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For developments including new services, practices, and professionals to better serve our clients as well as our contributions to the legal and business communities, check out our News & Events section.

31 Mar 2017
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Exploring The Gaps In Patent Law Through Snapchat


Anyone who uses the Facebook app on their phones would have noticed that this week the social media company added a new feature which mimics the easy video sharing concept from Snapchat Stories. Facebook calls this the “new camera” where users can send each other videos, photos, and post them to “your story.” It shares the Snapchat Stories features, such as filters, text, the single media capture (which allows users to take a photo or video by tapping or holding onto the digital button), and most importantly the compilation of all your posts for your friends and followers to see. Facebook, which acquired Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, previously added Instagram Stories on the photo app. Instagram’s story feature is almost identical to Snapchat’s and Instagram has shamelessly acknowledged it received the idea from Snapchat. Brian Barret writing for Wired wrote that “[s]tealing features is nothing new for social networks, but it’s rare to see a ripoff this blatant.”
Now Apple recently announced its launch for Clips, a video app that enables editing with filters, and stringing together content. Sound familiar? Unlike Instagram and Facebook however, Apple’s Clips is not actually a social media network. Social media networks allow individuals to share content with other users through the app’s interface. Clips is merely an app that mimics features of Snapchat Stories, but you have to share your post outside of the app (i.e. via Facebook). Apple asserts that Clips is more of a video-editing app for beginners. The features will be more intricate and advanced than Snap’s, but this still doesn’t explain why these companies can so easily take the ideas of others.
Snapchat Stories have now been duplicated on all the largest social media platforms in addition to Apple. Snap, which went public this month, has the backing of multiple financial institutions. Although it has been struggling over the past few weeks as its share price fell below the IPO, the company has great potential. Mark Mahaney, an RBC analyst, asserts that “Snap has become an innovation leader – for both consumers and advertisers – in arguably the single fastest advertising medium today – mobile”. However, for Snap to take on this leadership role, how can it protect its innovations from being competitive with other social media companies and why is intellectual property law ineffective in this area?

Stealing in the tech industry is far from new. Hashtags are now universally used, but actually originated on Twitter. Facebook attempted to copy Instagram, but was ultimately unsuccessfully and decided to buy the company instead. As we have previously discussed in regards to blockchain technology, it is difficult to get a patent approved for software. Snap has struggled in the past with getting multiple patents filed and approved for features such as facial recognition, its user friendly digital button to take photos and videos, and the technology’s ability to not repeat Snapchat Stories you have already viewed. Facebook and Instagram have fully integrated the last two features. So why can’t Snapchat Stories protect itself through patents? When pharmaceutical companies develop innovative cures for diseases, other pharmaceutical companies are barred from replicating the drug without permission or during the term of the drug’s patent life. So why is technology not protected in the same way? Surely it would be more beneficial for society if pharmaceutical companies could take drug recipes and innovations from each other to cure a disease and tech companies would instead be able to patent social media features.
Simply put, Snap cannot patent “Stories” because it is not an innovative idea and its literal function is in the title. PointSource’s chief digital officer Stephanie Trunzo explains: “The idea of a personal status, at its core, is a common social paradigm, not owned by any one platform. Facebook called it a status, represented initially as text; Snapchat called this function a story, represented as a short video clip.” So what is Snap entitled to protect? Its coding and interface. However “because the implementation / interfaces are slightly different, copyright doesn’t provide any protection. This is an area where IP laws don’t prevent the copying of another’s features or innovations” (Professor R. Polk Wagner from the University of Pennsylvania). The basic concept is that you can steal an idea as long as you tweak it. It is questionable whether these interfaces are actually different, but at least Instagram had the dignity to credit Snap for its innovation. This exemplifies the widening gap between evolving technology and preexisting intellectual property law.
What does this all mean for Snap’s future growth? Facebook is a strong competitor, as the entity owns Instagram and is still the most used social media platform. Nonetheless, financial institutions, such as J.P. Morgan, have backed up their investment in Snap and predict the company to have a high yield. Snap entered the market at an early stage – its potential is tremendous in the social media and tech market, but it will just take time. Snapchat recreated the way in which we share life updates. It did not originate the concept, and it did what IP law requires – it changed the interface. In tech, there is a clear gap in what can and cannot be patented. Unless the coding or interface are identical, there cannot be any patent infringement, regardless if the function is the same. Perhaps it is time for intellectual property law to adjust to our times and a growing social media platforms.

