What Is “Intellectual Property Insurance” And Does My Company Need It?

Chances are you already know a thing or two about intellectual property (also referred to as IP). Normally, IP isn’t something you can touch or feel. This type of property is different. It can be an artistic creation, an idea for an invention, or even computer code. Designs, logos, and brands are also considered forms of IP. And depending on the type of IP, your property might be covered by one of several branches of IP law: patents, copyright, trade secrets, or trademarks.

Why are there so many laws governing artistic expression and ideas? Well, the reason is simple: people tend to steal ideas as readily as they steal physical property. And what’s more, it’s usually easier to get away with stealing something that isn’t tangible! That’s also one of the reasons why IP owners might consider buying insurance for this type of property.

But what is intellectual property insurance? After all, you can’t truly protect something untouchable. IP usually can’t be broken. IP insurance is different in that its primary function is covering legal costs over everything else. When you have your IP stolen and need to build a lawsuit, your policy should help cover those costs. When someone sues you for the alleged theft of their IP, your policy might protect you for that too.

IP insurance generally comes in two distinct packages. The first is called “infringement defense.” This is popular because many big companies that own IP will inevitably be sued for thefts of which they are not guilty. When someone sues you for theft of IP or infringement of IP, this is the type of insurance you need to feel safe.

The second type of IP insurance is called “abatement enforcement coverage.” This insurance provides additional funds to tackle claims of their own. When someone steals your ideas, you want to sue them without taking additional losses. 

An anonymous lawyer at Seder Law explained, “We hear many arguments in court related to intellectual property. Most clients don’t have insurance for what they own, but we always point them in the right direction. You have homeowners insurance to protect your home. You have car insurance to protect your vehicle. You even have medical insurance to protect yourself. So why not protect your ideas?”

Infringement of IP isn’t always clear-cut. This is especially true when you need to prove that another company stole your ideas in a court of law. For example, let’s say you wrote a screenplay for a TV pilot. Network executives for imaginary studio “Dirty Thieves” passed on your project. A second imaginary studio we’ll call “White Knights” gave the project a green light. While your new show is still in the pilot-planning stages, Dirty Thieves announces a new show — suspiciously similar to the one you’re working on. You have the right to sue for infringement because it looks like they stole your idea after deciding not to buy it from you.

What Were The Biggest Changes To Environmental Law In 2021?

Biden’s win during the 2020 election emboldened Democrats to think bigger about climate change action — even if not big enough to spare us from the biggest environmental consequences. This resulted in some pretty big decisions and new laws in 2021 (and some pretty big losses as well, as Republicans obstruct the Democratic agenda at the federal level while enacting pro-business, anti-conservation laws of their own at the state level). Here are some of the most far-reaching.

Remember that lawsuit against the United States government, built by lawyers representing a large group of schoolchildren? The three-judge panel ruled that the plaintiffs didn’t have the standing to sue, a decision that reversed a previous district court ruling. The dissenting voice from the three-judge panel wrote that the children had constitutional standing and legal merit to back up their arguments that the government was not doing enough to fight climate change. 

Regardless of which side of the argument you agree with, this court’s precedent could prevent private citizens from suing the government over climate change issues in the future.

Prior to League of United Latin American Citizens v. Regan, pesticide chlorpyrifos were not regulated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), even though the chemicals do immeasurable damage to the ecosystems where they are used. The Court of Appeals finally gave the EPA only 60 days to decide whether the chemicals are safe — or ban them. The EPA opted to ban them.

Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency found that the government was correct in asserting that Sackett property development would destroy important wetlands. This case bounced from a local court to the 9th Circuit to the Supreme Court back in 2012 before it was revisited on remand based on merit by the 9th Circuit in 2021. Anyone paying attention to the case might expect a Republican-dominated Supreme Court to have its say in 2022 or beyond.

Are Businesses Insured Against Sexual Harassment Claims And Lawsuits?

