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新公司必上的三堂课

所属:成长励志 作者:Benjamin K. Riley 阅读:2842 次 评论:0 条 [我要评论]  [+我要收藏]

小编摘要:初创公司在飞快的发展过程中,往往会犯下致命的法律错误,致使尚处萌芽状态的公司生存不保。企业家们,请谨记在心:以下是你们需要牢记的几件事。




初创公司或者新兴公司行动必须果断、高效、迅速。但是,这些公司由于面临着高速发展以及其他诸多挑战,也往往因此犯下严重的法律过失。以下几个现象已属司空见惯:这些公司不能区分并理解具有法律效力的协议与不具法律效力的协议这二者之间的区别;他们保存的文档不能充分反映合营企业合作伙伴之间的法律权力与责任;并且,他们不能明确并保护自身的商业机密。
Startup or emerging growth companies have to act decisively, efficiently and quickly. But the frenetic pace and other challenges these companies face often lead to serious legal mistakes. All too often, these companies fail to distinguish and understand the differences between an agreement that is legally enforceable and one that is not; keep inadequate documentation of the legal rights and responsibilities among joint venture partners; and fail to identify and protect the company's trade secrets.
什么样的协议具备法律效力?
What makes an agreement enforceable?
企业家应该能够辨识各类不同协议之间的区别。尽管存在少数特例,但一般情况下,口头协议虽然具备法律效力但往往难以证实。如果没有协议文件,协议双方对协议的理解很可能不一致。如果你希望协议的所有条款都具备法律效力,那就把它们写下来。
An entrepreneur should recognize the differences between different kinds of agreements. With a few exceptions, an oral agreement is enforceable but will often be hard to prove. Without documentation of the agreement, understanding of any agreement will likely differ between two parties. If you want to make all the terms of an agreement enforceable, document it in writing.
准备好书面协议之后,对于其中的哪些内容具备法律效力,你还需要做到心中有数。按照协议用语,书面协议分为三个基本类型:协议将来达成协议(agreement to agree)、协议意向书、以及说明详细且具备约束力的协议。
Once a written agreement is prepared, make sure you understand what is actually enforceable. There are three basic types of written agreements, depending on the language of the agreement: agreements to agree, letters of intent, and a fully defined, binding agreement.
协议将来达成协议只是说明继续协商的意向。尽管将来有可能会追加其他协议条款,但这类协议只是说明,协议各方有责任继续协商,以达成最终协议。
Agreements to agree simply state the intent to continue negotiating. While other terms might be tacked on, these agreements only commit the parties to continue to work towards a final agreement.
意向书往往对协议的基本条款进行说明,但具体细节要留待将来再进一步完善。对于协议意向书,至为关键的是,你需要搞清楚,协议条款是立即生效,还是说在最后条款最终确定之前并不存在任何具备约束力的协议。比较明智的做法是,在意向书中增加一个条文,说明哪些条款是目前就具备法律效力的,哪些还不是。并且,达成最终协议时,一定要以书面形式将之制作成完整的文件。
Letters of intent, however, normally state the basic terms of an agreement, but leave the finer details for later. With letters of intent, it is critical that you understand whether the agreed terms are immediately binding or if there will be no binding agreement until all terms are nailed down. With a letter of intent, it's a good idea to include a clause that defines which provisions are presently enforceable and which are not. And when you reach a final agreement, fully document it in writing.
制作合资企业协议文件
Document your joint venture agreements
初创公司往往还会在技术和财务方面与其他公司或个人合作。多数情况下,几方合作伙伴会先签署一份保密协议,说明每方都有义务保护并尊重其他合作方信息的机密性。
Startups often collaborate with other companies and individuals on technology or financial issues. In most situations, partners will first sign a confidentiality agreement, obligating each to safeguard and respect the confidentiality of the other's information.
如果你在不具备任何进一步的证明文件的前提下,就“勇往直前”,与他人建立了合作关系,那等于自找麻烦。比如说,2006年,一位名叫约翰?沃克尔的地质学家就与LaFarge North America公司达成协议,负责领导一家合营企业在海地的一个采石场项目。沃克尔负责向LaFarge公司提供地质数据、财务预估数据、初创公司成本以及营销分析等信息,但是双方从未签署书面合作协议。合作关系不久就分崩离析,LaFarge公司自然也就将沃克尔踢出了该项目。沃克尔以违背口头协议为由将LaFarge公司告上了法庭,但是法庭驳回了沃克尔的索赔要求,因为他无法提供正式的书面协议。
If you go ahead and form a relationship without any further documentation, you're asking for trouble. For example, a geologist named John Walker entered into an agreement with LaFarge North America in 2006 to conduct a joint venture on a stone quarry project in Haiti. Walker provided LaFarge with geologic data, financial projections, startup costs and marketing analysis, but the parties never put together a written joint venture agreement. The relationship later fell apart and LaFarge took Walker off the project. Walker sued for breach of an oral agreement, but the court dismissed Walker's claim because of the absence of a formal, written agreement.
在这些合作开发项目中,初创公司往往会签署保密协议,或者将相关文件定为机密文件,然后就与其他公司开始了合作,一般合作期为半年甚或更长,直到其中一方终止合作关系为止。在这种情况下,被抛弃的一方认为双方已经达成口头协议,自己有权使用相关技术或者接受股票或报酬,但只是苦于不能提供书面文件。而另一方则很可能面临着索赔要求:牺牲其业务模式或者部分资产。但是,由于缺乏恰当的文件,法庭往往会驳回双方的要求。更糟的是,到头来双方很可能会发现,经过这么一折腾,其商业秘密或者机密信息已经彻底丧失,或者面临着被泄露的风险。
In these joint development situations, startups will often sign a confidentiality agreement or stamp confidential on its documents and then work with the other company for six months or more before one party severs the relationship. At that point, the dismissed party finds itself with oral understandings about rights to use technology or to receive equity or payment, but no documentation. The other party may be confronted with claims against its business model or property. Courts will often reject both parties' claims on account of inadequate documentation. Even worse, the parties might find that they have lost or compromised their trade secrets or confidential information.
