The European Central Bank announced today an economic stimulus program designed to finally get the EU economy off its haunches. Will it work? The major stock markets were buoyed by Mario Draghi’s announcement on Thursday, with the DAX up 136, the FTSE100 up 69, the DOW up 260, NASDAQ up 83 and the S&P 500 up 31. However, the malaise in the EU is more broad-based than may be resolved by the adoption of a QE monetary policy intended to make credit more readily available. Significant unemployment exists in southern EU along with overspending. Of real interest is how long Germany and Greece at opposite ends of the EU economic spectrum, as well as those countries in between will be able to hold the course. How long will the populace in Italy, France, Spain, Greece and even Ireland support spending cuts and tax increases to eliminate their debt?
Draghi’s proposed stimulus program looks to buy bonds at the rate of 60 Billion Euros a month, up to an amount of 1.1 Trillion Euros. The announcement has already affected the value of the Dollar vs. the Euro, which had been in continuing slide for some time. The Dollar hit an eleven-year high against the Euro today. While the cheaper Euro will make European goods cheaper for Americans, it will likely have a continuing negative effect on US exports to the EU. Notwithstanding the impact on US exports, it seems that the markets welcomed Draghi’s action today with the hope that the EU members were finally able to come together to address their stagnating economy. Let’s hope that they can keep it together.
Melinda Fellner Bramwit’s video series wraps up this week as she discusses the details behind the streamlined filing program for non-residents with offshore assets.
In part 5 of Melinda Fellner Bramwit’s video series, she discusses the details behind the streamlined filing program for residents with offshore assets. Make sure you check back next week as we close out the series!
In this week’s REWIND of international business news,
- Trademark owners and applicants will be happy to learn that the cost of filing or renewing a trademark application will be a little lower in 2015. Scheduled to take effect on January 17, 2015, the USPTO has reduced the cost of applications by $50, meaning that the fee for an application will go from $325 per class to $275 per class. To take advantage of the reduced rate, an applicant must agree to file all documents electronically and permit email communications with the Trademark Office. In addition the Trademark Office will reduce the fee for a TEAS application to renew a registration by $100, with the fee going from $400 to $300 per class. The reduced charges are an effect of the American Invents Act, which seeks to stress efficiency in the USPTO and increase the usage of electronic filing and processing of trademark applications.
- In what may become a more common occurrence, Coca-Cola has filed trademark applications to register two Twitter hashtags. The applications, which are for the hashtags “#smilewithacoke” and “#cokecanpics,” were filed with the Trademark Office in December. Though Coke is not the first entity to seek registration of a hashtag, this appears to be it’s first foray into seeking protection for parts of its social media campaigns, and may signal a growing trend in intellectual property protection.
- According to a notice issued by its Central Government, China is seeking to triple the number of filed patents by 2020. To further its goal, the country indicated it will strengthen its laws and policies to better protect intellectual property. In addition, China will try to reduce the amount of time to review and process patent and trademark applications; the country hopes to reduce the time to review patent applications from 22.3 months to 20.2, and the time to review trademark applications from 10 months to 9 months by 2020.
- The names of iconic hotels, such as the Ahwahnee Hotel, and other concession properties in Yosemite National Park face the possibility of being changed. The contract between the National Park Service and Delaware North, the entity that has run the concession properties in Yosemite for over 20 years, is scheduled to expire this year. The Park Service is currently soliciting bids from companies to act as the park’s concession operator; this may result in someone other than Delaware North acting in this capacity. Delaware North has asserted that if that is the case, any such new entity would have to pay them $51 million to acquire its “intangible assets,” which include the trademark registrations for all of the concession properties in Yosemite. While it is not clear if Delaware North will truly be able to assert and enforce its ownership claims over the registered marks, there is a possibility the Park Service may change the names to avoid becoming embroiled in a legal dispute.
This week, Melinda Fellner Bramwit discusses opting-out of the offshore voluntary disclosure program and how and why one would go about doing this. Check in next week to learn about the streamlined filing program.
