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Houston Business and Family Law Blog

What's the Difference between a Restraining Order and a Protective Order?

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If you are or were in an abusive relationship, you have options to keep yourself and your children safe. You can obtain a court order that protects by keeping the abuser from contacting you or being near you. This order is called a protective order. Often, protective orders are referred to as restraining orders, but in Texas, these terms have different meanings.

Oil and Gas Drilling Surface Use Agreements

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Mineral Estate vs. Surface Estate

Texas law holds that the mineral estate is dominant over the surface estate; thus, the owner of the mineral estate has the right to freely use the surface estate to the extent reasonably necessary for the exploration, development, and production of the oil and gas under the property.

This right to freely use the surface estate for the benefit of the mineral estate may be exercised by a company or individual (generally the "lessee") who has taken a mineral lease from the actual owner of the mineral estate.

Present Pending Congressional Bills on Trade Secret Protection

The Uniform Trade Secrets Act, adopted by all states except for North Carolina and New York, serves to protect corporations and individuals who hold title to a formula, pattern or system that derives independent economic value not readily ascertainable by other persons and is subject to reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy, such as customer lists, methods of production, marketing strategies, pricing information and chemical formulae. The UTSA provides legal framework to protect a corporation against the misappropriation of a trade secret that is related to a product of service used in interstate or foreign commerce that has been adopted in 48 states, excluding New York and Massachusetts.

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.