As many entrepreneurs know, a business incubator can be invaluable in transforming an idea for a product or service into a profitable business. But did you know that many business incubators have relationships with local attorneys?
Through these relationships, entrepreneurs can often take advantage of free consultations, seminars, office hours and written guidance from licensed attorneys. In addition, entrepreneurs may be able to find discounted hourly rates for legal services procured through the business incubator.
The attorneys who have developed relationships with business incubators are experienced in dealing with issues that are common among startup companies and entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs should take advantage of these attorneys’ experience, especially if the meeting is discounted or free.
Among other legal needs, nascent businesses may want to consult with experienced attorneys for issues such as:
• Entity Formation. No business should be conducted – not even preliminary or preparation work – without the formation of a business. Establishing a corporate entity is critical to protect the principal’s personal assets from liability, and such liability can sometimes arise very early in the process of developing a business idea. Beyond the mere registration of a business, a strong operating agreement is critical to establishing the rights and duties of officers, shareholders, members, partners and investors. Consultations with an attorney can help you determine the right corporate form and appropriate governing documents for an entrepreneur’s specific needs.
• Protection of Intellectual Property. If your core business centers around a novel idea or invention, how do you protect it? Consultation with an intellectual property attorney can steer you toward patent registration, trademark registration, non-disclosure agreements and other strategies for protecting your idea. If your business incubator provides access to an intellectual property attorney, an initial consultation should give you great insight into whether your idea is protectable and the best way to protect the intellectual property. This protection should be in place before you expose the idea to potential partners, investors or consumers.
In addition to protecting your own intellectual property, consultation with an intellectual property attorney may help you avoid infringing on another party’s intellectual property or violating personal protection laws. Will your business be collecting personally identifiable information? Is the name for your product already a registered trademark owned by a senior user? Did you use pictures, drawings, test or other content on you website that is the copyright-protected property of another author? If your proposed idea of content would violate another party’s trademarks, copyrights, patents, or personal data rights, it is best to learn about and address the problem early. Otherwise, significant investments and goodwill could be lost and significant liability could arise.
Read the complete article in Corp! Magazine (July/August 2020) on page 14.
Michael “Max” Sneyd focuses his practice on assisting clients with intellectual property protection, contract formation and negotiation, and entrepreneurial growth. With 20 years of experience, he leads the firm’s Intellectual Property practice group.
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AttorneysMichael A. Sneyd