Small Business 101

You have a great idea that could potentially make a strong impact in the marketplace – congratulations!  Before you jump in and start developing customers, some housekeeping may be in order.  What kind of business entity do you want to be? Do you want to be a limited liability company, a corporation, a partnership, or a sole proprietorship?  Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and it is important to discuss with both an attorney and an accountant which entity is best for your business goals. Next, a  business’s logo or tag line is a great way for its customers to remember their product or services.  When you hear “I’m lovin’ it” you immediately think about McDonald’s. The half bitten apple will forever be linked with, well, Apple. An important way to protect your logo or tag line is by filing for trademark protection.  Obtaining a trademark from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (called registration) lets others know that a specific product or service can be identified to your business.  And, importantly, once you receive your registered trademark, it may help prevent others from using that logo or tag line for products or services that are similar to yours.

You may also be considering an online presence – a great way to attract a wider customer base.  You found a talented website developer, identified terrific images that reflect you, have website copy that explains your business clearly.  Before your website goes live, consider the following checklist:  did you make sure that the website developer doesn’t own any rights to your website, including the copy and images?  Are you comfortable with the website developer promoting your website on his or her own page?  Do you have the rights to use the images and copy?  If the images and copy are your own, that is, you took the images, and you wrote the copy, then you’re halfway home.  However, if you hired someone else to write the copy and take the images, or are using a celebrity’s likeness, make sure you have the right to use the copy and images on your website.  It is generally recommended to have a contract drafted between you and the website developer that details your expectations, what the developer will do for you (the deliverables), what happens when your relationship does not work out, and who owns the work (including the copy and the images).  Next, you should consider having Terms of Use and a Privacy Policy for your website.  These documents allow the user to know how he or she will be impacted by using your website, and hopefully prevent issues that could negatively affect your business.  If you plan on selling services or products from the website, well, that’s a different post, so stay tuned.  We at Washington Law look forward to providing you with any legal assistance that you may need in launching and growing your business.