Believe it or not, businesses have the option to build insurance policies that protect against claims of sexual harassment. They go hand-in-hand with other more reasonable protections like wrongful termination, discrimination, whistleblowing, and harassment. Insurance policies that protect against sexual misconduct in the workplace, though, have come under fire. After all, employers who won’t be held financially responsible for the misconduct don’t have much of an incentive to prevent it from happening in the first place.

A lawyer for Castronovo explained: “Sexual harassment and assault insurance policies are more common than ever because of the #MeToo movement. This also happens to be the reason why they’re becoming more controversial. There are two questions. Should a business owner be held responsible for claims made against an employee if training is mandated? On the other hand, shouldn’t business owners who do nothing to prevent an atmosphere rife for harassment be held responsible? That’s why many people don’t believe business insurance should be made available to businesses.”

Protections against sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct are normally covered in employment practices liability (or EPL) insurance policies.

One important factor in these policies is that bodily injury is usually excluded from the policy. That means if an assault leads to injury, it won’t be protected by a claim. Sometimes partial coverage is available for these crimes.

An Insureon poll of small businesses operating in the United States found that nearly half did not buy into a policy protecting them from claims like the aforementioned. The poll also found that most of these businesses had never received a harassment complaint, three-quarters of the businesses have strict policies and rules meant to address the potential for sexual harassment, and just over half of the businesses provided training. But the most important takeaway is that nearly half of businesses — don’t provide such training. 

This is important, since 83 percent of those that purchased business insurance have a policy in place that would limit financial accountability in the event of a sexual harassment claim in the workplace.

This could lead people to natural conclusions about where society is headed. #MeToo changed the way we view sexual harassment in the workplace forever, and it stands to reason that society will continue to address concerns and attempt to reduce overall claims. New legislation could require all businesses, small and large, to purchase insurance — but that wouldn’t change the underlying reasons that harassment occurs.

More meaningful change would require businesses to provide training related to sexual harassment. Employees should see and hear about actual examples of claims that have occurred in the past, and know how to avoid making these mistakes themselves. Anyone can be guilty of sexual harassment for misplaced or inappropriate comments at work. They should be made aware of the consequences.

Speaking of consequences, new legislation at the state and federal level could address those as well. Fines could be imposed, jail sentences could be lengthened, and non-incarceration consequences could be levied against those found guilty of sexual harassment or assault in the workplace.

Environmental Law Fails To Prevent Unnecessary Infrastructure Projects

Infrastructure in 2022 should look wildly different from infrastructure in 2002. Did you know a big reason for environmental and ecological changes in North America is the interstate system? Not only do they act as firm walls and divisions in between animal habitats, but they are also responsible for millions of animal deaths each year. That’s why we should be focusing on new projects like land bridges to save animals and allow them to move freely — and not building new bridges for ourselves.

In Chapel Hill, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, alongside local residents, recently filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals in the Fourth Circuit to request a status change for the Mid-Currituck Bridge. The claim states that the bridge would cost taxpayers $500 million but has not undergone the public review of costs or researched environmental impacts since 2012, when the bridge was first conceived. 

Since then, sea level change has been projected to exceed expectations. The claim says that the bridge will likely be underwater before the project will even be paid off. The area is also vulnerable to storm damage and routine flooding. Moreover, other solutions exist, making the old plans obsolete.

Senior attorney Kym Hunter for the Southern Environmental Law Center said, “The Mid-Currituck Bridge is an extraordinarily bad investment for North Carolina. The bridge would primarily serve out-of-state tourists and only for a few weekends in the summer. When you factor in the limite use, the availability of cheaper and less damaging alternatives, and that much of the bridge project area will soon begin to flood and become less reliable due to sea level rise, it is hard to think of a worse way for North Carolina to spend scarce transportation funds.”

She added, “We urge Governor Cooper to think again before making this big and costly mistake. In the meantime, we will continue to challenge the illegal analysis in court.”

What Is Environmental Terrorism?

