The High-touch Legal Services® Blog…for Startups!

© 2009-2017 Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law

May a Minor Be a Partner?

Logo for Avvo, where Dana Shultz answered a question about: May a minor be a partner in a partnership?This post answers the following question: May a minor be a partner (in a partnership legal entity)? It is based on my answer to an Avvo question. Please see In California, can a minor be a partner in a General Partnership?

As initially written, this answer applied solely to California. However, an update, below, discusses applicability to other states. (more…)

Can I Sell a Partnership Interest in California?

Logo for Avvo, where Dana Shultz answered a question about whether one can sell a partnership interestI recently answered an Avvo question about whether one can sell a partnership interest. The question and answer are paraphrased below (with emphasis added).

Q. In California, is a general partnership terminated upon the sale of one partner’s interest to a third party? How would the remaining partner and new partner continue business? Would a new entity need to be formed? There is no written partnership agreement.

A. Corporations Code Section 16201 states that “A partnership is an entity distinct from its partners.” Therefore, a membership change does not, by itself, create a new partnership.

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Can a Partnership Have Just One Partner?

Picture of courthouse

This post’s title question about a one-partner partnership might seem silly: The common-sense answer is “No”, because one cannot be one’s own partner. As I learned recently working with a client who wants to dissolve a partnership, this is one situation where the law (in California, at least) and common sense agree.

To start, Corporations Code Section 16101(9) states that a partnership requires two or more partners.

Last year, in Corrales v. Corrales, the Court of Appeal for the Fourth District, Division 3 (courthouse pictured) answered an interesting question: What happens to a two-person partnership when one partner withdraws?

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Every Partnership Needs an EIN

I recently met two individuals who formed a business partnership. They were pretty informal about the process: They had no written partnership agreement. More surprisingly, they had not obtained an employer identification number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service.

Failure to obtain an EIN was a legal mistake. The IRS’s Do You Need an EIN? page states that when a business is operated as a partnership, it must obtain an EIN. (more…)

Implied Copyright License: A Life-and-Death Example

Seal of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which decided an implied copyright license caseSeveral months ago, I wrote about the circumstances under which courts will find an implied copyright license if there has not been an assignment of copyright. (If You Don’t Set the Terms of a Copyright License, a Court Will) In a recent case (Estate of Hevia v. Portrio Corp.), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that there was an implied copyright license in a partnership context.

The decedent, Roberto Hevia-Acosta, was an architect. Following his death, his estate and heirs waged an intensive legal battle against his business partner over copyrights in the decedent’s architectural designs.

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California doesn’t *always* prohibit non-compete provisions

California is well-known for refusing to enforce non-compete provisions, especially in the post-employment context (see Choice-of-Law and Non-Compete Provisions), so individuals will not be deprived of gainful employment. But provisions limiting competition aren’t always taboo. (more…)

I Fell into the “Unintended Partnership” Trap – How do I Climb Out?

Earlier this year, I wrote about how business founders who agree to split earnings from their venture can find that they have unintentionally created a general partnership (Beware the Unintended Partnership). The problem: Any partner can subject all of the partners to unlimited personal liability for partnership obligations!

This post provides an overview of how an unintended, or otherwise undesirable, California general partnership can be terminated.

Half or more of the partners can decide to wind up the business of the partnership and dissolve it (California Corporations Code Section 16801(1)).

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Teaming Agreements Teem with Issues

Separately, two clients asked me to review “teaming agreements” that had been presented to them. In each instance, the client was proposing to “team” with another company that had complementary expertise so they could carry out, jointly, a sophisticated technical project for a customer.

A brief aside: I prefer the term “teaming” to “partnering”, which often is used by technology companies to emphasize how closely they will work with one another. My concern about “partnering” is that the term suggests the companies may be partners rather than independent contractors, potentially sharing unlimited legal liability for their joint business activities. Fortunately, my clients avoided that trap.

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Beware the Unintended Partnership

Photo of two teddy bears, symbolizing an unintended partnershipThis post uses a real-life example to explain how an unintended partnership is created and why it can be a problem.

Client was one of two founders of a website. She provided content; Co-founder developed, maintained and promoted the site.

Client and Co-founder had been working together for three months when Co-founder presented a business agreement that had been prepared by his paralegal friend. Client asked that I review the agreement on her behalf.

I saw right away a problem that frequently arises in this situation: The parties were characterized as participating in a joint venture under which they would split earnings from the site. The problem arises because under California Corporations Code Section 16202(c)(3), subject to certain exceptions (see discussion below), “[a] person who receives a share of the profits of a business is presumed to be a partner in the business”. This is true even if the parties did not intend to form a partnership (Section 16202[a]), in which case they have created an unintended partnership.

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