31 Mar 2017
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Adjustable Rate Mortgages for Co-ops and Condos

Thinking of buying a new co-op or condo in New York and unsure what type of loan to get? Traditionally, co-op and condo buyers ask for a fixed-rate mortgage—a loan in which the interest rate does not fluctuate throughout the term of repayment. The benefit of this is that it protects the borrower from possible increases of the interest rate, even during times of inflation. The downside is, these loans tend to be more expensive. Fixed-rate mortgages are cookie-cutter loans that cannot be tailored to each borrower. Financial institutions sell fixed-rate mortgages on the secondary market, which some experts see as a disadvantage. How does this work? Financial institutions pool identical mortgages with the same rates and terms. The lender groups the mortgages into a mortgage backed security (MBS) and sells it to an investor. The lender will use the assets from the sale to continue lending out money for mortgages. The U.S. Congress created Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the largest mortgage investors who attract the most secondary market investors. This ultimately makes the market more liquid, allowing for further investments and lower interest rates. Not all MBS pools fit into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s guidelines. These MBSs are usually sold onto hedge funds and private investors. The pitfall of this system is that fixed-rate mortgages have to meet certain guidelines so that they can attract investors.

Although fixed-rate mortgages carry fewer risks, there is also an argument for obtaining adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). An ARM, also known as a variable-rate mortgage, has a fluctuating interest rate. The benefit for borrowers is that the initial loan payments are less than in a fixed-rate mortgage. This allows borrowers to buy larger co-ops and condos then they would normally be able to afford, which ultimately attracts many first time buyers. Generally, it is more beneficial to use ARMs when there is a drop in mortgage rates and it looks like they will remain low for a while. In instances like this, borrowers purchasing a co-op or condo should look for a 5/1 or 7/1 ARM where the low interest rate is fixed for five or seven years, respectively. Because not all co-ops or condos meet the guidelines set by Fannie Mae, financial institutions offer “portfolio lending” which is essentially an adjustable rate mortgage. Quicken Loans maintains that a clear advantage of ARMs, besides their initial low mortgage rates, is that the interest rate is not guaranteed to inflate. For instance, if you obtain a 7/1 ARM, the interest rate will adjust after the first seven years, but it might drop lower.

Unlike fixed-rate mortgages, ARMs give the lender greater flexibility when determining factors such as margins, adjustments, and caps. However, this means borrowers need to pay extra attention to the terms they are agreeing to. It is important to understand how much you are paying every month and what that payment covers. For instance, although very low payments are appealing, make sure they apply to more than the initial interest in order to avoid owing more at closing.

So what are the benefits of ARMS?

  • Low mortgage rates
  • Great for first time buyers looking to purchase a larger co-op or condo
  • Pay less in the beginning with the option to freeze your interest rate for a certain period
  • Low risk of interest increasing

Many people question whether co-ops permit purchasers to take out an ARM. Robbie Gendels, the vice president and senior loan officer at the National Cooperative Bank, says “I have never experienced a co-op or condo not approving a purchase or refinance because of the type of mortgage the borrower is taking.” When purchasing the shares of a co-op it is essential to keep in mind that you will require approval from the co-op board and bank. However, certain co-op boards maintain the right to not accept any types of refinancing. When considering what type of loan to obtain, it is imperative to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of taking an ARM or fixed-rate mortgage. Communicate with your future co-op or condo board, they can share how other owners have financed their property.

29 Mar 2017
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Development for Families in Long Island City

“Long Island City’s High Rises” by Theeditor93, licensed under CC Attribution 3.0 Unported. Modified by Guzov, LLC.

