2016 is in its final hours, and it is that time of years for resolutions. For business owners, it is the time when we set goals for our businesses for the next year. But goals are not the only things that you need to focus on in order to have a successful, thriving business. You need to make sure you protect that business so you don’t end up in a dire situation. Here is a list of seven things to do to protect your business as the new year begins.
Tip 1: Form that business
Many business owners start their businesses as sole proprietorships. But that is really not the best option if you want to protect your business, not to mention your personal assets. Sole proprietorships offer the least legal protection to business owners, so one small misstep could mean your personal bank account or even worse your tangible assets like your home take a hit. The safer option is to form a legal business entity like a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation. But even when you do that, you have to make sure you follow certain corporate formalities so your protection isn’t in jeopardy.
Tip 2: Trademark your business name
This is the biggest thing I have been trying to drive home for business owners this year. After seeing what happened with other businesses who had garnered a lot of press attention only to have to change their name, it is imperative that businesses protect their brand names in order to protect their businesses. But it isn’t just protecting your name or slogan; it is learning how trademark law works so that you can make sure you are not infringing upon the rights of brands. Protecting yourself and your business’ reputation is of paramount importance.
Need assistance with your trademark? Schedule a complimentary consultation here. And sign up for the Protect Your Brand Trademark Masterclass.
Tip 3: Consider Copyright Registration
For business owners who create intellectual property, copyright registration is something you want to consider. Be it books or films/videos or photographs, you want to protect your work as much as possible. While it is true that you have protections afforded to copyright owners as soon as the work is fixed in a tangible form or medium, you are afforded additional protections when you register your works with the United States Copyright Office. For starters, you are entitled to different, and more stringent damages when someone infringes upon your work unlawfully if your work is registered timely or before the infringement occurs. And copyright registration is an affordable avenue ($55) to protecting your works.
Tip 4: Police Your Work
This applies to both works subject to copyright and your brands/trademarks. You must police your work, names, etc., to ensure that your rights are not being encroached upon. Otherwise, such usages can have adverse effects. In copyright, you may not get the full measure of damages from someone profiting from your work if you don’t police your work. And why should someone profit from your work and you don’t? And in trademark, you risk your brand/name becoming generic if you don’t adequately police the usage of your name. Think the words elevator or aspirin. They were once valid trademarks for specific brands but have now been declared generic given the widespread usage of the words. Don’t let your brands become generic.
Want to learn more about business formation, copyright law, and trademark law? Check out the Insights from the Inside paperback legal guide.
Tip 5: Get Legal With Your Workers
This tip is of the utmost importance. As I always tell my clients, it is much cheaper to have everything in writing on the front end, than to try to fix it on the back end. Get everything you can in writing. Even for people who are not employees, you should have contracts with independent contractors detailing the rights and ownership of all parties. Hiring interns? Well, you definitely want to have an intern agreement with those individuals to protect yourself and your business trade secrets. Having something in writing and a good set of contracts is critical for business owners. That is why Hughley Smith Law has tried to create contract templates to help the small biz owner out…because we believe that having all of the bases covered leads to less financial expenditure later.
Tip 6: Protect Your Website
Cyber threats are real, and you should take steps to ensure that your website is protected from hacks and has adequate cyber security measures. But also, make sure your website is protected in terms of your content. This is especially important for content creators like bloggers, photographers, and videographers. There are features you can install on your site that disable right-click saving of photos and disallow copying and pasting of text from your site. These types of security features are super important in protecting your rights, because if someone circumvents those measures, then you have a potential Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) claim against them.
Tip 7: Open the Account
Are you still operating your business from your personal bank account? Stop that. Especially if your business is a formal legal entity like an LLC or a corporation. You are opening yourself up to huge legal liabilities. Open the business bank account. Create a business PayPal account. Keep your business operating like a business.
So there you have it: seven things to do in 2017 to protect your business. You cannot prosper in business if you don’t have the correct foundation. And, of course, Hughley Smith Law can assist you with your legal needs. So here’s to 2017 and to growing your business.
Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice nor forms an attorney client relationship between the reader and Hughley Smith Law.