Real Estate Law – Legal Issues When You File Property Taxes | Laws and Issues

Property taxes can be a burden, particularly if your budget is stretched. Furthermore, the amount of property tax that you are required to pay often depends upon the location in which you live, as each local area sets its own rates of property tax.This means that if you are in an area that traditionally sets high rates of property tax, you are obviously going to end up paying more than you would in some other areas of the country.Besides this basic concern, there are also a number of other legal issues that you need to be aware of whenever you file your taxes.You Need to Account For AdministrationThe property tax system is extremely complex, with most local governments being granted the ability to adjust the rate of tax they charge depending on their need. This means that you always need to keep an eye on the latest rates to ensure that you are paying the required amount.


Part of the reason for this adjustments is that the government needs to maintain a team of people who carry out administrative duties, such as determining when an extension has been built on a property and how it affects the levels of tax paid. Simply put, don’t always assume that the rates from last year are the same this year.You Can File AppealsIf you believe that the amount of property tax you are scheduled to pay is far higher than you should be for the property that you own, you are allowed to file a complaint with your local government requesting a lower assessment of the value of the property.This can be particularly useful if external factors have affected the value of the home, or the local property market is in a slump. You should always speak to a lawyer when considering this option, as you need to provide plenty of proof that you shouldn’t be paying the level of tax asked for based on your home. Furthermore, such assessments drive up the administrative costs that the government faces, which can have the indirect effect of driving up rates for everybody in the community, including yourself, in the next year.Be Wary Of Home ImprovementsIt is often argued that high rates of property tax play a large part on discouraging home improvement, and it is something that you need to consider when you are thinking about building a new extension or doing some renovation work. The odds are high that you will need to pay a higher rate of property tax as a result of the work done, so make sure you consult with an expert before you go ahead and are aware of the implications and that you have the budget to cover the higher taxes as well as the work.


Remember that a higher assessment of your property means a higher rate of tax to pay. This has the unfortunate effect of discouraging people from making home improvements, but in the current system it is still an important consideration.

The Link Between Patent Law And Billy Goats | Laws and Issues

Patents, like bridges, are prime draws for trolls.But while their bridge-dwelling cousins have a taste for billy goats, patent trolls have a more costly appetite for technology companies and their work. Patent trolls forage for intellectual property on the cheap, then demand booty in the form of royalty payments or legal settlements from companies that actually make things that other people buy. This tactic has become so common and so aggravatingly effective that some technology companies began imitating it with their own patent portfolios.The prevalence of companies aggressively acquiring and litigating computer-related patents have led to calls for legislative reform. In the meantime, the state of such patents range from the perfectly legitimate to the semi-absurd. (In one high-profile example, patent owner Jim Logan sued various podcasters, claiming that his 1996 patent on reading magazine articles aloud and distributing them via cassette tape means that he has a claim on the idea of any syndicated audio content sent directly to the listener.)Software patents are undoubtedly important, because there are new and better software innovations still to be invented. But patents on “business methods” are another matter. Many business method patents amount to little more than the hypothetical or trivially challenging application of a well-established principle to some aspect of everyday commerce. Patents are supposed to protect genuine inventions, not mere ideas. (Time travel would be neat. Maybe I’ll patent the idea of using a computer to run a time-travel machine.)


For a more immediate example, consider Amazon.com’s “1-Click” ordering system. 1-Click is not only a registered trademark; Amazon patented the process as well. At least, it sought to do so, with varying degrees of success. Europe denied the application for a patent outright. Canada’s patent office eventually granted the patent, after being ordered by the courts to re-examine the patent’s initial rejection. The U.S. granted the patent; when that patent was challenged, Amazon narrowed it slightly, and the patent office re-examined and ultimately approved the amended version.Why the differences between patent offices? It has to do with the nature of what Amazon sought to patent. If you think of Amazon as a large department store, 1-Click is the equivalent of allowing the customer to say, “Charge it to my account and send it to my house.” Wealthy matrons have said as much in physical stores for the past 100 years. All 1-Click did was compress and consolidate many existing steps: entering your address, entering your credit card information, reviewing everything and clicking confirm. Amazon did not invent cookies (the way such information is stored), and the patent had nothing to do with the way the payment was actually processed. It was just about eliminating redundant steps.The idea of streamlining multi-step processes has been around forever. There was a particular movement toward efficiency in business a century ago, led by Frederick Winslow Taylor, whose disciples included Henry Ford. Taylor’s ideas are credited with leading to the principles of mass production that drove early 20th century industrialization. Today, efficiency consultants are common in business. They don’t, by and large, make whole new processes. Instead, they look at existing business practices and suggest ways those practices can be conducted quicker or more accurately.The Amazon 1-Click method simply said: “What if we saved customers’ information when they entered it the first time, so customers didn’t have to enter the same information over again?” If that idea is a patentable business process, we have a problem.The government has decided it is patentable, at least in America. The recently argued Supreme Court case Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International indicates that we do, indeed, have a problem.At issue in the case is a claimed invention that serves as a sort of computerized escrow system. Alice Corp. managed to secure a patent on the system because, though escrow agents are not generally patentable, the system’s computerized component was deemed integral to the process. CLS Bank arguably infringed on Alice Bank’s patent when it, too, set up a computerized system to track the various transactions banks make with one another throughout the day in order to keep any party from promising more than it could deliver.A trial court invalidated Alice’s patents, on the grounds that they represented abstract concepts, which are not eligible to patent. The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the trial judge’s ruling. However, that appellate decision was split seven ways, and yielded no clear majority opinion.


It is not clear if the Supreme Court will go further than it has in previous intellectual property cases. While many observers expected Alice to be a decision affecting software patents specifically, the arguments seemed to suggest the Court will instead focus on when, if ever, business method patents are appropriate. In the absence of Congress writing clear rules, the courts are left to decide where the boundaries of patent law are located.Justice Stephen Breyer expressed concern that allowing patents that merely protect the idea of using a computer to do something useful – like time travel – will shift the system’s focus away from encouraging genuinely useful innovation.Experience shows that patents are currently being issued broadly to cover ideas instead of inventions. Amazon didn’t invent the computer, the mouse, the click or the credit card. It patented the idea of combining these existing tools more efficiently – an idea that is exactly what business schools have been teaching for decades. While the Supreme Court may not be prepared to effectively outlaw patents on business methods, I hope it will at least limit such patents to inventors who develop both a genuinely novel idea and a practical way to apply it.And I won’t mourn at all if the Supreme Court concludes that business methods are ideas, not inventions, and are thus unpatentable. It might leave some trolls hungry, but I trust they can find more useful ways to earn a living.