Young parents who work in New York City often have to choose between a brutal commute and space for their children.  However, changing zoning laws and the need for housing are ushering in a new age of development throughout the five boroughs.  For some companies looking to engage an undervalued market segment, Long Island City is proving to be a spacious and lucrative place to grow.

At 45th Road and 11th Street, right across the road from the John F. Murray Playground, GDC Properties is currently constructing 38 new townhouses built to accommodate families.  Each townhouse will be divided into two units, stacked on top of each other. The townhouses will surround a gated courtyard.  The bottom unit will have a finished basement and personal backyard.  The top unit will have a penthouse enclosure featuring a wet-bar and roof patio.  GDC plans to do away with the bells-and-whistles that most new housing developments prioritize.  What good is a rock-climbing wall anyway when there is no space for children to enjoy it?

GDC is a pioneer, indeed; but they are not the only company to recognize the new opportunities for families in Long Island City.  Another company, Charney Construction, is currently planning a family-oriented condo tower on 47th Avenue.  This building will hold 54 units, half of which will be two-bedroom, the other half one- and three-bedroom.  This site caters to working adults, as its location places it close to several major subway lines.

A third such company, TF Cornerstone, has recently built a 41-story residential hub on Center Boulevard where families (and dogs!) have plenty of space to move around.  This building comes complete with a pool, two tennis courts, and a 50,000 square foot recreation deck overlooking the East River.  While it has more bells-and-whistles than GDC’s townhouses, it sacrifices most “amenities” in the name of space, and maintains only those that parents and children would most use.

New York has historically prioritized city growth over family growth.  However, many new housing developers are seizing upon changing construction and zoning regulations in Long Island City to help the oft-overlooked professional young family.  Companies like GDC, Charney, and TF Cornerstone are getting first dibs at a promising new market.  At the same time, families are gaining ever more options to live, work, and grow alongside the city they love.

24 Mar 2017
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How will the SEC Regulate Companies Using Blockchain Technology?

Blockchain technology and bitcoin have been trending topics for the past year. Bitcoin’s value in the past year has jumped from $400 per bitcoin to over $1,300, exemplifying its popularity. Last week, we discussed the blockchain (a digital, decentralized ledger) and whether it can be patented under U.S. Patent Law. Since the Supreme Court case Alice, it seems unlikely that patents filed by financial institutions will be approved since it is difficult to patent software, characterized by the Supreme Court as an abstract idea. However, the looming question is how the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will regulate companies using blockchain technology, whether that is patented or not.

Blockchain has the potential to revamp the way we conduct business and handle our finances. Richard B. Levin and Peter Waltz (authors of “The Devil is in the Details: SEC Regulation of Blockchain Technology”) explain that “blockchain technology can be adapted for use in traditional financial services transactions in a way that could reshape the trading, clearance and settlement of equities, futures, and derivatives, and the processing of loans and mortgages.” The problem for the SEC is that the functions of blockchain technology overlap with SEC jurisdiction. The SEC aims to create a fair and efficient market, however, it is having trouble regulating a technology that by nature is unregulated, but has the potential and capacity to actually influence and directly affect what is traditionally regulated by the SEC.  The same goes for bitcoin. As traditional currencies are regulated by governments (which can be seen in instances of inflation), bitcoin is decentralized and not regulated by any type of entity or government. Governments and securities agencies like the SEC face huge hurdles in attempting to regulate what is known as the ‘dark economy.’ Bitcoin and blockchain technology permit users to interact with each other anonymously, making it infeasible to regulate.  Yet the question remains whether digital or cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, should be classified as securities for the SEC to implement regulations.

The SEC’s current obstacle is determining how to regulate and register companies using blockchain technology for the purpose of trading securities. The Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 broadly define the scope of “securities” to encompass any stock, bond, future, swap, investment contract and more. Since there are no regulatory guidelines on how to treat bitcoin or blockchain, the SEC has decided that companies using blockchain technology for the purpose of trading securities would need to register as an exchange, Alternative Trading System (ATS), or broker/dealer. To be classified as securities, the company owning cryptocurrencies would need to provide shares. For instance, the SEC held in the matter of BTC Trading, Corp. and Ethan Burnside that because the company allowed users to purchase stock in virtual currency, they violated Sections 5 and 15(a) of the Exchange Act for not registering as a broker/dealer, or as a national securities exchange.

