WeWork is a popular brand for co-working spaces, attracting freelancers, small businesses and even outposts of large corporations to share office space at its locations in New Jersey and across the country. The company has been criticized, however, for its corporate structure. One area of criticism has been the relationship with the company’s founder and CEO. Following media reports, the company’s CEO recently returned around $5.9 million worth of stock options that he had received earlier. The CEO was paid in stock options for the company to acquire the trademark “We,” which had originally been held by a smaller company controlled by the chief executive officer and his co-founder.
The We Company, owner of WeWork, filed an amended S-1, stating that the CEO had directed the company to unwind the payment. The payment had been issued after We Company took its new name, changing from WeWork. The trademark was held by WE Holdings LLC, an investment company owned by the CEO and the WeWork co-founder. WeWork has a corporate structure called an umbrella corporation, criticized by some as being overly complex for a company aiming at widespread investment after an upcoming initial public offering (IPO). The We Company stated that it continues to hold all of its “we”-related trademarks.
WeWork has also been criticized for a lack of diversity on its board, a concern that comes hand in hand with an overly insular environment. With the filing of the reversal of the trademark payment, the company also noted that it had appointed its first female director and planned to name another director a month after the IPO.
Trademarks can be a complicated matter, even within a corporation. This can be especially true when startups are involved. A business law attorney may provide advice and guidance on how companies can best protect their intellectual property rights.