By Taylor Tieman
Getting a handle on all of the “legal stuff” for your business can be hectic – I get it. On top of building your business day in and day out, who has the time or resources to earn a second Google-degree in law?
Most business owners don’t have time to research how to make their businesses legally compliant. But legal is just like taxes and accounting – we unfortunately can’t ignore it. So here’s your chance to embrace it!
If you start with bite-size pieces, I promise you the legal stuff isn’t all that scary. And once you’ve seen (or heard) a horror story or two, I promise that these steps will make you feel more assured and confident moving forward that you’re working toward building a legally solid business.
1.Understand liability and how you’d like to address it within your business.
Addressing personal liability is a must for any new or existing business owner. In the context of your business – if you are *personally liable* for something, that means your private assets like your bank account(s), home, car (anything you own, really) could be up for grabs if sh*t hits the fan. These assets could be at stake if a lawsuit is filed against you/your business, or if you owe on a debt or loan you’ve taken out for the business. Business mishaps can jeopardize your personal assets if you have not taken the proper steps to shield yourself from personal liability. Filing for an LLC or Corporation will help shield you from liability – not to mention some tax benefits, & legitimization of your business or brand.
2.Review your intellectual property rights.
Intellectual property (“IP”) is a legal right that you have to things that you’ve created – businesses, content, works of art, inventions, you name it! Here’s the catch: you have to make sure you’re protecting that same IP. The most common types of intellectual property that business owners overlook are trademark(s) and copyright. A trademark is a symbol, word, or words legally registered or established by use as representing a company or product (so here we’re usually looking at business names, logos, or slogans). A copyright, on the other hand, is the exclusive legal right, given to the original creator, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same. The best part? Intellectual property has true value and is certainly considered a business asset – so make sure that you’re protecting yours from theft by others – but also, just as importantly, as valuable assets to your business!
3.On that note, review your branding + content.
The same way that you have rights to your intellectual property – so do others. So make sure that things like your business name doesn’t legally belong to someone else (we suggest first checking the USPTO.gov register) to see if anyone has registered your business name, or something similar. We also highly suggest you create your own unique content and avoid the screenshot trap! Any time you use content that someone else has created, whether that is an IG post, a blog caption, or especially images/photos, you should always have express permission to be sharing or re-using these items, as sharing them without permission, in most cases, is automatic copyright infringement.
4.Make sure your contracts are signed correctly.
Not using contracts? That’s ok – this is your sign to start ASAP! And if you’re already using contracts, make sure that you’re using them the correct way! Are you signing your name or business entity properly on the dotted line? That can have a huge effect on the validity of your agreements. Also, make sure that you have an “executed” copy of all contracts (meaning both your signature and the other party’s signature) so if you ever have to refer back to it, we know everyone has signed it!
Taylor M. Tieman, Esq.
Disclaimer: This post is strictly for general informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.
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