Matthew Comstock (partner at Murphy and McGonigle, PC) explains that blockchain technology “regulation needs to be established to secure the privacy of data held by and transmitted using blockchain.” This month the SEC denied Bats BZK Exchange’s rule change proposal to “list and trade shares of the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust” (SEC Release No 34-80206). The Commission held that the rule change was inconsistent with Section 6(b)(5) of the Exchange Act, which sets forth that “rules of a national securities exchange be designed to prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practice and to protect investors and the public interest” (SEC Release No 34-80206). The SEC continued: “First, the exchange must have surveillance-sharing agreements … And second, those markets must be regulated.” Yet, regulating an unregulated market does not happen at the drop of a hat. The SEC needs to provide clear and appropriate recommendations. Levin and Waltz add that “[b]efore blockchain technology can be deployed across various sectors of the financial services industry, it is imperative the SEC provide meaningful guidance to the industry on whether the use of blockchain technology requires such platform to register as brokers, dealers, ATSs, or exchanges.”

There is currently a regulatory gap between the SEC and new technology that financial institutions, companies, and individuals are eager to implement and utilize. The main issue is that the SEC needs to understand the function and limits of blockchain technology before it can begin to consider regulations. It is pertinent that it also respect the anonymity aspect of bitcoin and blockchain, which makes it exceptionally difficult to regulate compared to traditional trading methods. However, for the time being, if a company uses blockchain technology for the purpose of securities transactions, then the SEC will continue to enforce regulations under its jurisdiction.

24 Mar 2017
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Are Brokers Necessary when Purchasing Co-ops and Condos in NYC?

The real estate market is rapidly changing, especially in New York City, with development booms in each of the five boroughs. Real estate brokers are finding themselves less and less relevant amongst rent seekers due to the influx of companies filling their gap. However, when it comes to purchasing your co-op or condo, brokers serve an important role and cannot be streamlined out of the equation.

Financially, it may be tempting to bypass a broker and avoid the fee – especially in New York City, where a brokerage commission is commonly six percent (6%) of the sales price.  Nest Seekers International explains the benefits of buying or selling property with a broker. There are numerous forms that need to be completed correctly and carefully, including “mortgage documents, disclosure forms, deeds, insurance policies, inspection reports, and closing statements, which are complicated and government-mandated.” Brokers are real estate specialists. They know the ins and outs of the procedures and are also up to date with the frequent changes. They will have greater insight into the property and surrounding area and will ultimately make the process of purchasing or selling your property easy, efficient, and most of all compliant with legal regulations.

For rental agreements however, companies have been very successful by making the process of acquiring a lease as simple as possible. A sharing economy has allowed individuals to conduct peer-to-peer business without intermediaries. And unfortunately for NYC rental brokers, multiple startups are using apps to bypass the role of real estate agents and brokers. Companies such as Rentlogic and Rental Geek allow users to search and apply for apartments hosted on their apps. Why is this appealing? There is only a $25 fee.

Indeed, online real-estate platforms have become the trend for rentals, necessitating brokers’ adjustment to the new real estate regime. In early 2016, the online real estate marketplace, Zillow Group (founded by former Microsoft executives), acquired Naked Apartments for $13 million. Naked Apartments brings rental seekers, landlords and brokers together in one easy platform. In order to compete in this evolving industry, the real estate brokerage Bond New York pays for advertising on these sites to gain business and they successfully meet their demands.

