Legal Basics for Business Founder Dava Casoni Shares 3 of Her Top 10 Tips For Protecting Your Business
1. Protect Your Brand before you blow your budget on marketing!
Let’s face it – it’s tough to come up with that perfect name and brand image – it has to be just the right combination of catchy, descriptive yet unique while still capturing your brand values and conveying your brand message. Naturally, once you settle on one you want to send it out to the world and get as much brand exposure as you can as quickly as you can. But, a savvy entrepreneur will take one additional step before printing up expensive logo-laden packaging and marketing media – MAKE SURE YOU HAVE CLEAR RIGHTS TO USE IT! And, if you do, protect those rights as quickly as you can. In a nutshell, this means you need to run a search as widely as you can to see if anyone else is using a similar name or logo to sell similar products, services or information. If you find something that could be confusingly similar, it is often best to start from scratch with a new name/logo because defending your right to use something similar is a costly uphill battle you may be unlikely to win. If you think you are in the clear, talk to a lawyer about trade marking your name/logo before you spend the money to start implementing it. A recent client was thrilled to have self-published a book that was years in the making. He sold it on Amazon.com, only to be sent a cease and desist from someone who was promoting the same information under a confusingly similar name. Had he only performed his search prior to publication, he could have saved himself literally tens of thousands of dollars not to mention all the time he had spent in generating brand awareness. Instead, he is facing starting from scratch to protect his new brand and remarket him self. Be smart – spend the money to research and protect your brand and save yourself time, money and heartache later.
2. Get Permission before you Promote!
We’ve all left networking events with a stack of business cards and felt excited knowing we are building our list of contacts. It can be tempting to go home and dump all these new emails into your newsletter list and start sending everyone you meet your business news. This innocent desire to market yourself can lead you to big trouble and fines if you are not careful. Under the CAN-SPAM Act, a “commercial electronic mail message” is “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service (including content on an Internet website operated for a commercial purpose).” Under the CAN-SPAM Act, companies may be liable for failure to provide a legitimate opt-out link, failure to include a valid physical postal address, failure to properly mark the message as an advertisement or for sending emails with false or misleading header information or deceptive subject lines. The FTC can levy hefty penalties of up to $11,000 per violation, as well as criminal penalties under certain circumstances. What does this mean to you? Be sure you have permission to include someone on your mailing list – don’t blindly add emails to your list simply because you received a business card or because you have access to a list of email addresses. This is smart from both a CAN-SPAM perspective and from a brand perspective – you want people who receive your newsletter to actually have a desire for your information, not be frustrated to see your name in their inbox time and again and not be able to opt-out, so it makes good business sense and good legal sense.
3. Give it in Writing!
Everyone has heard the adage “get it in writing” but the converse is equally important! Whenever you promise to deliver a product or service, be clear about what you promise to provide, your policies – especially any limited return policies – and anything you require from the other person in order to be able to provide your product or service. The more clear you are upfront, the more headache, time and money you save yourself later.
For more intelligence on the matter, tune in to her webinar on Thursday, February 24th. Register here