Law 101 for Inventors: Legal Protection and Why You Need It
So you’ve come up with an original invention or idea, and now you're ready to go out into the world and make an impact with it. But before you can do that, you should think about the legal protection and measures that you need to set in place for your start-up.
Law is complicated enough as it is, and it's legal protection is something that many inventors ignore because they don't really know or get what they're supposed to do. However, most of them end up regretting making this choice when something goes wrong. Don't make the same mistake.
Instead, educate yourself and find out what you can do to protect your invention!
Law 101 in Definitions
Before anything else, let's consider a few key concepts that'll help you in understanding the basics of law for inventors.
Copyright. This is used to protect any unpublished or published work that gives the creator the exclusive rights to distribute, reproduce, and display the work publicly.
Patent. This is a right granted to an inventor by the government. This means that the inventor has the exclusive right for a particular time period to stop others from using the invention. Permission to use the invention must be secured from the inventor before any other parties can use it.
Trademark. Once a trademark is registered, it can no longer be used by anyone else. It’s used to identify a source of services or goods. For example, iPad is the trademark of Apple.
Depending on the type of business that your invention is for, it might be wise to look into getting a good attorney to steer you in the right direction when it comes to matters involving the law. They can also help you to steer clear from any legal hassles and troubles in the long run. If you don't know any attorneys, then you can check and fine one online through websites like attorneys.com.
Here’s an in-depth rundown of the legal regulations that you would need to consider before starting a business with the invention or idea that you've come up with:
The Name. Before ordering cards and having letterheads made with the business name that you had in mind, you should make sure that the name you've selected doesn't infringe on any other business names that already exist. You can check the secretary of state for business names registered. If there’s an online domain available for your business name, then you should purchase it immediately.
DBA. A DBA registration will be required if you’re running a business in a general partnership of a sole proprietor, and if the name of your business is different from your own identity name. For corporations and LLC’s, the DBA’s are necessary whenever a business is conducted using a name that is different from that of the company's. The DBAs are done on a countrywide or state level.
Business Structure. You’ve to decide what type of business structure you'll be using for your startup business. Some of the options include an S Corporation, an LLC, and a C Corporation. LLC is best for startups that want minimal formality and more legal protection. C Corporation will suit startups that want to seek funds from a VC or reinvest profits back into the business. Lastly, S Corporation is for those startups that aim to make a profit quickly and distribute it among the shareholders.
Patents. Ideas can’t be patented. However, patents can be acquired for business processes and methods. This will ensure that no one can use or profit from your patented method or process. A patent acquired from the USPTO will be given a ‘pendency period’ of about 3 years until the grant is given. Once granted, the patent will be good for about 20 years from the date that it was granted.
Confidential Information and Intellectual Property Rights. This is intellectual property that is protected from the public. Basically, it is a communication in confidence. Through this, you would have a case against anyone who steals or attempts to steal your product.
Get an EIN. EIN stands for 'Employer Identification Number.' However, some people refer to it simply as the Tax Identification Number. This is issued by the government and allows the IRS to track the transactions of the company. This will help distinguish the business as a separate legal identity.
Get Familiar with Employee Laws. If you plan to do some hiring in the future, then you should spend some time learning about employee laws. Some of the areas that you need to concentrate on include employee compensation rules, OSHA regulations, self-employment taxes, and minimum wage regulations.
Permits. Depending upon the nature of your startup, you may have to get more than one permit or licensefrom the appropriate local and state office. These may even be required at the federal level. Examples include health department permits, professional licenses, and sales tax licenses.
Trademarks. You should also file a trademark to protect the name of your business. Filing for a trademark will also give you a greater chance to win an infringement in case of any violations. Trademarks are usually valid for a period of 10 years.
Insurance. The type of insurance that you should get will depend upon the nature of your business and tolerance of risk. Consulting an insurance agent who is familiar with the industry you're working in is also a good option.
By considering the legal requirements listed above, you will be able to increase the chances of succeeding in your business without the risk of legal hassles. Some of the processes can be complicated though, so you may have to consult experts in order to gain a better understanding on certain legal requirements.