What does this mean for landlords during a development boom? These rivalling companies are making it more difficult for landlords to advertise their property without using their sites. Currently, supply is outpacing demand for apartments in New York City. In some cases, Landlords have been desperate to find tenants to such an extent that they are offering “no rent” incentives along with luxury amenity packages. The company Nestio, an online platform for residents, landlords and brokers, helps landlords advertise their property to the appropriate demographic, thereby reducing the time it takes to close a deal. For brokers in New York City to stay relevant in real estate, they need to step up their game and shift to meet new demands. The brokerage firm MDRN Residential for instance is developing a new app called Stoop to assist landlords in selling their property. This will give people the ease of using an app and the experience and knowledge of local brokers. MDRN Residential’s CEO, Zach Ehrlich, explains that “[t]he future of brokerage is after the lease.” Brokerage firms are evolving to provide services that go beyond their traditional roles to facilitate their breakthrough in the modern real estate market.

22 Mar 2017
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Rockefeller’s Legacy

“NYC – Rockefeller Center” by Jorge Royan, licensed under CC Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported. Modified by Guzov, LLC.

David Rockefeller passed away Monday, March 20, at the age of 101.  He left behind six children, a great fortune, and a prestigious family name closely tied to the development of New York City.

Rockefeller’s grandfather, the great John D. Rockefeller, Sr., came from humble beginnings in Richford, New York.  Through hard work and a keen sense for business, he got in on the ground level of the burgeoning oil industry and rode it to the top.  At the end of his life, John, Sr. was the largest shareholder in many cornerstone New York institutions, including Standard Oil of New York (later ExxonMobil), Rockefeller University, and the Rockefeller Foundation.  His company’s old headquarters at 26 Broadway, the Standard Oil Building, stands testament to his accomplishments.

John D. Rockefeller, Sr.’s only son, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., took the family’s business interests to new heights.  John, Jr. went into business with his father in the late 1800s, soon inheriting much of the family’s assets.  In 1921, John, Jr. acquired substantial shares in Equitable Trust Company, which later merged with Chase National Bank, making him the largest shareholder of the world’s largest bank.  In 1939, he completed construction of Rockefeller Center, which became his company’s new headquarters as well as that of NBC, Associated Press, Time Inc., and GE.  John, Jr. donated historical treasures to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and contemporary pieces (as well as land) to the Museum of Modern Art.

David Rockefeller was the youngest son of John, Jr.  David was raised at 10 West 54th Street in Manhattan.  He attended Harvard, the London School of Economics, and received his Ph.D. from the    University of Chicago.  In 1942, he enlisted to fight in World War II, and rose to the rank of captain before being discharged in 1945.  Back in New York, he began working for Chase National Bank, where he used his New York charm to spread the bank’s holdings to 100 countries worldwide.  His legacy, JPMorgan Chase, is now the largest bank in America and one of the largest banks in the world.

Countless New York institutions owe a debt to the Rockefellers, who have left their mark on this city.  The skyline wouldn’t have been as bright without them.

17 Mar 2017
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Patenting The Blockchain

“Blockchain Illustration” by Davidstankiewicz, licensed by CC Attribution Share Alike 4.0 International. Modified by Guzov, LLC.

Everyone by now has heard of the cryptocurrency bitcoin. Bitcoin was created in 2007 by Satoshi Nakamoto (a pseudonym), who explains that bitcoin is a “purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash [that] would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.” Nakamoto transformed the way in which we can receive and make payments by creating a naturally decentralized and anonymous system. However, even a cryptocurrency needs a wallet, which is why Nakamoto created the blockchain. “The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value” (Don and Alex Tapscott, (2016) Blockchain Revolution).

Blockchain is decentralized. This means that blockchain is used on a peer-to-peer basis, and therefore does not have a central ‘hub’ of sorts. This enables the information to be shared and updated simultaneously to all users in real time, making this truly public and reliable. Blockchain technology has great potential in countries where there is a lack of government or institutional trust. Its encryption technology makes it secure, reliable, and transparent, making it impossible for individuals or authorities to commit corruption or fraud. Blockchain technology is hosted by its millions of users at all times, making it virtually incorruptible. To understand blockchain technology, think of it like sharing documents via Google Docs. Instead of sending one file back and forth between users, Google Docs permits people to work on the same document while being updated simultaneously. This shared method of blockchain is what makes it so efficient.

