Thomas Whitelaw Thomas Whitelaw 2022-11-21T22:26:12Z WordPress /wp-content/uploads/sites/1201545/2019/10/cropped-Site-Identity-32x32.jpg On Behalf of Thomas Whitelaw <![CDATA[Legal challenges grow around self-driving car accidents]]> 2022-11-21T22:26:12Z 2022-11-21T22:26:12Z A recent accident in San Francisco between a motorcyclist and a self-driving car is highlighting the risks of autonomous vehicles in California. In another incident near L.A., a self-piloting sedan rear-ended a fire truck. Accidents like these have raised legal concerns about such cars. Industry analysts warn that the growing number of those vehicles will lead to more accidents and promote growing numbers of lawsuits.

Autonomous vehicle challenges

Politicians, courts and drivers see the vulnerability of self-driving car technology and the issues it raises. A law professor at the University of South Carolina attests that auto manufacturers, for the time being, are likely to quickly settle accidents involving their self-driving cars if the technology appears to be at fault. However, it is understood that car companies will vigorously defend themselves if the driver appears to be the problem. It is argued that available data could resolve the question of fault as this technology becomes more common. Data may be compiled via information from the autonomous vehicle or other sources like video recordings and crash investigations. Consumer Watchdog is advocating for the public release of information involving any autonomous vehicle crashes.

Advocates argue for managing the turnout of self-driving cars

Highway and Auto Safety is an advocacy group looking to slow the development and the public release of self-driving cars. It wants Congress and other federal bodies to bolster current safety standards concerning driverless technology, even as manufacturers seem to be going above and beyond with precautions and safety measures. It does appear that Congress has overwhelming support for the rapid development of autonomous technologies. The U.S. Department of Transportation continues to be largely supportive and industry-friendly regarding development and testing.

No real sense of coordination around the issue

As it stands, the federal government manages safety regulations while autonomous manufacturing is state-by-state regulated. Advocates for safe driving want more of a federal hands-on approach. Highway and Auto Safety argues that varied state regulations cannot ensure safety across the board and that guidelines must be established federally and implemented broadly. If each state has its own requirements, there cannot be the comprehensive data and reporting necessary to protect the public and track autonomous vehicles. The California DMV is currently working to develop a set of safety protocols for these cars that stress public safety. Currently, California wants potential drivers to complete a training program offered by car manufacturers. ]]>
On Behalf of Thomas Whitelaw <![CDATA[Product liability claims: The common defenses]]> 2022-11-11T23:22:38Z 2022-11-11T23:22:38Z Companies fight product liability claims to avoid costly legal consequences. They either argue that the plaintiff in the case has no right to seek damages or that the company is not at fault. Although every product liability claim is different, here are some of the top defenses.

Outside the statutes of limitation

With this defense, the company argues that the plaintiff failed to file the product liability claim within the time period allocated by state laws. In most states, a person has up to two years from the alleged damage or injury to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, statutes of limitations are significantly longer for contract claims.

Plaintiff negligence

First, your business has to determine whether the plaintiff caused the defect. If this is the case, the damages owed will be reduced or eradicated. For such a defense to be effective, you'll have to prove that the plaintiff used the product incorrectly or for unintended use and that there is no way you could have reasonably foreseen such a situation. This would mean you cannot be held liable for any resulting damages or injury.


The manufacturer is no longer in control of the product once it gets to the consumer. Any modifications that a customer might make could impact the use and safety of that product. Therefore, you may argue that the customer made modifications that led to the injury. In this situation, the product itself was not responsible for any damages or injury.

Lack of standing

The law only allows people to sue for damages if they have the right to do so. Therefore, your company can argue that the plaintiff has no basis to file a product liability claim. Doing this will help dismiss the case and protect your business's reputation.

Insufficient identification

You can use this defense for product liability claims if the plaintiff has not correctly identified where the product defect occurred in the supply chain. They must properly name the company that processed, assembled or delivered the product. You are, therefore, exempt from liability if your company was not involved at that stage.

Define breach of warranty

This defense is quite different from the rest because it is contract based. The plaintiff has the responsibility to prove that the product was defective. Equally, your business needs to have been aware of the specific needs of the defendant in terms of their use of the product. With breach of warranty, the product needs to have failed to meet the particular needs of the plaintiff.]]>
On Behalf of Thomas Whitelaw <![CDATA[The law & autonomous driving in California]]> 2022-11-10T16:31:20Z 2022-11-10T16:31:20Z A few considerations The details of the car accident must be carefully reviewed.
  • Was the driver using the autonomous feature at the time of the accident?
  • Can we assess reasonable evidence under the law for a damage claim under product liability?
  • Was the driver operating the autonomous vehicle partially at fault?
  • Was the driverless vehicle safe?
If anyone gets hurt or killed in one of these accidents, there is the possibility of filing a wrongful death suit.

