the good old telephone. The second largest client segment, however, is made up of 18-34 year olds. This group places the telephone squarely at the bottom of their preference list. A shift is coming, and it is advisable for the legal world to open up to post-telephonic communication as clients increasingly become more tech-savvy.

What will largely replace the telephone for primary client communications? Will it be Facebook Messenger, texting, or another existing technology? Perhaps it will be a new technology we have not yet seen. Though the legal industry may still trend behind the curve, the next big thing in communication will certainly be something that warrants attention. Until then, the next time a client messages you on social media for something work-related, take a deep breath. Then pay them a compliment. They are, indeed,  on the front end of the trend.

What Should Be in Your Startup Prenup

Starting a company or entering into a new partnership? While a handshake or conversation over drinks is a common start, putting it in writing is essential to building a solid foundation. Ask any attorney why, and prepare to be regaled with grizzly tales of agreements gone wrong.  Serial entrepreneur Jim Price, in his  article “Why I Always Tell Co-Founders To Sign A Prenup,” explains what a thoughtfully structured agreement can do for a business.

As with a marital prenup, negotiating such an agreement disciplines you as partners – at the beginning while you’re good friends and enthralled with your startup – to reason through what should happen if the partnership doesn’t hold together as planned.  It’s a healthy thing to do.  And if you design your prenup intelligently, you don’t have to anticipate every eventuality; you simply need to set up a thoughtful framework.

While it has become trendy to refer to startup agreements ‘prenups,’ the basic premise remains unchanged. What should be included in this all-important document?

George Khouri, Esq sums it up nicely in a recent article with the recommendation to address what he calls ‘The Big Three: Cash In, Cash Out, and Equity.’

The Big 3: Cash In, Cash Out, and Equity

If you are founding a startup, the three biggest questions you and your co-founders must address are:

  • Who is putting the money in, and how do they get their money back?
  • Who gets to pull money out, and how much can they pull out, and when?
  • How much equity does everyone get, and when do they get it?

Also crucial is planning for failure. It may not be a popular or heartwarming thought when planning a new venture, but it must be discussed. Plan to succeed but prepare for the worst, and make sure all stakeholders are on the same page. How does a partner exit by choice?  What is the protocol to oust a  partner who isn’t contributing appropriately? Planning for unforeseeable circumstances, such as death or a longterm illness, is also key.

Protecting your ideas, products, and brand is part of protecting the partnership. Depending on the nature of your business and industry, consider the pertinence of non-complete, confidentiality and invention assignment clauses.

It is not possible to plan for every scenario. As even seasoned entrepreneurs understand, you don’t know what you don’t know. In this case, though, it is unimportant. A well-crafted agreement can ensure that partnerships and friendships can remain in tact no matter what business may encounter down the road.

 

NOTE: If we can help you with business formation, email our professionals here.