Satoshi Nakamoto published the intricacies of bitcoin to the public, therefore it is not patentable. So financial institutions are racing to patent what they can of blockchain technology. Patenting the blockchain was never the intent or purpose. It is meant to be publicly accessible, and not restricted by regulations or user rights. The problem with blockchain patents is that they will “close off access to the technology” (Jeff John Roberts (2016) “Are Blockchain Patents a Bad Idea.” Fortune). Goldman Sachs has filed to patent a distributed ledger in order to easily clear foreign-exchange payments. MasterCard, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and Craig Wright (who claims he is Nakamoto) have all recently filed patents.

However, the question remains: can blockchain technology can be patented under U.S. patent law? The Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in the case Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International limited the scope of what could be patented. InAlice, the court held that software patents fall within the ambit of “abstract ideas” (pursuant to 35 U.S.C.A. s.101) and therefore cannot be patented. “A patent claim that recites an abstract idea must include additional features to ensure that the claim is more than a drafting effort designed to monopolize the abstract idea; transformation into a patent-eligible application requires more than simply stating the abstract idea while adding the words ’apply it.’” Therefore, it is debatable as to whether the patents filed for blockchain technology will even pass the Supreme Court’s test. If these patents are successful however, patent owners would extremely limit the public access to blockchain technology since users would have to sign a myriad of licensing agreements. Patents are meant to spur innovation. However, experts believe that blockchain patents will actually be detrimental to the technology.

We are shifting towards a sharing economy where peer-to-peer business is overtaking traditional methods. Companies such as AirBnb, Uber in addition to bitcoin and blockchain have found success through a sharing economy model. Industry leaders are certain this will be the future of not only businesses but financial institutions.

17 Mar 2017
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You Can Have Your Cake & Be A Shareholder Too

The question of who “owns” a co-op is more complex than deliberating about who owns a condo. Where condo buyers actually buy the unit they reside in, individuals purchasing co-ops are actually only buying a set amount of shares equal to the value of the unit – it is essentially a securities transaction. The proprietary lease permits the shareholder to occupy the apartment. So the question arises, who is the shareholder? Does a shareholder’s spouse automatically own half of the shares and have the ability to exercise rights set out in the proprietary lease? Can non-shareholders vote, nominate or be nominated as directors? Mostly, the answer is no because marriage alone does not transfer the ownership of shares from one spouse to another.

When setting up a co-op, the board will designate the amount of shares for each apartment. The IRS requires the amount to be “relative and reasonable”, therefore having a direct relationship between the number of shares and the value of the unit.  If two units are identical, then the share price will be equal. So in order to be considered a shareholder to your co-op, your name must be on the stock certificate. The stock certificate represents the shareholder’s stake in the co-op.

The proprietary lease will stipulate who the shareholder can transfer his or her shares to (it is regularly acceptable to transfer shares to a spouse) and who has the right to occupy a shareholder’s unit. However, some proprietary leases are considered outdated. Lawyer Marc Luxemburg explains that “the clauses addressing occupancy are based on the concept of a traditional family.” Luxemburg asserts that co-op boards should be more open to allowing not only the spouse but all immediate and extended family to live on the property (of course not all at once).

Who can vote? If a couple does not have joint ownership of the co-op shares, then normally only the shareholder can vote or be nominated for director. The NY Business Corporation Law section 612 stipulates that “[e]very shareholder … shall be entitled at every meeting of shareholders to one vote.” However, if the spouse is “an administrator, executor, guardian, conservator, committee, or other fiduciary” he or she can vote on behalf of the shareholder, in person or by proxy, without an official transfer of shares. If both spouses’ names are listed on the stock certificate, they are also only eligible for one vote. If only one person casts a vote, “the vote shall be accepted by the corporation as the vote of all” (BCL s.612(h)(1)).

As discussed in last week’s blog, a shareholder can implement a trust to transfer the shares to a beneficiary, which in this instance could be the spouse. Additionally, the shareholder can leave the shares to their surviving spouse using a will or through joint tenancy ownership. If you’re not overly fond of your spouse and you are tenants in common, you can always transfer the title of your shares to a beneficiary.