It’s not something we hear about often — especially since protecting our environment has become one of the most important issues of our time and most people aren’t out to damage the environment for no reason. Environmental terrorism still exists, though. What is environmental terrorism? The act occurs when someone willfully breaks the law to “harm or destroy environmental resources.”

Many people confuse environmental terrorism with eco-terrorism. The former is an attack perpetrated against nature. The latter is an attack perpetrated to support nature. Both forms of terrorism promote breaking the law or physical acts of violence in order to achieve the end goals of the group in question. Eco-terrorists are far more common, too. According to the FBI, eco-terrorists caused at least $200 million in property damage over a five-year span between 2003 and 2008.

Criminal defense attorneys are obligated to defend all clients regardless of guilt, but many have avoided associating with clients accused of any kind of terrorism. An anonymous attorney at jgcg.com claimed these types of clients are inevitable: “We know what we’re getting into when we receive an email from a prospective client slammed with terrorism charges. Although we try to keep an open mind, most of us know that our reputations are all we have. And helping terrorists comes with consequences none of us want.”

One of the most recent — and extreme — examples of environmental terrorism occurred when terrorists released incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip. These balloons incinerated thousands of acres of precious woodland in Israel in 2018. The same terrorists — the Children of Fire — were responsible for other attacks, including arson that caused wildfires in Turkey in 2020.

Elizabeth Chalecki believed that the possibility exists for our natural world to be used as a medium for terrorist acts. She urged world leaders to take heed of her advice, because attacks on natural resources were far more feasible than the oft-feared terrorist with a weapon of mass destruction.

She argued, “Resources are easy to access and vulnerable. Taking out a dam or poisoning a water supply would have far more consequences than a suicide bomber.”

Taking out natural resources is perhaps the easiest way to manipulate a population of people who rely on those resources — especially when you want them eradicated.

Chalecki said, “The difficulty of a far-reaching attack on a major city’s water supply is now merely a technological hurdle. I have no doubt that this will happen.”

She questions what would happen if terrorists were to target one of the controversial petroleum pipelines we rely on for gas. When a hunter accidentally shot one of these pipelines in Alaska, a $3 million spill resulted. Now imagine a situation where a group with sufficient resources were to launch an attack on that same pipeline. The costs would climb astronomically.

Chalecki added, “of the eight infrastructures that the FBI Infrastructure Protection Center has identified as vulnerable, water was the only one environmentally related.”

Insurance Fraud Cases Skyrocket In COVID Era

According to Cornell Law School, Insurance fraud “refers to any duplicitous act performed with the intent to obtain an improper payment from an insurer.” Fraud is a huge contributor to rising costs of insurance — and insurance fraud is on the rise itself, especially since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Many benefits were provided to help Americans who found themselves in COVID poverty, but millions of dollars fell out of the government’s pocket along the way.

But that’s not the only reason fraud cases are on the rise.

Kentucky resident Earl Lee Planck, Jr. (age 62) was convicted of crop insurance fraud and other related charges, and then sentenced to 56 months incarceration in December, 2021. 

The man bought crop insurance using his own name. He then claimed false losses on land with soil that wasn’t even able to grow tobacco, the crop in question. The land was wooded. Although this case was established more than a decade ago, similar cases are on the rise — because of COVID poverty, or the loss of income during the pandemic.

State prosecutors have been aggressive in prosecuting these individuals.

United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Jessica D. Aber said, “In the past year, Virginians have endured the physical, mental, and economic hardship brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Within the last year, we have stood firm in our commitment to protect the programs implemented by Congress to assist community members suffering from the economic effects of this pandemic and, going forward, will continue to aggressively prosecute those who steal taxpayers’ funds.”

Dozens were charged in Virginia during the 2021 calendar year after the combined cases resulted in attempts to defraud the U.S. government of at least $105 million.

The most common types of fraud included: Paycheck Protection Program fraud, Economic Injury Disaster Loans fraud, Unemployment Insurance fraud, Personal Protective Equipment fraud, and Economic Impact Payments fraud.

