People often confuse trademarks, patents, and copyrights. Together, they form what is generally referred to as “intellectual property” or “IP”, but they protect different aspects of your business, and are governed by different rules.

A trademark protects brand names and logos on goods and services, such as brand names, slogans, and logos. A copyright protects original artistic or literally works, such as novels, songs, films, software, and architecture. And lastly, a patent protects inventions, such as machines, industrial processes, and chemical compositions. Sometimes you need all three, sometimes you only need one.

Your specific needs vary on a case-by-case basis. For example, if a pharmaceutical company released a new drug, it may apply for a patent on the chemical process of the medicine, a trademark for the brand name, and a copyright for the advertisement of the medicine.

They also have different durations. A patent is limited in its duration, design patents last 15 years if filed on or after May 13, 2015 and 14 years if filed before then. Utility and...


As we all know, everyday tasks have become more difficult during the Coronavirus Pandemi The Courts and the legislature of North Carolina have made temporary and emergency changes to the laws to allow for the legal process to move forward and for necessary documents to be signed.

Estate and Court Filings. Until August 1, 2020, notarization is waived for a document which is required to be filed with a court. Instead, an affirmation may be signed to replace the notary. To implement this process, the individual signs the document. Underneath the signature, the following statement is added:

“I affirm, under the penalties for perjury, that the foregoing representations are true.”

This statement is then dated and signed. This rule applies only to court filings and not to documents that are required to be recorded or to a Last Will & Testament.

Notarization Changes. For non-court filings that require a notary (including all recorded documents, Last...


We find ourselves living in scary and uncertain times. One of the best gifts you can give to yourself and to your family during this time is the peace of mind in knowing that your health care decisions will be made appropriately if you cannot make them for yourself.

A Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to appoint a primary person and any number of backups to make health care decisions when you cannot. If you do not have a Health Care Power of Attorney, the North Carolina Statutes dictate who can make the decisions. A spouse is first; however, if there is no spouse, then a majority of the nearest living relatives make the decisions. This group include parents and adult children. Times of crisis breed disagreement, and it can be very stressful for the family and for the health care facility when quick decisions have to be made and there is no consensus. Because a Health Care Power of Attorney requires witnessing by two individuals who are not related and who are not employees of the health care facility where you are currently a patient, as well as notarization, it...


While the CARES Act is about to be voted on by the House today, Employers should note a few key provisions relating to the payroll continuation forgivable loan program, at least as the bill now stands:

  1. The “covered period” is March 1 through June 30, 2020. That’s the time over which the payroll continuation is supposed to occur, even if the loans are funded late in that period or after.
  2. Loan forgiveness is reduced by the reduction in FTE head count in the covered period vs. March 1 – June 30, 2019.
  3. So, if average monthly FTE in March 1 – June 30 2019 was 100 and average monthly FTE in the covered period ends up being 35, you only get 35% loan forgiveness.
  4. The CARES Act also reduces loan forgiveness dollar for dollar with any reduction in compensation of more than 25% for each employee making less than $100,000 in 2019 (or ~1/3 of that in March 1 – June 30, 2019).
  5. So, if an Employee made $18,000 in March 1 – June 30, 2019, and makes $10,000 in the covered period, $3,500 is not forgivable.
  6. Forgiveness does not apply to paid...

Now that COVID-19 has arrived in Catawba County, we wanted to update our clients on legal changes made in response to the health care situation and highlight a few points.

Expanded Unemployment

Governor Cooper has expanded unemployment eligibility in North Carolina to include layoffs and reduced hours resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak. The scope of this expanded coverage is not entirely clear. As of now, the North Carolina Division of Employment Security (NCDES) says an affected employee has to apply to find out if she is covered. Since the benefits are in response to an unprecedented situation, our hope and expectation is that benefits will be allowed in most situations where the Employee and Employer agree the layoff or reduced hours are as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The most important thing for employers to know is that these unemployment claims are non-charging – meaning they don’t affect your experience rating.