15 Mar 2017
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Socially Conscientious Housing in NY

New York’s housing market is in the midst of change.  In Brooklyn, increasing unit prices have led to a shortage of tenants.  In the Bronx, an influx of potential tenants has had its sway on the housing market.

Recently, Governor Cuomo has re-implemented the 421-a tax abatement, which provides a tax exemption for builders of new housing developments in certain parts of the city.  In exchange, 421-a mandates that these new developments include a certain percentage of low-cost units for the increasing number of New Yorkers feeling priced out.  Between regulations put in place after the last recession and Governor Cuomo’s affordability mandate, many for-profit giants in New York City’s housing industry have found themselves out of work and out of space.  In some cases, they’ve partnered with non-profit agencies to build what they can.  This has led to a boost in construction initiatives that marry the might of the market with the social values of charities.

New housing developments are already being built in Queens and the Bronx that advance urban growth in new and interesting ways.  They strive to be sustainable and self-sufficient—to provide a community model to which the rest of the city can aspire.  One new development will include a supermarket, a gym, and even a charter school on-site.  Another development is being built entirely of recycled materials.  Amenities such as LED lighting, low-flow toilets, and rooftop gardens are also part of the plan.  To these non-profit companies, community goes hand-in-hand with affordability.

The awkward relationship between growth and sustainability in New York City has long been a problem for residents and home-builders alike.  However, some developers are reshaping the landscape through a new push for livability and social awareness.  New Yorkers who are suffering from high rents or prohibitive accommodations have a brighter, smarter, greener future to look forward to.

10 Mar 2017
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Who Will Patent the New Antibiotics Sourced from Komodo Dragons

“Komodo Dragon” by Sergel , licensed by CC Attribution Share Alike 2.0 Generic.

As a source for new antibiotics has been found, the race to patent a new drug will officially begin. Barney Bishop and Monique van Hoek from George Mason University, Virginia, recently published in The Journal of Proteome Research that Komodo dragon blood consists of antimicrobial proteins, which could aid and combat the antimicrobial resistance epidemic.

Komodo dragons can be found in Indonesia, and are the biggest lizards currently living in the world. The pathogenic bacteria in their saliva is deadly, and the proteins in their blood (antimicrobial peptides “AMP”) make them resistant to other animals’ bites. Dr Bishop, who works at the St Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park in Florida, found that the blood of Komodo dragons contain 48 AMPs. When tested by Dr Van Hoek, he found these AMPs significantly reduce the growth of bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus, which has strains that have become antimicrobial resistant in many areas of the world.

Once scientists are able to extract the proteins and develop new antimicrobial and antibiotic drugs, the big question will be whether the drugs should be patented and who will take the lead. Patents provide the innovator legal protection to preclude others from using the patented innovation. The aim is to encourage greater development. However, when it comes to pharmaceutical patents, it is important to balance the innovator’s rights and access to the public. Antimicrobial and antibiotic resistance has become a serious issue worldwide as it targets diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, cholera and many more.

Normally, new pharmaceutical products can take up to fifteen years to develop, whereas the patent for the product will last a minimum of twenty years. The technology necessary to develop new drugs has a high cost, so scientists will probably look to find financial sources from large pharmaceutical companies. Companies, such as Bristol-Meyers Squibb, who spend a great deal on research and development for new drugs, will surely enter the race to design an antibiotic that combats resistance. However, whichever company submits a patent application for the proteins in Komodo dragon blood first will make a tremendous breakthrough in medicine.

As patents can be necessary in the development process, pharmaceutical companies must keep in mind that this new drug will have to be accessible, in terms of affordability, in all parts of the world in order to make a significant impact on international public health. As patents increase the cost of new drugs it will be key to implement a balance for the patent holder and society. As a solution, the future patent holder can give permission to generic manufacturers around the world to produce the drug, while maintaining the patent in their home-state.  Therefore, the patent holder can reap the benefits of the patent while spurring innovation, and countries who cannot afford to purchase the drug at a high cost will be able to manufacture the drug and distribute it at a lower cost.

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