How Many Marriages End After Political Climate Change Disputes?

Couples who were married 50, 40, or even 30 years ago might not have expected how controversial some topics were destined to become. Certainly, they might not have expected factors like Donald Trump and the erosion of Democratic norms — or man-made climate change and political blockades preventing us from doing anything about it because half the country’s citizens don’t believe it’s actually happening. 

How many marriages have ended due to these disputes?

Researchers have continued to make surprising finds. Some believe in a rise in violence worldwide in proportion to rising temperatures, much the same way as crime spikes in the summer months of the year. Others believe that climate change has resulted in more violence — specifically aimed at women and children. Equally alarming is another trend: couples are divorcing at much older ages than they once did.

When politics are so divisive, they impact relationship stability — and that trend extends toward the institution of marriage, which can’t always hold up under the tremendous pressure of these outside forces. Perhaps the biggest factor of all? “The Trump Effect.”

73-Year-Old Gayle McCormick divorced her husband after more than two decades of marriage because he voted for Trump, dismissing it as a “deal-breaker.”

She isn’t the only one! A December 2016 poll found that 16 percent of 6,000 people polled stopped communicating with friends of family as a result of differences of opinion regarding the election. Around the same number of people blocked friends or family on social media. And that was six years ago. If anything 2020 was far more divisive.

Wakefield Research found that more than one in five millennials ended a relationship because of political climate change. That number contrasts with one in ten Americans in any age bracket. But keep in mind, most millennials are in their 30s. They’re older, even if most people don’t see them that way yet. They have strong, ingrained beliefs about topics like climate change or economics.

Almost one in ten marriages are “politically mixed,” with at least one Republican and one Democrat. An additional 19 percent include either one Republican/Democrat and an Independent. 70 percent of all marriages in the United States are between spouses with the same political affiliation (although these people can still have political differences of opinion, too, of course). That means nearly 1/3 of all marriages in the United States are under political pressure.

What should be obvious is that the more divisive the political figure, the more divisive the politics become. Trump speaks about immigrants as if they’re all criminals when factually that isn’t the case. Democrats will never approve.

Thinking about divorce? You should go now. The number of divorce cases rose during the first few months of the year, but the wave has receded somewhat due to the Omicron variant of coronavirus causing a sudden surge in cases. Much of the work can be done at home or without the help of a lawyer. But should disputes arise, you can still discuss divorce proceedings with a lawyer from the comfort of your own home.

New State Environmental Laws For The New Year

When interviewed by the Washington Post about Biden’s leadership on climate change, famed activist Greta Thunberg didn’t mince her words. “If you call him a leader,” she said. “I mean, it’s strange that people think of Joe Biden as a leader for the climate when you see what his administration is doing.”

Although Biden has publicly said that man-made climate change is a danger we must all face together, his administration seems content with putting off the difficult task due to the current economic situation — which might mean the real struggle will be left to the next president or ignored altogether.

Thankfully, state governments are still planning to make changes of their own. For example, New Jersey, California, and New York are among a number of states who plan new initiatives or laws for the next year. 

New Jersey Governor Murphy signed Executive Order No. 274. The order provides a broad timeline for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent lower than their levels were in 2006. The order establishes a 2030 goalpost for this strategy. New Jersey also passed several other laws to tackle climate change.

California has passed at least ten laws to do the same. Senate Bill 596 aims to reduce carbon capture of cement. Senate Bill 339 provides funding for a new program that will charge drivers based on the vehicle’s efficiency. Other laws on the books seek to reduce the amount of single-use plastics that residents of the state use. Senate Bill 343 makes it illegal to use the recycle symbol on a plastic product if it cannot be recycled.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said, “Climate change and pollution are two of the most serious issues affecting New Yorkers’ health and quality of life. These pieces of legislation will ensure our state remains a national leader, not only in the fight for clean air and water, but in securing a cleaner, more sustainable future for generations as well.”

How Is Immigration Policy Connected To Insurance Law?

