Finance

Top four legal tips for starting a business

Kye White /

It’s easy to become swept up in the creativity zone, but if you don’t do the legal groundwork, your life-changing business idea can unravel into a life-changing disaster.

Here are my top four legal tips for starting your own business:

 

1. Get the structure right

Speak to an accountant about the most prudent way to structure your business. This might be as a sole trader, in a partnership, as a trust or a registered company. Tax and legal liability are critical considerations. Will you require a certain structure in order to deal with particular suppliers or customers? You may have to take steps to ensure your personal assets (such as your own home) aren’t exposed. Resist putting it off until later: getting the structure right from the beginning may prevent you from later facing bankruptcy if it all ends in tears.

 

2. Know the rules 

Make sure you research the laws and regulations that relate to your business idea – before you launch. Does the local planning scheme allow you to operate a business from your property? Do you require a food handling permit from the local council? Are there professional registration and insurance requirements? Will Customs allow you to import your stock? Every business will be affected by tax, employment and workplace safety laws. Seek professional advice and know exactly what you need to know.

 

3. Protect your brand

Registering a business name, a URL address and social media accounts are not enough to protect your brand from misuse. Trade mark registration is the best way you can enforce your rights as a commercial brand owner. To be registrable as a trade mark, your business/product name must be distinctive and not easily confused with other trade marks – the more original the name, the better. Copyright protection automatically exists when you create an original work (a book, song, painting, film etc.), but enforcing a breach of copyright is much more expensive and complicated than enforcing a trade mark breach. Patent and design protection may also be desirable, but to be effective these must be obtained before your idea becomes public knowledge.

 

4. Ensure the “legals” are in place

It’s strongly recommended that your website contains a privacy policy, along with terms and conditions. Things like how your handle returns and complaints, and limiting your legal liability under consumer law, should be covered in your terms and conditions. Copying and pasting from a competitor is risky: you could be signing up to obligations you don’t want and failing to cover yourself against certain risks. And be careful that you don’t make any untrue claims on your website or in your marketing material: you could be open to prosecution for misleading and deceptive conduct. Failing to remove an untrue testimonial from your business’s facebook page may be illegal, because you must actively manage third-party posts on your social media accounts.

Note: the above is general information and should not be considered as legal advice.

This article originally appeared on Women’s Agenda.

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Kye White

Kye began his career at a Fairfax daily on the North-West Coast of Tasmania. He has since taken his belongings, and keen interest in technology, to Melbourne. He has a bachelor of Arts majoring in Political Science from the University of Tasmania and a Graduate Diploma in Journalism from RMIT University.

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