Who is responsible?

Generally, the law determines car accident liability based on negligence. Motorists have a duty of care to look out for pedestrians and other drivers. Fault can land on multiple parties. If determined one or more persons or even groups play a part, a jury or judge may base an award on a percentage of the blame. It's not unusual for these matters to spread the responsibility across all parties, including the injured based on the state's "comparative fault" laws. In California, an operator is anyone "seated in the driver's seat, or, if there is no person in the driver's seat, causes the autonomous technology to engage." Most driverless vehicle accidents have a human in the car, often behind the wheel. They use pilot programs that require operators to take immediate control in case of an emergency. Should a driver be unprepared to take control, that individual may be accountable. If they take control and do anything to cause the accident, said driver may be legally responsible. Regardless of its driverless features, the rules of the road still apply. Speeding, failure to yield or stop at a traffic signal or sign, road rage, drunk driving, and other accident influences play a factor in autonomous driving accidents. The law also enforces the idea that anyone who designs, manufactures, or sells a faulty product is liable for any accidents or injuries that the product causes. That means injured parties do not have to show company negligence. As plaintiffs, they only need to show the faulty product was the cause of the accident.]]>
On Behalf of Thomas Whitelaw <![CDATA[What you should know when choosing autonomous vehicles for your business]]> 2022-10-24T21:22:37Z 2022-10-24T21:22:37Z Autonomous vehicles, once seen as an impossibility, are becoming increasingly prevalent. However, because, since use of autonomous vehicles is still far from widespread, laws governing their use, driver liability and how insurance companies will view driverless cars is a bit uncertain. Today, 38 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation or executive orders regarding autonomous vehicles (AVs). California has a branch of the DMV devoted to autonomous vehicles, including regulations, deployment, testing permit holders, and collision reports. You may be wondering how AVs could impact your business and may even be looking at ways they can be incorporated into future plans. Read on to learn more.

Advantages of autonomous vehicles in commercial settings

One reason that there is such a strong push to get AVs on our roadways is that over 90% of vehicle crashes involve driver error. By removing the driver, companies foresee a reduction in the number of traffic accidents. This becomes important in industries that rely on delivery vehicles, service vans, or other vehicles that are essential for the transporting of products or personnel. If AVs reduced accidents, it would result not only in a reduction in accident costs but in possible insurance savings as well.

Traffic safety issues for automated vehicles

Since many states have only authorized testing of AVs, we can only speculate as to what issues there will be once there is widespread use across the country. There will be a need for training for driver-assisted vehicles and an improvement in the general landscape of public knowledge. In addition, insurance companies have questions as to liability issues. It may be difficult to determine fault when a driverless or driver-assisted vehicle is involved in an accident. Was it the fault of the driver? Was there a problem with the artificial intelligence system not responding as it should?  In the near future, autonomous vehicles will share the road with driver-operated vehicles. There are bound to be accidents.  

What to do if you are considering autonomous vehicles

There is no doubt that AVs are the future of transportation. If your company is considering using AVs in your fleet, start by doing research. There are many car companies offering autonomous vehicles or driver-assisted vehicles that range from high-end to affordable models. Speak with experts who can help you determine what kind of financial impact this would have on your business.  ]]>
On Behalf of Thomas Whitelaw <![CDATA[Corporate guidelines when responding to a patent dispute]]> 2022-10-13T19:35:21Z 2022-10-13T19:35:21Z Intellectual property law is a minefield for a business. When you invest in research and development, hire employees, or license other businesses to use your ideas, you want to ensure that everything you do is legally protected. If you own patents or trademarks, make sure their value isn't diminished by any infringement claims that may come up. Understanding what to do if someone else files a patent infringement suit against your company will help you prepare a faster, stronger defense. 

Do not respond to the summons and complaint without careful review

Patent infringement disputes can get very technical very quickly. Before picking up a pen to write a response to the lawsuit, you have to know how best to respond. Review the claims carefully. If you ignore the details of the lawsuit and send your own paperwork in response, it can strengthen the other party's case against you. You should address the lawsuit's allegations within your company's response.

Figure out who owns what

Whoever files the lawsuit has the burden of proof in the case. In other words, if a lawsuit is being brought against your company, the other party is expected to prove that your company is guilty of infringing upon its patent rights. As part of your defense, put together a solid case that shows why the patent itself is not valid. If you own the patent, you are in an excellent position to make that case. 

The complaint and summons

The patent infringement lawsuit you are facing will have a complaint and a summons. This legal process, initiated by a plaintiff, requires the defendant named in the suit to appear in court. The complaint outlines the details of the allegation and is always accompanied by a summons. A summons explains to the defendant that they are named in the lawsuit and that they requested to appear in court. The summons is delivered by a professional process server who must comply with specific instructions for serving a lawsuit. 

