It has never been easier to start and run a successful business, or so history tells us. Recession brings many negative things to bear on Americans, but one of the few silver linings of hard economic times is that it tends to bring out the entrepreneurial spirit in many of us. In fact, a recent study found that more than 50% of 2009’s Fortune 500 companies was founded in recession.
Given the current state of the economy not just here in the US, but across the pond in Europe and elsewhere in the world, it would seem that now would be the perfect time to start your own company!
Managing a business comes with many challenges, and the legal aspects of setting up and maintaining your own enterprise represent a significant chunk of the burden that business owners face.
Once you have your idea, have decided the business plan works and are serious about getting started, the first main hurdle comes in deciding what type of business entity you wish to set up. Each has its own advantage. A sole proprietorship is basic and easy to create but has limited scope for expansion. As a result, many decide to start as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) from the get-go. Your attorney will be able to help you get this aspect right with some good legal advice.
Almost all serious businesses will have an online presence, and for many of today’s businesses this may well be the only ‘store front’ that customers will ever see. Getting the technical side of the website right is obviously important, but protecting your intellectual property is just as important.
The law of copyright will protect any images, text and music that you create to promote your products. Under Federal law, copyright is only vested in registered works, so ask your attorney for the best way to protect your online intellectual property rights. For logos and slogans, it may be that trademark protection is more suitable. For your ideas and innovations, which often form the real value in many companies, registration of a patent could be the way to go. In all cases, a good intellectual property attorney will be able to advise.
Registration of all works for protection as a trademark or patent is conducted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, while registration of Copyright is administered by the US Copyright Office. It is possible to make applications directly, although you are best advised to seek good legal advice before doing so.
Of course registering your ideas, innovations and image is only half that battle. Protecting your rights is an ongoing fight, and one that will require your business to be vigilant. The case is well illustrated by the story of Boston wedding planner Veronica Alexander, who registered the trademark ‘Blue Ivy’ for her business back in 2009.
Last year Ms. Alexander’s lawyers were forced to intervene after Jay-Z and wife Beyoncé named their child Blue Ivy and sought to trademark the name themselves for commercial use later on. Ms. Alexander’s quick thinking and strong legal representation ensured that her business interests were protected, placing her in a strong position to sell the trademark to the celebrity couple later on for a profit, while also benefiting hugely from the publicity the story created.
Nick Branch obtained his LLB from The University of the West of England in 2004 and went on to begin working as a director of two businesses. He now works for Contact Law, a service that helps match clients with solicitors. Dealing with copyright issues may require you to seek copyright lawyers. L