Licensing, business formation, intellectual property; our lawyers serve as legal counsel and partner to business owners. We hope that you relate to the challenges shared in our Client Stories.
Michael Pirron v. Impact Makers
Impact Makers is a Richmond, Virginia-based IT consulting firm with a revolutionary social enterprise model. Founded in 2006 by Michael Pirron with $50 and a laptop, it grew to become a 140-person company last valued in 2018 at $18.6 million.
From the beginning, Michael built the company on an “all-profit-to-charity” model. In 2015, the B Corp pledged to donate all of the company’s equity (at that time worth $13.4 million) to two public charities: The Community Foundation of Greater Richmond and Virginia Community Capital.
The business was jeopardized in 2018 and 2019 when the Board of Directors pressured Michael to resign as Permanent Director – a position created to allow him to oversee Impact Makers’ direction and to protect the gift to the community. When their efforts to oust Michael failed, in April 2019, the Board pushed through a sale of the $18.6M firm for only $1,000. Simply put, the Board violated Michael’s rights to protect the company he created.
Dunlap Law represented Michael Pirron in the first benefit enforcement proceeding in the United States. Tricia Dunlap wrote the complaint that brought the Impact Makers' Board to the negotiating table, negotiated the settlement, and drafted a settlement agreement that reversed the sale of Impact Makers shares. The agreement also restored the integrated governance model between Impact Makers and the nonprofit IM Holdings that was designed to provide independent oversight of Impact Makers.
The settlement helped Michael achieve his goal of restoring IM Holdings’ oversight of the company and ensuring fulfillment of IM's pledged gift to the community.
In 2014, EVB (now SonaBank) leaders took a leap of faith. They believed that a growing cadre of women entrepreneurs would appreciate a program tailored specifically to the needs of businesswomen. So, EVB launched P.O.W.E.R.®, a suite of financial service products paired with educational and networking resources. P.O.W.E.R.® was an immediate hit in Central Virginia and EVB quickly saw an increase in assets under management and loans underwritten attributable to P.O.W.E.R.®
The P.O.W.E.R.® program is SonaBank’s intellectual property, protected by trademark and copyright. Through licensing its use, EVB/ SonaBank could grow the P.O.W.E.R.® footprint and generate additional revenue at low risk.
By 2017, EVB/ SonaBank and Fidelity Bank saw the value of extending P.O.W.E.R.® into Fidelity’s market. EVB/ SonaBank turned to Dunlap Law, a P.O.W.E.R.® customer, for a licensing agreement that would protect EVB/ SonaBank, ensure protection for its IP rights, generate revenue, and address practical considerations such as data privacy.
In late 2017, EVB/ SonaBank and Fidelity finalized the P.O.W.E.R.® licensing deal and in December Fidelity launched its P.O.W.E.R.® program in southeast Louisiana.
Peter-Blair Accessories Ltd.
Since 1993, Peter-Blair’s clever tie designs and luxury materials have built significant goodwill and brand recognition in Central Virginia. By 2009, Peter-Blair Accessories Ltd. was poised for significant expansion of its internet sales and wholesale distribution. Then CEO, Kate Ackerly, opened the mail in late September, 2009 and got some very bad news. Attorneys for Blair, Inc. ordered her to cease use of the Peter-Blair brand for anything except their one retail store. Kate consulted an attorney who advised her that Blair Inc. would likely prevail if she pushed back.
Until 2017, when Pike IP Law and Dunlap Law teamed up to help, Peter-Blair Accessories shelved its plans for growth.
First, Bernie Pike and Tricia Dunlap registered Peter-Blair Accessories’ copyright for some of Peter-Blair’s signature designs. Then, after some research, they concluded there was a narrow but viable path for Peter-Blair Accessories to win federal registration of its “Peter-Blair” trademark. Though Blair Inc. initially opposed registration of the "Peter-Blair" mark, Bernie and Tricia negotiated a settlement and Blair Inc. dropped its opposition. The registered trademark will allow Peter-Blair Accessories to finally pursue its long-delayed expansion and having its designs registered for copyright better empowers Peter-Blair Accessories to prevent other sellers from knocking off its creative work. In October, 2018 Richmond's BizSense covered our work for Peter-Blair. You can read more here.
Grounded Growth LLC
Integrating client vision with our proactive legal counsel
Grounded Growth LLC is a start-up membership network of independent, “challenger” food brands and regenerative farmers. Support from GG professional advisors allows its members, companies, and farmers to achieve continuous improvement and exceptional transparency on their way to greater profitability. Grounded Growth's visionary founder, Sara Harper, needed guidance on trademark issues as part of the naming process, how best to structure the company, and ensuring GG is protected in its business operations.
Dunlap Law is Grounded Growth's strategic thought partner, and as Outside General Counsel, is helping Sara make smart decisions and setting up the legal foundation for Grounded Growth's success.