Starting a business is an exciting time—and by the time the launch date arrives, many entrepreneurs feel more than ready to get out there and get going.
In the stress and enthusiasm, many start-ups focus on checking four basic steps off their to-do list:
- File an LLC
- Form a business plan
- Set up a bank account
- And launch!
But that’s only part of it! Starting a business requires a lot more than those four steps. Here are some of the other legal steps you should take.
Obtain high-quality legal agreements
Your business is only as solid as your legal contracts. And as your business gets up and running, you’ll use contracts for many things—including vendors, clients, commercial real estate rentals, any outside help you hire, and employees.
You need high-quality agreements that will protect you in case Schitt’s Creek hits the fan. And no, quality agreements aren’t generic forms that you find online, even if you spend time trying to ax and add sections on your own.
Why? You don’t know what you don’t know. Generic agreements force you to leave opportunities on the table that you don’t even know you’re missing. And they sign you up for costs you probably don’t want, such as not including an arbitration clause that lets you use more affordable legal remedies, like arbitration, to resolve disputes instead of being locked into high-cost litigation.
Basically, generic agreements carry the weight of an “I Owe You”—maybe one on nicely printed paper, but still not the legal guarantee you need.
Copyright your work
Copyrights protect intellectual property—which historically has been so important that it even gets a shout-out in the Constitution. Why? Having your work copyrighted means that others can only use it with your permission. If they infringe upon your copyrighted work, they have to pay substantial fines.
While a quick internet search will tell you that a copyright is “automatic” as soon as you put words onto paper, registering your copyright goes a long way toward clearing up any confusion in case of a lawsuit by creating an official record of a registration date.
In general, you can copyright anything that can be heard, seen, or read. You can even copyright social media posts, though we agree that in most instances, that’s not the best use of your time.
But website content, research, and important photos are all subject to copyright. So if you hire someone to build a website for you, you’ll want to be clear on who retains the copyright to that work.
Copyrights protect your ideas in the U.S.—and in many countries around the world.
Trademark key brand elements
While copyrights safeguard creative or intellectual property, trademarks protect commercial property. Specifically, they protect your brand.
And brands are of course a key part of building your business—of having your logo or slogan recognized in a way that prompts instantaneous understanding of your service or product. Think of the connections your brain automatically makes when you see the Apple logo or Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan.
Brands let you connect with customers and build an emotional association with your product. Trademarks help you protect your business’s messaging and identity, including on social media.
Have legal help in your corner
When starting a new business, you need to invest in legal knowledge and education, too. Retain a lawyer who works with entrepreneurs.
It’s always good to have someone in your corner. Particularly someone who can help protect your rights and ideas—and make sure you’re not left holding a hand-written scrap of paper that says, “IOU $90.”
If you have questions about the legal components of starting a business, including contracts, copyrights, and trademarks, contact us. Our experienced attorneys can guide you through the process.