So you’ve made the leap and taken on your own startup! The next step is making sure you have the right business structure and IP protections so you’re covered if the worst happens.
Read on for the top legal tips for startups, so you can get started on the right foot.
Getting your legal foundation right is essential, no matter the size of your startup or how quickly you plan to grow. Although you may not want to consider the worst-case scenarios, looking into legal tips for startups and making sure you have the right legal protection from the beginning could save your business.
Intellectual Property helps distinguish your products, services and brand in a marketplace that may be increasingly competitive.
Having IP protections in place can help you prevent other companies and people from copying any of your products, branding, website or anything else you’ve produced, and helps you protect the power of your brand.
1. Register your Trademarks
You can trademark any aspect of your branding – phrases, logos, images, product characteristics and more!
Over time you can develop ownership rights by default through public awareness, but it’s still a good idea to register some of the more iconic and essential aspects – it’s much easier to enforce your rights with solid paperwork and legal grounds already established!
Copyright is an automatic right that protects the expression of ideas. It applies to literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works on the basis of an ‘original idea’ using skill and created by a human.
In Australia, your work will generally be protected for 70 years following your death – some agreements and items will have different protections, so make sure to look into this if you use any part of someone else’s work.
It may sound intimidating, but a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) can be the protection you need to stop someone talking about your exciting new ideas all over town.
NDA’s help you ensure no-one can talk about or use your idea without your written permission. Without one, it’s harder to protect your ideas and stop other people from publicly talking about it.
Every startup is different, and doing some research to find the right structure for yours can be crucial to help you maximise profits and minimise liability. Without the right structure and base, none of these legal tips for startups will help yours survive!
Four key points to consider:
1. Where liability should fall if something goes wrong
2. Whether you have (or plan for) partners/co-founders or investors
3. The total cost of setting up and maintaining your business
4. Any tax implications for you or the business
A popular startup structure is the proprietary limited company (Pty Ltd).
It offers strong liability protections, tax benefits, and can let you allocate shares, but there are also high set-up fees and ongoing costs associated with it.
If your startup has multiple founders and you want to pool income, resources and knowledge, this may be the right option for you.
If you’re on your own in your startup and are looking for the lowest-cost option becoming a sole trader might be the right choice.
It’s important to consider that these structures offer fewer tax benefits and less protection from liability.
It’s essential to put any agreements with your co-founders in writing, whether it’s a shareholder or partnership agreement, to make sure everyone involved is on the same page about how the startup will be run and where liabilities and ownerships lie.
When you’re eager to get your startup off the ground, all of this may seem like time wasting extra work, but following these legal tips for startups in the initial stages can change the path of your business.
If you want more advice about what your startups need and want to ensure you’re doing the right thing, it may be best to seek legal advice.
If there’s one thing you don’t want to skimp on in your business, it’s your legal rights and protections!