所以,在签署合作关系文件之前,千万不要与合作伙伴展开合作活动。如果与合作伙伴的合作关系发生了变化,也要确保在书面协议中增加新条款,以反映这种变化。然后,起草一份完整的合同。
Don't begin working with a partner without first documenting the relationship. If the relationship with your partners changes, make sure the written agreement reflects the new terms. Draft a full and complete contract.
保护商业机密
Protect your trade secrets
最后一点,初创公司必须制作相应的商业机密文件,并严格保守这些秘密。商业机密可能包括任何可给保守秘密者带来经济价值、但眼下尚不为其他人所知的信息、过程或者技术。商业机密不同于专利,这在某种程度上是由于其范围更广,而且必须保密。实际上,每家初创公司都会拥有许多富有价值的商业机密。将来有一天,其中一些商业机密有可能就成了专利。
Finally, startup companies must document and protect their trade secrets. A trade secret may include any information, process or technology that provides economic value to the secret holder that is not readily known to others. Trade secrets are different from patents in part because they are broader and must be kept secret. Virtually every startup will have many valuable trade secrets which may or may not someday be patented.
公司员工(入职时)需要签署员工协议,该协议强制性说明,公司机密只能用于公司业务。在合营企业与其他公司和第三方的协议中,亦应使用同样的文件用语,以确保公司商业秘密得到保护。
Employees should sign an employment agreement mandating that company secrets be used only for company business. The same language protecting trade secrets should also be included in joint venture agreements with other companies and third parties.
接下来,公司需要采取措施,确定哪些内部信息属于商业机密。首席技术官或者首席法务官应该鼓励员工,不仅要明确公司的核心商业机密,还要将之制作成有约束力的法律文件。在生成文件之后,还应该建立责任制,以保护这些商业机密,其中包括限制员工和第三方的访问权限,将关键文件和电子文档设为保密级,并且要求特别口令保护。
Next, the company needs to take steps to internally identify its trade secrets. The chief technology or legal officer should encourage employees to identify and document the company's key trade secrets. Once documented, you should take reasonable measures to protect the trade secrets, including limiting employee and third party access, marking key documents and electronic files as confidential, and requiring special password protection.
公司还需要密切关注员工开发的商业机密,确保随时记录新的商业机密,并将之纳入到保密计划中。当员工离职时,他们(往往还包括他们的新雇主)应该得到警告,禁止他们在下一任工作中使用前任公司的商业机密。如果怀疑有人不恰当地使用了公司的商业机密,应该马上强制性隔离离职员工的计算机或者文件,并雇佣法庭专家对事件进行深入调查。
The company also needs to keep tabs on the trade secrets being developed by its employees, making sure that new trade secrets are documented and folded into the protection program. When employees leave the company, they (and often their new employer) should be advised of the prohibition on using the company's trade secrets at their next job. If there's any suspicion of improper use of the trade secrets, segregate the former employee's computer and files, and hire a forensics expert to investigate the situation.
最后,在雇人时还要提高自我保护意识。确保新员工明白,他们因其智力和技能而被雇佣,而非公司企图从他们那儿获取其前任雇主的商业机密。热心过度的员工往往认为,他们可以通过使用前任工作中的商业机密信息,缩短开发过程,但是正是其此举毁了初创公司,而且有时造成了无可挽回的损失。2006年,一名前IBM员工就曾将一份机密级IBM备忘录,发给了他在惠普公司(HP)的新上司。备忘录中包括IBM的商业机密——商业计划和技术。惠普公司被迫解雇了该员工,并将此事通报给了IBM和联邦调查局,而且还得协助美国政府进行长达数年的联邦调查,并最终起诉该名偷窃IBM商业机密的员工。
Finally, engage in defensive hiring. Make sure new employees understand they are being hired for their brainpower and skill, not to obtain trade secrets from former employers. Startups are often damaged -- sometimes irreparably -- by over-zealous employees who believe they need to shortcut the development process by using confidential, trade secret information from their former jobs. In 2006, a former IBM (IBM) employee sent his then new bosses at HP (HPQ) a confidential IBM memorandum containing trade secret business plans and technology. HP was forced to fire the new employee, report the incident to IBM and federal agents, and cooperate with a multi-year federal investigation and prosecution of the pilfering employee.
千万不要重蹈此覆辙。从新员工报到伊始,就向其清晰阐明:他们不应该携带与其前任工作有关的任何机密材料或者信息,而且也不应该使用其他公司的商业机密。
Don't let this happen to your company. Make it clear to new employees that they should not bring confidential materials or information from previous jobs with them, nor should they use others' trade secrets.
如果你为公司的合同关系建立了书面文件,而不仅仅是做出口头或者非正式的合作协议,并且注重保护公司的商业机密,那么你就可避免许多初创公司常犯的低级法律错误。
By documenting your key contractual relationships, avoiding oral or informal joint venture agreements, and safeguarding your trade secrets, your company will avoid many of the most common legal pitfalls that startups encounter.
本文作者Benjamin K. Riley是旧金山律师事务所Bartko, Zankel, Tarrant & Miller的负责人。
Benjamin K. Riley is a principal with the San Francisco law firm of Bartko, Zankel, Tarrant & Miller.
标签:新公司
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2011-02-25 14:21 编辑:kuaileyingyu
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