In part 3 of her video series, Melinda Fellner Bramwit answers the difficult question of why one should come forward to the IRS about any offshore assets they may have.
Stay tuned next week to learn about opting out of the offshore voluntary disclosure program.
Last month, we talked about 1-9 requirements here.
This month, I was interviewed by The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel regarding I-9 Compliance.
Below is a more detailed description of I-9 requirements and steps a company can take to avoid inadvertent errors:
The I-9 form is required for every employee of the company, including its officers, executives or partners. It is important to remember that the review and certification of an employee’s documents must be done in person with the original documents. The I-9 must be filled out prior to the start of employment, and the employee must be given the option to choose the documents required to prove employment eligibility. The company cannot dictate which documents should be used. In addition, where employees have authorization for only a limited period of time, the company should be certain they have a calendaring system that allows them to be reminded to re-verify in a timely manner. It is also important to remember that in the case of former employees, companies are required to retain I-9 forms for a period of at least three years from the date of hire or for one year after the employee is no longer employed, whichever is longer. Once outside that period, it is a good idea to dispose of those I-9s as you are not required to keep them on file. I-9s kept on file after the mandatory retention period can still be found violative if they are not compliant. I always recommend that a company undergo internal audits on a periodic basis to make sure that their paperwork is in order. It is important that the company have only a limited group of people who are trained specifically in preparing the I-9 and maintaining the files. This helps to prevent errors. If the internal staff is not well trained in I-9 compliance, then it is further recommended that the company hire an attorney to supervise an audit. When I prepare an audit for a company, in addition to looking for errors to correct, I also keep an eye out for particular trends or tendencies that may lead to repeat errors. Tendencies I often see include paperwork that is not properly signed, missing documentation, reliance on the wrong type of documentation – e.g. a passport or visa instead of an approval notice that lists the document’s expiration – and not tracking expirations, or tracking expirations but not re-verifying the initial document. Once my review is complete, I not only correct the errors, but also prepare a report that companies can use to show good faith compliance efforts should they receive an audit. Finally, I will meet with the HR staff to train and educate them on what they are doing incorrectly so that they can be more efficient and accurate in the future.
Check out the full interview here.
Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for a Happy, Healthy, Prosperous and Peaceful New Year!
In this week’s REWIND of international business news,
- Uber Technologies continues to face legal scrutiny around the world. Last week, authorities in Taiwan declared the car-hailing service provided by Uber to be illegal. Click here to read more. Meanwhile in China, an Uber training session was raided by police last Wednesday. Click here to read more.
- In Italy, TripAdvisor, the American travel website that allows reviewers to rank and comment on hotels and restaurants, has been fined 500,000 Euros ($610,000) by the Italian competition authorities for failing to prevent false reviews on its web site.
- With the rouble in distress, the Russian government has ordered a handful of government-held exporters to sell their foreign currency reserves. Officials say that private companies will not be required to take similar actions. Click here to read more.
- Alibaba has spent over $161 million since 2013 protecting customers and combating counterfeit goods, in efforts to turnaround its prior mention on the U.S. Trade Representative’s list of “notorious markets” for intellectual property infringement. Click here to read more.
As an extension and follow-up to the 2012 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program, the IRS offers taxpayers reduced penalties with income from offshore accounts. The program offers significant benefits for taxpayers to disclose foreign accounts and avoid the risk of an audit and possible criminal prosecution.
In Part 2 of her video series, Melinda Fellner Bramwit explains the current program options for an Asset-Based Penalty or an Income-Based Penalty. Enrolling into the program admits an intentional violation of a legal duty and the first step is to submit an application for preliminary acceptance by sending a fax to the IRS. Most taxpayers will hear back within 60 days and be accepted into the program unless they are under an audit or criminal investigation. The next step is to send a letter to the Criminal Investigation Department with an attached list of assets being reported. Typical turnaround time is 60-90 days for preliminary acceptance and the beginning of the document production phase.
Melinda details the process more closely in the video below.