Accomplished Attorneys (Law Firm of Don R. Dennis Jr.) concentrates on sophisticated intellectual property and social media legal issues. Our firm is unique in that we have real world entrepreneurial experience and understand the hunger within innovators to succeed. Our vision is to untangle the law so that people can effortlessly understand their options and confidently make decisions. Our website, www.accomplishedattorneys.technology is straightforward and allows clients to simplify the legal minutiae.
Don Dennis received his Juris Doctor from the UCLA School of Law (2010) and graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering (1997). Don is admitted to practice in California and Washington, D.C. He is also admitted to practice before the United States District Courts for the Central and Eastern Districts of California.
BusinessInterviews.com: After working for 10 years as an engineer, what inspired your decision to enroll in law school?
Don: As an engineering student, I recall sitting in my professor’s office attempting to decipher structural steel design and calculus in laymen’s terms. I had always planned to be an attorney but reflected on whether I could apply my same formula of breaking down complex engineering matters to the legal field. I challenged myself and began to put together a plan of how I could resign from my position and attend law school full time.
My driving force was the thought of challenging myself intellectually and leaving law school with a higher level of communication skills so that I could convey messages to both judges and regular people. I sought laws schools that had numerous clinical programs that would allow me to hone my skills in counseling clients. Thus, based on UCLA’s vast amount of clinics, and having sat in on several classes before enrolling, I was convinced that it would be the institution for me. The ultimate message that I want to share is that despite the complexity of law and technology, it can be explained in plain English.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you expand on how having experience working in both the public and private industry allows you to bring value added solutions that incorporate law and business for your clients?
Don: Having worked as an engineer for the City of Los Angeles, Turner Construction Company, a private design firm, and as a consultant to the federal government empowers me to understand the nuances that exist within different organizational structures. And after identifying the issues, the majority of my time is spent on developing solutions. My familiarity with protocol allows me to communicate effectively with both my corporate clients and emerging businesses. I am convinced that it is one thing to learn about companies by reading legal cases, however, it is altogether different to have worked for companies and learned how to excel within different environments. If you have never been through something it is hard to really understand how people going through it feel.
BusinessInterviews.com: What should a business keep in mind when it comes to the areas of endorsements and testimonials?
Don: Endorsements can include any advertising message (Likes, Pins, Tweets, Posts) that consumers may believe reflect the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experiences of a party other than the sponsoring company, even if they are identical to the sponsoring company. Thus, if you have someone making statements about your company and they are not a “bona fide” user of the product or service, but instead receive any type of compensation, then it must be disclosed to the public.
Also, do not take the government’s stance on this issue lightly. Pinterest operated a contest to generate buzz for a promotional activity. The Federal Trade Commission informed Pinterest that if their followers share something because of a chance to win money or gifts, then this must be disclosed to the public. And Pinterest’s failure to do so could be considered deceptive advertising. AMARC Enterprises “Liked” a Facebook comment sharing with the public the positive aspects of the company’s medical products. The Federal Drug Administration issued an agency enforcement action because various policies concerning recommending medicine were not adhered to. Thus, Accomplished Attorneys focuses on providing legal advice to companies to help them navigate what is appropriate and inappropriate to say and do with respect to marketing.
BusinessInterviews.com: How has social media changed the legal landscape?
Don: Social media encourages people to say and do things that they normally would not do in person. Thus, sometimes people can become a little slack in following all of the necessary procedures that they would if they were writing or saying something in an otherwise formal setting. However, individuals are finding out the hard way that miscellaneous comments pictures and gestures can quickly run afoul of laws. For example, derogatory remarks can expose you to defamation lawsuits, criminal prosecution, and incarceration.
Nevertheless, there are many positive aspects regarding social media. It provides a larger audience for you to share the wonderful things about your practice. Also, I feel that it forces attorneys to distill complicated information into “user friendly” sound bites. Social media is leading the revolt against the traditional way of doing things and operating.
BusinessInterviews.com: What advice would you pass onto a startup when it comes to protecting their intellectual property?
Don: At 15, I started Don’s Cookie Company in Los Angeles. At 16, I did my first radio and television interviews. And at 20, I expanded my company to the dorms of Northwestern University in Illinois. Thus, I understand how quickly your life can change and your business can grow. Many emerging companies possess the passion and hunger for success and must apply that same desire towards protecting their brand. I would strongly advise them to perform the following three steps:
1) Identify or get legal assistance in identifying everything about your company that represents your brand and displays its value (intellectual property);
2) Determine whether your intellectual property infringes on anyone else’s rights;
3) Secure legal protection for your intellectual property in the form of trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights, or patents.
Also, recognize that a lot of transactions are done over the Internet. Therefore, remember that if you are online you must stay in line. Meaning you must comply with laws governing how you will protect customer’s personal identifying information (privacy laws) and follow appropriate advertising guidelines. This does not mean copying the policies listed on other companies’ websites but having an experienced attorney create policies specifically for your business. You cannot leave your mark on the world if someone steals it or you are forced to remove it!
BusinessInterviews.com: What’s Cybersquatting and who does it affect?
Don: The Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act allows you to go after cybersquatters. Cybersquatters register domain names of well-known trademarks and then try to profit from the marks. For example, your company is a printing company called “Print 4 Less” and it has been successful. Then, an individual unrelated to your company and not even operating in the printing industry registers the domain name www.print4less.com. And when you decide to get the “Print 4 Less” domain name, the cybersquatter informs you that you can buy it from them. You may be positioned to take advantage of the Act. The Act allows a trademark owner remedies such as making the cybersquatter transfer the domain name, forfeit the domain name, and recover up to $100,000 for each domain name.
My firm assists businesses in taking advantage of this remedy if they own a famous mark, find a defendant that registers or uses a domain name identical or confusingly similar to their famous mark, and the cybersquatter did it with a “bad faith” intent to profit from the mark. Thus, this issue affects numerous companies that are working hard to build up their reputation and brand.
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