When you decide to invest in your business and start to develop a team, legal can look like a huge expense that can wait until a later date. What most entrepreneurs don’t realize is when you invest in legal in the beginning it gets rid of the grief that could follow in the future.
PATENTS : If you are looking to protect an invention, a new process or new composition, patents are the best legal document you can get. A utility patent allows for you to protect your idea from anyone that wants to sell, make or use your invention. To obtain a patent, the best thing is to get a patent attorney to help you out. There is an art to writing about an invention without giving too much away. If you do choose to go the patent route, it does cost a few thousand dollars which is mainly attorney fees. If you aren’t ready to get the full patent right away, you can file for a provisional patent. This will allow for you to have protection for a year and gather up the funds to file for a utility patent. Another option, if it is a new and unique process, you can make it a company secret.
TRADEMARKS: Another item of legal protection is trademarks (™). A trademark is a word, symbol, phrase and / or design the identifies and distinguishes your company from another. When filing for a trademark, you must first determine the format your mark will be in. Making this trademark can be difficult because not all trademarks are registerable with the USPTO (United States Patent & Trademark Office). Once you have made your mark, you must also tie it to the goods and / or services it will be representing. Then, it is always a good idea to do a trademark search before filling. This prevents infringement and from you wasting money on filing a trademark that won’t be registered. Once your trademark is registered, its official, but remember USPTO will not enforce others not to use your trademark, that is the business owner’s responsibility.
COPYRIGHT: Copyrights ( © ) are also another way you can legally protect your ideas. A copyright protects original artwork or literary work such as novels, songs, etc. Copyrights can very much be combined with trademarks if your mark has a certain image that goes with it. Being able to copyright that image will allow for you to charge others to use that image as well. To get copyright protection, you must file with the US Copyright office and it is about $35 to register online.
CONTRACTS AND LAWYERS: When it comes to protecting your whole business, shares of the company and IPO make sure to always develop all the business contracts with a lawyer. Though it is common to use the template that is made for startup businesses, it is always smart to discuss exit strategies, shares of the company, and dissolvement of a business. An exit strategy is how you determine what goes to a founder if they decide to leave the company at any time. This can be awarding them some shares to nothing at all. Thinking of these items to include when you incorporate your business, will save you money in the long run.
Legal is a very important aspect to review and get involved with from the beginning of your venture. Spending the money on an attorney in the beginning, will save you thousands towards the end. Always make sure to do the research to understand if a patent, trademark, or copyright is the appropriate legal protection you need for your company. If you are looking for more information on any of these legal documents, make sure to visit the USPTO website.