Prepare your case

Intellectual property law can be complicated to navigate. To defend yourself against a patent dispute, take all the necessary steps to prepare a solid case. Collect as much documentation as you can that supports your claim. Research your legal rights, as well as the rights of the opposition, so you know where your case lies within the eyes of the law.   ]]>
On Behalf of Thomas Whitelaw <![CDATA[Intellectual property and copyright laws: what corporations need to know]]> 2022-09-19T19:51:35Z 2022-09-19T19:51:35Z In today's global market, large corporations of all kinds have the potential to make or lose millions of dollars due to the intellectual property rights of their products. Intellectual property issues can come up in a variety of industries and enterprises, so it's essential for all companies to have an understanding of these issues. Here are a few examples of how intellectual property affects your corporation and its consequences.

Patent infringement

A competing company can infringe on a patent when they use, sell or make a patented product without the consent of the owner. If your company is the original patent owner, you can enforce infringement penalties, liability damages, and sometimes even an injunction to stop continued infringement. Penalties for infringing range from $500 to $250,000 per offense, depending on how much revenue was made by using the invention illegally. In some cases, it may be necessary for the competing company to pay royalties to your company as the patent holder, which could cost them millions of dollars annually.

Trademark infringement

Trademark infringement is another common intellectual property issue large corporations face. The damage to a company's brand can not only be costly and damaging, but it can also leave the corporation without any recourse. One of the best ways for a corporation to avoid getting tangled in a trademark infringement lawsuit is by registering its trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Copyright infringement

Copyright infringement occurs when selling a piece of work that belongs to someone else, like a novel. This act is illegal, and another company's copyright infringement can risk your intellectual property rights. Your company can protect its content from being stolen by copyrighting it first before releasing it to the public. Copyright infringement is against both federal and international law, so infringing copyright is a serious crime.

Unfair competition

Unfair competition can take many forms, and one common issue is competitors using your company's trademark without permission. This can happen in many ways, from using similar trademarks on different products, having a similar logo and slogan, or even speaking at an event using your company's name. This scenario could mislead consumers into believing that they are buying something from your business when they are not. As the world around us becomes more digital, intellectual property and copyright laws become increasingly important. Doing some research or consulting an expert can save you a lot of money and headache in the future.  ]]>
On Behalf of Thomas Whitelaw <![CDATA[How to evaluate a severance package when considering early retirement]]> 2022-09-19T19:13:58Z 2022-09-19T19:13:58Z Accepting a severance package is a significant decision that some people are faced with towards the end of their careers. It's important to carefully evaluate the conditions and benefits offered by your company so you can maintain a financially secure future. 

Severance package basics

When an employment contract ends abruptly, you may be eligible for monetary compensation as well as benefits through a severance package. For example, if your company is downsizing due to reorganization or a fall in profits, it is not uncommon to see layoffs. A severance package is not required by law and is at the discretion of your employer. A typical severance package will often include a monetary component plus benefits.

How to determine if the severance package is adequate

For most senior employees, sudden unemployment is challenging to manage. For this reason, it is critical to assess various aspects of a severance package before an agreement is reached. 

Assess how leaving impacts you emotionally

Early retirement is often a financial decision made when you feel like your financial future is secure enough to forgo employment. If you are offered a severance package, this decision to retire early may come sooner than you expect. Along with losing the financial security of a regular income, there can be feelings of resentment or unappreciation for years of loyal service. Review your package to ensure that the offer accounts for your dedication.

 Ensure the contract includes key incentives

To make early retirement easier, many companies add extra incentives to a severance package. For example, they might allow you to keep participating in the company's health insurance plan or extend membership benefits at health clubs. Additional perks are continued use of company cars or keeping devices like laptops or phones. You could also qualify for yearly bonuses.

Run the numbers

Review your current financial obligations and determine whether the package covers your expenses. Consider paying off your mortgage, your children's educational costs, or other lifestyle expenses you wish to maintain. Signing off on a low severance package can impact your ability to support your ongoing needs. 

Consider your future

A good severance package could be an unexpected but positive step forward. It can offer you a new sense of financial freedom to retire early, but it's essential to review what you think is fair after years of service to an organization.   ]]>
On Behalf of Thomas Whitelaw <![CDATA[Remedies for breach of contract]]> 2022-09-09T20:55:41Z 2022-09-09T20:55:41Z according to California laws, no damages can be recovered for a breach of contract, which is not ascertainable in its nature and origin. This means that the injured party must establish that there was a contract that the defendant breached and the resulting damages from the defendant's failure to meet their obligations. Below are the main remedies for a breach of contract in California.


