Discussion Exercises

Discussion Assignments and Mini-cases

Chapter 5 Legal Environment

  1. Why is it so difficult for an MNC to deal with bribery?

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It is very difficult to deal with bribery because of varying legal and cultural interpretations. The multiplicity of the legal environments makes it inevitable that certain laws of various countries will be in conflict. A certain practice can be legal in one country but is considered a bribe and an illegal act in another country. Since it is customary to compensate someone for doing a favor, the level and kind of compensation which may become illegal are difficult to determine. Furthermore, bribery is often a matter of degree, and to distinguish a bribe from a gift is no easy task.

  1. According to Scott McNealy, chairman of Sun Microsystems, business-school ethics courses are a waste of time. Regarding ethics, “either you're born with it or you learn it from your parents.” So it is too late to instill ethics by the time a person enrolls in a business school. Discuss the merits (or lack of merits) of this position.

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As mentioned by Kirk Hanson, Executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, “it's not a matter of whether you'll confront an ethical dilemma in business; it's a matter of when. The amount of truth comes in every career — may be multiple times — where you are called on to stand up for some standard or some rule. There will always be an argument that everybody is doing it, or it's not material, or that it somehow doesn't make any difference. It falls on you to object to those rationalizations and to take a stand.” As commented by HP chief Ethics Officer Jonathan Hoak, “most people really do want to do the right thing. And if you help educate people as to what the right things are — what are the right values and principles — most people will get on board.” (See ‘HP Disagrees with McNealy: People Can Learn Ethics,’ San Jose Mercury News, 9 April 2007; and ‘Ethicist's Thinking Has Served Him Well,’ San Jose Mercury News, 9 April 2007.)

Business leaders play an instrumental role in shaping the culture of ethics. Employees need to understand why ethical behavior matters, and their leaders can provide them with a moral compass. As explained by the founder and president of the Institute for Global Ethics (see ‘Gaining Perspective,’ BGS International Exchange, Fall 2006, 6-8), ethical business leaders should do the following.

“One is to engage in the conversation; get the discourse, the communications, the dialogue, the discussion about ethics going and keep it going. That is one of the most powerful ways that you create a culture of integrity. The second is through modeling and mentoring. What are you showing through your body language and your own decision-making? Whether or not you articulate it isn't the point, but the actual ‘doing’ that shines right through. This helps set the standards that you want others to follow. The third hugely important thing is to find the occasions and ways to allow people practice these things. Give them the opportunity; compel them to take responsibility for ethical decision-making. Reward them clearly when they do and, in the very best sense of what practice means, provide a ‘safety net’ so that when they don't come up to the standards, they can learn from that.“

Five core values shape ethics across religions, political systems, and genders: honesty, responsibility, respect, fairness, and compassion. Unethical behavior is a behavior that untruthful, or disrespectful, or irresponsible, or unfair, or lacking in compassion.

The above discussion should make it clear that ethics is not an innate attribute. Also it is not something that can be fully appreciated in the teen years. Professionally, a moral dilemma is not present until a person is in an early stage of one's career. Companies need to provide proper guidance.

  1. What can trademark owners do to minimize counterfeiting?

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Trademark owners can ask U.S. Customs to seize counterfeit goods. To do so, they need to be able to offer concrete proof so that fakes can be identified. The battle must be carried to the counterfeiters' own country and to other major markets in addition to the trademark owners' home market. In any case, trademark owners cannot rely solely on government enforcement. They must invest in and establish their own monitoring systems.

  1. As an owner of a software product, what form of legal protection will you try to obtain: patent, copyright, or trademark?

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A software product can be protected in a number of ways. On the one hand, software has a functional utility, and it is also technical in nature. As such, it may be eligible for a patent. On the other hand, software codes, as written, may be construed as a form of expression. Therefore, it may also be possible to copyright the software. It should be noted also that a copyright affords its owner a longer period of protection. Finally, a particular trademark can be used to identify the owner of a particular software (e.g., Adobe Photoshop).