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Houston Business and Family Law Blog

The Benefit of Patents, Trade Secrets and Contracts in Oil and Gas Fracking

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process of drilling down into the earth and releasing a high-pressure water mixture into the rock to unearth natural gas. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.

Oil and gas companies have patented their procedures for well completion and horizontal drilling and, more commonly, the fracking fluids used. The patent right allows its owner to exclude another from making, using, selling or importing the invention for essentially any reason.

What's my medical practice worth?

You may not think much about the value of your medical practice on a day-to-day basis. But when changes happen in your professional or personal life, the value of your practice may become the most important business term you need to know.

The value of a medical practice can be at issue in many stages of a business, from a young doctor planning to buy a practice to mergers to an older professional who is ready to sell a practice and retire. The value of a practice comes up in your personal life as well, whether it's drafting an accurate premarital agreement or establishing a value during divorce.

Selecting a Series Limited Liability Company vs. Multiple Individual Corporations

One way to setup multiple corporations and isolate the legal liability of each is to setup a Series Limited Liability Company (LLC). A series LLC creates an unlimited number of sub-LLCs, each with a separate business purpose or investment objective, under an umbrella of a parent LLC.

Special language is incorporated into the certificate of formation and the company agreements that allows numerous corporations who each are a separate juridical entity. Texas business organizations code chapter 101, section 101.602 states "the debts, liabilities, obligations, and expenses incurred...with respect to a particular series shall be enforceable against the assets of that series only, and shall not be enforceable against the assets of the limited liability company generally or any other series." As well, the same holds true that the sub-series are exempt from the obligations of the parent LLC. Essentially, the parent LLC is protected from liability of the series, and each series is theoretically protected from the liabilities of the parent and other LLCs.

What is open adoption?

In previous decades, adoption was often shrouded in secrecy. Birth mothers often did not know who was adopting their children, and the adoptive parents and children in turn usually had no contact with birth mothers. That's not the case today.

Although closed adoptions do still exist, many more children are placed in families through open adoptions, although estimates vary. One study found that 95 percent of 4,440 adoptions over a two-year period had some level of contact between parties. A 2007-2008 study by the National Survey of Adoptive Parents found that 68 percent of people surveyed had contact between children and family birth members.

    RAC audits returned more than $3 billion in overpayments last year

    The Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) program is big business for the federal government. According to the health care industry publication Modern Healthcare, RAC auditors collected more than $3 billion in 2013.

    According to Modern Healthcare, recovery auditors identified $3.75 billion in incorrect payments to hospitals and doctors during the 2013 fiscal year. Overpayments made up $3.65 billion of that amount. The magazine reported on the release of an annual report to Congress, available here.

    The federal Eastern District of Texas is a haven for patent trolls

    The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas is the federal judicial district that covers 43 counties in eastern Texas. It is known as a friendly venue for patent litigation. As a result, it ranks as one of the most popular judicial districts for patent lawsuits - and patent troll lawsuits are frequently filed there.

    According to Lex Machina, a legal analytics company, the Eastern District of Texas had 1,495 new patent cases in 2013, up 20 percent from 2012. That makes it the district with the most new patent cases in 2013. The second most popular is the District of Delaware, which had 1,336 new patent filings. Many businesses are registered in Delaware. Coming in third was the Central District of California, with 399 new filings.

    What if my unfaithful spouse gave me a sexually transmitted disease?

    Infidelity in relationships is not unusual. By some commonly cited estimates, up to 50 percent of partners in relationships cheat, although some studies put the rate of infidelity much lower. Cheating is frequently a cause of divorce, and it sometimes comes with health consequences from sexually transmitted diseases. If your soon-to-be former spouse gave you a sexually transmitted disease, you may have recourse.

    In Texas, the transmission of a sexually transmitted disease is one basis for a marital tort. A tort is an allegation that happens when someone's careless or intentional act causes harm to another person.

    Judge: BP was grossly negligent in Deepwater Horizon oil spill

    BP can expect to bear most of the responsibility for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers and created a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. That message was clear when a U.S. district judge released a ruling in the first phase of lengthy litigation to determine which companies are liable for the catastrophe.

    BP's case is part of multidistrict litigation also involving Transocean, which owned the rig, and Halliburton, which provided services on the rig. According to an article in Texas Lawyer, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier issued a ruling earlier this month that BP is 67 percent liable, Transocean is 30 percent liable and Halliburton is 3 percent liable.

    Finding the right business partner

    Your business partner is an integral part of the success or failure of your business. The right partner can complement your strengths, reduce your weaknesses and give you the kind of perspective that helps build a strong business model and carry out your plans. The trick is to make sure that a business partner is right for you.

    In 2013, Entrepreneur magazine listed key questions to ask before committing to a business partner. You should find out information such as:

    What happens to spousal support after remarriage?

    Not all marriages are financially equal. In many marriages, one spouse is a primary earner or has more money for other reasons. Divorce can leave the nonearning spouse in financial ruin - which is one reason Texas law provides for spousal maintenance, also called alimony or spousal support. There is an entire list of factors for spousal maintenance, including, but not limited to, how much the parties estate is worth and how much you are getting from the division of property. For higher-earning parties, the idea of permanent spousal maintenance can feel frustrating, especially if their exes enter into new relationships. But these people can cast aside their fears of being forced to pay support to their ex- and their ex's new husband or wife.

    Under Texas law, the obligation to pay spousal maintenance ends if the other party remarries. In fact, a court can order spousal maintenance terminated if the person receiving it lives with his or her new romantic partner.