These two aspects of our society might seem unconnected to one another, but they each impact the other. The question of whether or not to provide immigrants or asylum-seekers will quality healthcare is one often asked in conservative circles — where you might often hear how immigrants are sucking away the resources the rest of us put into the pool. “Our taxes are paying for their healthcare!” We’ve all heard those words spoken.

The debate became more visceral when President Trump issued a proclamation on October 4, 2019. This legal code guaranteed that only “wealthy” immigrants would be allowed inside the country. If an individual could not pay for the costs of healthcare (and how many people can do that without insurance in the United States?), then they cannot enter or apply for a Green Card.

Trump justified his order: “Immigrants who enter this country should not further saddle our healthcare system, and subsequently American taxpayers, with higher costs.”

According to an anonymous attorney from the Law Office of Ronald Freeman, “There is a disparity between the way America perceives healthcare and the way the rest of the world does. Here, we see healthcare as a privilege bestowed on those who earn it. In most other countries, healthcare is considered a human right. And this creates problems when we decide how to care for our immigrant population — especially when an individual is not an American citizen. Some of us feel we shouldn’t have to pay for it, but even if we didn’t provide immigrants with healthcare, we would face steep costs to the perception of our country on the world stage. Many times, this question ends up asked to a judge. So there are other costs as well. People fail to see them.”

The proclamation approved applications by people who received health insurance through an employer-sponsored plan, an unsubsidized plan on the market, and a few others. Those who were already issued a visa were exempt from the plan.

This proclamation was subsequently rescinded by President Biden shortly after his term started.  

Biden said, “My Administration is committed to expanding access to quality, affordable healthcare. We can achieve that objective, however, without barring the entry of noncitizens who seek to immigrate lawfully to this country who lack significant financial means or have not purchased health insurance coverage from a restrictive list of qualifying plans.”

Failing to provide immigrants with insurance could result in rising healthcare premiums for everyone else. This is true for any American citizen who fails to sign up for coverage. When someone who cannot pay for healthcare goes to the hospital, we still have to provide them with care. They are the ones who are usually saddled with the debt, but sometimes it goes unpaid. 

This is the primary reason why most first-world countries provide healthcare as a human right without the need for private insurance. It reduces the costs. That’s why our country has some of the highest costs of healthcare worldwide. 

Will New Laws Cut Health Insurance Premiums Even More?

Anyone living in poverty knows that the Affordable Care Act is subsidized. These subsidies can cut the cost of health insurance to zero. But what about everyone else? Some people are living above the poverty line, but still can’t afford to pay their bills without living paycheck to paycheck. Well, there is good news on the horizon. The state of Maryland is considering enacting SB 729, which would use a new program to mitigate costs for those aged 18 to 34.

Deputy Director Stephanie Klapper of Maryland Citizen’s Health Initiative said, “Even if you’ve looked before for health coverage, it’s worth coming back to Maryland Health Connection, because there’s now savings available for those 18-to-34-year-olds. And thanks to the American Rescue Plan, there’s new assistance for households at all income levels, even for folks who are older than 18 to 34.”

According to Klapper, roughly 90 percent of Maryland residents who are currently enrolled in healthcare insurance programs can receive financial aid through the new plan. Check Marylandhealthconnection.gov for additional information.

Those who are older and still looking for health insurance need not worry.

Associate Director Tammy Bresnahan for AARP Maryland said, “That 50-to-64-year-old bloc, they are having problems going back to work, getting a job that has health insurance. So, open enrollment also helps them acquire health insurance, because they are most at risk.”

The aforementioned plans cover several aspects of healthcare: doctor visits, prescriptions, and even mental health services. 

Whether or not other states jump on board to reduce these healthcare costs remains to be seen. We can rightly view Maryland’s initiative as a pilot program that will help determine popularity. Should it go well, we can expect other initiatives to pop up all over the country. Rising healthcare costs have been problematic for decades, but this could go a long way to reducing the impacts of this problem.