Federal Response

President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus...


Certain types of assets routinely cause issues in estate planning and administration. The issues and suggested solutions are detailed below:

  1. Mobile Homes. Frequently, clients transfer mobile homes by executing a Bill of Sale rather than transferring the Certificate of Title for the mobile home. Unless a mobile home has been legally affixed to the real estate through an affixation process with the Register of Deeds, the mobile home remains personal property and has a Certificate of Title through DMV. Failure to transfer the Certificate of Title to a new owner creates title problems which are often expensive to correct.
  2. Cemetery Plots. In estate administration, excess cemetery plots are often ignored, thereby creating a problem for future generations. Any excess cemetery plots should be identified and transferred to heirs or sold as a part of the estate administration process. City cemeteries often have extra requirements for compliance, including approval of transfers by the City Council.
  3. ...

Congress has passed the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (“SECURE ACT”), effective as of January 1, 2020. The SECURE Act contains some major changes for distributions relating to retirement accounts, including the following:

  • Stretch payments. In general, a spouse beneficiary can continue to roll over the proceeds from an IRA or 401(k) owned by a deceased account holder into his or her own IRA account and withdraw the funds over his or her lifetime. Before the change in the law, children and other beneficiaries could transfer IRA funds of which they were the beneficiary to an inherited IRA and continue to stretch the payments out over the lifetime of the beneficiary. Now, those individuals must withdraw the entire account within ten (10) years. Exceptions apply for minor children (until they reach the age of majority), disabled individuals, chronically-ill individuals, or individuals who are not more than ten years younger than the deceased.
  • Contributions. The SECURE Act repeals the maximum age for...

Estate Planning does not end with signing the documents. The following tips will help your family in the event of death or emergency:

  1. Document Distribution - Make sure you have distributed copies of your Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, Living Will, and HIPAA Authorizations to anyone named in the documents. In addition, your physician should have a copy of your Health Care Power of Attorney, Living Will, and HIPAA Authorization. Keeping a copy of your health care documents in the glove box of your vehicle, as well as making an “emergency packet” to take to the hospital on short notice is advisable.
  2. Access to Documents - Do not circulate copies of Wills and/or Trusts; however, let your first successor Executor and/or Trustee know where the originals of these documents are kept. The Clerk of Court will not probate a photocopy of a Will unless a lawyer files a petition and presents certain evidence. If you keep the documents in a safe deposit box, make sure that your first successor Executor and/or...

So you got the job! Congratulations on receiving your offer letter and employment contract — but don’t sign it too quickly. As tedious as it may feel to read through the fine print after getting through the recruitment process, it’s very important to make sure that you actually understand your work agreement.

If you’re just starting your career, or if you’ve never had any problems with employment contracts in the past, then reading it may feel unnecessary or like a waste of your time. However, even if you think that you and your prospective employer are on the same page, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by checking the contract thoroughly. In the best case scenario, there are no problems and you never have to look at it again. If there are problems, then you can spot red flags and either renegotiate the contract or decide not to accept their offer.

Today, the team behind the contract attorneys at Patrick Harper & Dixon is going over three things you need to check before accepting your offer letter. Read on to find out more, and feel free to...


Although planning in advance for facility care is best, an unanticipated health event may necessitate instant action to protect assets. Some techniques which may work are set forth below:

Purchasing a one-percent (1%) interest in the homesite or other real property as joint tenants with right of survivorship. If a child purchases a one-percent interest, no gift has occurred and no Medicaid transfer sanction results. The parent owns 99% of the real estate, and the child owns 1%. The 99% interest bypasses the probate estate of the parent at death, thereby avoiding the Medicaid estate recovery claim. This technique may offer a last resort method to protect the home. The mechanics should be thoroughly discussed with your attorney.

Utilizing the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA) and allowable spenddown. The spouse who is at home can retain one-half of the countable assets, up to $126,420.00. The remaining amount must be spent down to the $2,000.00 level for the facility spouse to qualify for Medicaid. To spend down, the...