Thursday, June 13, 2013

5 Myths About Small Business Law

There is a familiar courtroom saying that goes, "A person who decides to represent themselves has a fool for a client."

What that means is that you shouldn't cut corners when it comes to legal matters especially in your business. There is just too much at stake. That same idea can apply to what you think you know about the law.

There are many myths about small business law that can fall under the category of "They say" or "I heard." Neither one of those ideas should be trust. Case in point: These five myths about small business law:

Myth One: Patents keep your intellectual property protected.

There are many variables that go into filing a patent. One tiny slip-up could open the door for someone to swoop in and make a clone of your idea incorporating a variable that allows them to score their own patent. Although it might not be fair, a bigger corporation could also "borrow" your design and make its own modifications. You can take them to court but they can also crush you with their legions of lawyers. And if there is patent infringement overseas, good luck! This doesn't mean you shouldn't file that patent. Just know it's not a complete shield.

Myth Two: A contract has to be thick to be any good.

Wrong. The best contracts are the ones that are easy to assimilate and understand. One of the reasons that contracts become complicated, is because lawyers like to bill for any ongoing changes.  If you can get a contract boiled down to a few pages then you'll be ahead of the game. Just because lawyers like to throw around a bunch of legalese doesn't mean they have to. That isn't the law!

Myth Three: You can't be sued if you did nothing wrong.

Actually, you can. Anyone can sue you for anything. That doesn't mean the case won't be tossed out be a judge, but before that happens you'll still have to hire a lawyer and defend your company's interest. It could be that the litigant is just trolling for a settlement. Tort reform is a big issue in many countries. There are some places where the loser has to pay all court costs. That could curtail frivolous lawsuits but until that becomes a universal law brace yourself.

Myth Four: All you need is a trademark to protect your brand.

Not so much. First of all, getting a proper trademark can be a very complicated affair. Even when you do get a trademark issued it can only apply to certain territories. That means you have to go multiple places to be truly protected. On many levels, getting the right URL is way more important than a global trademark. Remember, that URL could also be many variations of the same word or phrase related to your company or product. Try to snag them all.

Myth Five: You only need a lawyer if you're sued.

We could spend hours telling lawyer jokes. Yes, they can be a hindrance especially if they are coming after you and your business. However, the best time to retain a lawyer is long before you ever set foot inside a courtroom. If you're not sure about an issue whether it has to do with taxes, R&D or even real estate spend the money to consult with the right attorney. This can pay off in the long run. 

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