This is the second of two parts of a legal guide. It’s called “Get Your Legal Together – A Guide for Entrepreneurs and Creatives” by Grant Atkinson, Founder/Managing Attorney at Framework Law Group PC.
III. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
Trademarks Secure the exclusive rights to your business name, logo, slogan, and unique product names. These are your trademarks, and registering your trademarks can help ensure no one steals them.
Vetting your Trademarks: Prior to registration, it is important to ensure that your trademarks are not confusingly similar to any existing trademarks — especially with businesses that provide similar goods or services to you. Conflicting trademarks can cause issues with your trademark application or may lead to legal disputes in the future. We recommend professional assistance to properly vet your trademark.
Registering your Trademarks: A trademark can be registered through the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO.gov), and it is advisable to have professional assistance with the application.
Government Fees: Generally range from $225 – $275 per class of goods and services, per application. Professional legal service fees may vary.
Copyrights Secure the exclusive rights to your creative works, such as images, writings, songs, or videos. You can register single works, or multiple unpublished works with one application. Registering Your Copyrights: Copyright registrations can be done online here: http:// www.copyright.gov/eco/ The process is relatively straight forward, but professional services are available if you need assistance.
Government Fees: Generally range from $35 – $55 per application. Professional legal service fees may vary.
Patents Secure the exclusive rights to your inventions, including utility, design, and plant patents. Registering your Patent: You must register your patent with the United States Patent Office in order to obtain exclusive rights to your invention. You will likely need professional assistance with the process.
Government Fees: Range significantly depending on the type of patent. Professional legal service fees may vary.
Trade Secrets Protect your valuable confidential information such as secret recipes, customer contact lists, and internal processes.
Protect your Trade Secrets: There is no registration for trade secrets. To protect this intellectual property, you simply must keep them a secret. We recommend keeping this information secure, sharing only on an “as-needed” basis, and using non disclosure agreements when the information is shared.
Government Fees: None. Professional legal services for guidance can vary. .
Having well drafted contracts is one of the most important steps to securing the formation of your business and protecting your day-to-day operations.
Business Formation Agreements Collaborate effectively. If you are running your business with other partners or investors, you need to properly document these relationships.
Partnership Agreement / Operating Agreement (LLC) / or Shareholder Agreement (Corp) Have a written agreement with your business partners. Define ownership, control, and other important provisions regarding your venture. Investor Agreement If you’re bringing cash investments into your business, you will need accompanying contracts defining investment amounts, equity types, investor rights, and other important considerations.
Day-To-Day Templates Businesses often need the same types of contracts again and again for clients, employees, and other regular transactions. Get some well-drafted templates in place that meet the unique needs of your business.
Master Service Agreement / Client Engagement Letter Have a professional contract ready for your clients that will outline your services, rates, timelines, limitations on your liability, and other important considerations.
Employee / Independent Contractor Agreement Detail the terms of your relationship with your employees and independent contractors including pay, intellectual property ownership, and confidentiality.
Licensing Agreement Capitalize on your intellectual property with a customized licensing agreement. Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) Protect your trade secrets and confidential information when you share it with workers and business partners.
Contract Review As an entrepreneur, you will encounter lots of contracts from vendors, partners, employers, and other individuals and businesses. Understanding the terms of your contracts before signing is extremely important. Use professional legal services to review the contracts, highlight questionable provisions, and negotiate the terms of your deal before signing. _ V. DAY-TO-DAY BUSINESS COUNSEL
Risk Management Do a comprehensive review of your business to identify vulnerabilities and develop solutions to minimize your risk exposure. Use professional legal services for assistance.
Employment Law Get professional assistance to ensure you’re compliant with all rules and regulations governing your workers. Some common types of worker classifications and rules include:
Unpaid Interns — Must be an educational experience for the intern. Ideally they should be getting school credit. They cannot be hired instead of hiring other workers. If anything they should sometimes be a drain on your business due to the time you take to educate them.
Independent Contractors — Independent workers (1099) who provide goods and services with a higher level of autonomy from your business (i.e. you are their client). They are simply paid for their goods or services and are not subject to many of the requirements employers must abide by for employees. However, if you exert too much control in your relationship with the worker, the government may determine that they are an employee and you will be subject to normal rules for employers.
Employees — Company workers (W2) who you exert a higher level of control over. Requires that you abide by employer rules, including holding workers compensation insurance and paying appropriate taxes on wages.
Company Resolutions & Minutes Keep up-to-date with your company books. Document your company decisions with comprehensive resolutions and minutes. This will help ensure your decisions remain enforceable and will protect your limited liability status.
Dispute Resolution Conflicts happen. You may run into issues with vendors, partners, workers, or other businesses. Use professional legal services to help advise on how best to handle the dispute — whether amicably, or through more aggressive legal means.
Entrepreneurship is global. Get the right visas to protect yourself and your workers. Some common entrepreneur visas include:
E-2 – Non-immigrant visa for an individual who wants to start their own business here in the U.S.
L-1 – Non-immigrant visa for an individual transferring from an overseas business to work for or establish that same business (or a subsidiary) in the U.S.
H-1B – Non-immigrant visa for an individual being sponsored by a company/business in the U.S.
O-1 – Non-immigrant visa for an extraordinary individual.
Government Fees: Range depending on the visa. Professional legal services are available to assist with the application.
This is just a summary of the law and should NOT be relied upon as legal advice. Every business has its own unique needs which may not be listed here.