Many small farm businesses and artisan food manufacturers are not prepared for the legal issues that arise in their day-to-day operations. Washburn Law’s Agricultural Business Law Clinic is one of the first of its kind.
Farmers often operate as a sole proprietorship, partnership or limited liability company, but some choose to form a cooperative. Different legal provisions apply to these entities. Learn more about agricultural business legal services.
Business organization laws govern the formalization of a commercial enterprise. The choice of a particular business structure can have significant consequences including liability exposure, tax implications, farm program payment limitation issues and corporate farming statutes. Agricultural businesses often choose to organize as a sole proprietorship, general partnership, limited liability partnership or limited liability company. Seller cooperatives are also common in agriculture. Examples include Sunkist (avocados), Land O’Lakes (dairy) and Ocean Spray (cranberries and juices). Our firm can help clients navigate the laws governing these entities. We can also assist with business formation and reorganization issues. We can also handle agribusiness mergers and acquisitions.
Contract negotiations set the terms and conditions for how two or more parties work together. They can cover any number of topics, from project scope to timelines, payment terms, intellectual property rights and dispute resolution mechanisms.
A lawyer can help determine which issues are up for negotiation and how to best negotiate in a way that achieves business goals while minimizing potential conflict down the road. This includes developing a clear understanding of the other party’s priorities and expectations, as well as how to compromise in ways that still support your own interests.
A lawyer can also help with forming an agricultural cooperative or nonprofit, negotiating leases or sales contracts, and obtaining trademark protection. They can also provide guidance with labor and employment issues, food safety regulations, land use laws and other legal issues specific to the farm industry. The Food and Agriculture Law Clinic offers pro bono transactional legal services for farmers, artisan food manufacturers and beverage entrepreneurs and related nonprofit organizations throughout New York State. Under faculty supervision, students in the clinic represent clients on a wide range of legal matters.
Intellectual Property Protection
Intellectual property embodies unique work reflecting someone’s creativity and is all around us, manifested through miracle drugs, computer games, films and cars. It is protected in law by patents, copyrights and trademarks to allow creators to earn financial benefits from their creations. These protections strike a balance between the interests of rights holders and users of intellectual property to enable innovation.
Companies in the agricultural technology space often develop patents for their inventions, including utility patents that protect a variety of plant-related inventions, from breeding methods to genetic engineering, microbes and seeds. Additionally, plant variety protection certificates provide exclusive rights to breeders of new and distinct asexually reproduced or tuber-propagated plants and plants resulting therefrom.
Other IP protections include trademarks, which distinguish a company’s products and services from those of others in the market. Trademarks are often used in the agriculture industry to protect names for new crop varieties and farming technologies. In addition, trade secrets are a valuable tool for protecting internal processes and procedures that can help businesses maintain their competitive advantage.
An estate plan is the legal document that dictates how a person’s possessions are to be managed and distributed after his or her death. If a person dies without an estate plan, the laws of the state will decide how his or her property is to be distributed.
An effective estate plan can reduce the tax burden on heirs. It can also help a family resolve conflicts and disputes that may arise after the death of a loved one.
Our law firm can help a family farm with various issues related to agribusiness including succession planning, creating trusts and making charitable donations to limit taxes. It can also provide assistance in negotiating commercial contracts and addressing regulatory matters. In addition, we can handle the litigation that may arise when there is a dispute between farms. We also assist clients with complex federal and New York state tax issues, whether during business transactions or in tax controversy cases.