Damages are one of the typical remedies in a breach of contract claim. They include:
  • Compensatory damages: These damages are also known as "actual damages," and they cover the loss the injured party incurred due to a breach of an obligation arising from the contract. Therefore, the amount awarded aims to replace the loss caused by the breach.
  • Restitution: These damages aim to restore the non-breaching party to the same position they occupied before the contract was established.
  • Punitive damages: The purpose of these damages is to punish the breaching party. Therefore, if found guilty, the defendant may be ordered to pay the plaintiff above and beyond the point that would fully compensate them.
  • Nominal damages: These damages are offered as a small token to the non-breaching party when no actual money loss was proven after a breach of a contract.
  • Liquidated damages: These damages are added in the contractual agreement, and they include the type of compensation offered in the event the contract is breached.

Remedies in equity

A remedy in equity occurs when a court orders a party in a contract to take a particular action. For example, in case of a breach of a contract, the court may cancel the contract and make a ruling that the parties involved are no longer bound to it. The court may also order the breaching party to perform a specific service. This mainly occurs in providing goods and services when a party fails to deliver as agreed. In this case, the court may order the breaching party to deliver the goods or services, especially when the items involved are unique and no other remedy is available.]]>
On Behalf of Thomas Whitelaw <![CDATA[What to know about utility patents in California]]> 2022-09-07T13:49:20Z 2022-09-07T13:49:20Z Patents are vital for successful business in Irvine, California, and elsewhere. Utility patents cover the development of new or better products, machines, or processes. They restrict the use of the invention without permission.  Here's what to know about utility patents in California. 

Utility patents and what they cover in California

A utility patent covers the functional components of an invention. In California, utility patents are governed by the Patents Act. The law covers tangible and intangible inventions, including processes, machines, compositions of matter, and improvements to existing technology.  Utility patents are incredibly valuable, as they allow inventors exclusive rights to their innovations for 20 years -- often enough time to commercialize the invention and recoup the investment.   Furthermore, utility patents provide a strong incentive for continued innovation as they allow inventors to profit from their ideas. 

Steps to getting a utility patent in California

To obtain a utility patent in California, the following steps must be followed:
  • First, file a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The application must have a detailed description of the invention and claims that define the scope of the invention's protection. 
  • The USPTO will review the application to determine whether it meets all requirements. 
  • If the USPTO approves the application, it will issue a patent. The inventor can file for protection in California by submitting a request to the California Secretary of State.
  • Once the California Secretary of State grants protection, the inventor will have exclusive rights to use and sell the invention in the state of California. However, if the invention is later deemed unpatentable, the inventor may lose all rights to the invention.
  • A utility patent is only valid for 20 years from the filing date. After that point, anyone can use or sell the invention without permission from the inventor. 

Main issues with utility patents in California

In California, several different types of patents can be granted, each with its legal protections and requirements.  An inventor may be required to provide proof that their invention is new and non-obvious and disclose the invention in detail to obtain a utility patent.  Intellectual property law does not protect ideas on its own. To sue an entity that stole your idea, you would have to show that:
  • The ideas were reduced to a protectable form (such as drawings or plans) before disclosure
  • In the absence of a protectable form, the company signed a non-disclosure agreement
On Behalf of Thomas Whitelaw <![CDATA[Understanding intellectual property disputes]]> 2022-08-29T04:44:23Z 2022-08-29T04:44:23Z What exactly is intellectual property? The term appears in a range of discussions in different sectors. Essentially, intellectual property is an umbrella term covering several facets of human inventions. This may include things such as:
  • Patents
  • Copyrights
  • Trademarks
  • Designs
  • Processes of production
In the course of doing business, these items can be essential to your financial success and brand as they may include methods of production or designs unique to your organization.

How intellectual property is protected

For the livelihood of individuals and businesses, intellectual property can be protected by filing a patent or having something trademarked. Another way to protect your ideas before they have reached these stages is having employees and contractors sign contracts or non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). An NDA can protect any sensitive company information such as trade secrets or new product development ideas. These measures work to not only protect your intellectual property but also act as legal support should there be threats to your ideas, inventions or patents.

What occurs in intellectual property disputes?

When one party suspects or has evidence that another individual or business has breached, appropriated or enacted processes as a result of taking intellectual property from the original party, that is an example of an intellectual property dispute. The dispute may be a result of infringements of a trademark or patent. The expected steps to address the potential theft may include:
  • Sending a cease and desist letter
  • Investigating the potential source of the leaked information
  • Initiate court proceedings against the other party once sufficient information has been collected to support your claim

What about reverse engineering?

If a product or system is taken apart either physically by dismantling the components or by breaking down the software or design, that is reverse engineering. Generally, that is not considered to violate trade secrets as long as only the item, system or product is broken down. However, if the process or product is patented, the situation is not as simple and reverse engineering does not stand up as a defense strategy for an intellectual property dispute or judicial proceeding. It is advisable to first investigate existing patents and trademarks before considering reverse engineering.]]>