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Setting up a business involves complying with a range of legal requirements. Find out which ones apply to you and your new enterprise.
While poor governance can bring serious legal consequences, the law can also protect business owners and managers and help to prevent conflict.
Whether you want to raise finance, join forces with someone else, buy or sell a business, it pays to be aware of the legal implications.
From pay, hours and time off to discipline, grievance and hiring and firing employees, find out about your legal responsibilities as an employer.
Marketing matters. Marketing drives sales for businesses of all sizes by ensuring that customers think of their brand when they want to buy.
Commercial disputes can prove time-consuming, stressful and expensive, but having robust legal agreements can help to prevent them from occurring.
Whether your business owns or rents premises, your legal liabilities can be substantial. Commercial property law is complex, but you can avoid common pitfalls.
With information and sound advice, living up to your legal responsibilities to safeguard your employees, customers and visitors need not be difficult or costly.
As information technology continues to evolve, legislation must also change. It affects everything from data protection and online selling to internet policies for employees.
Intellectual property (IP) isn't solely relevant to larger businesses or those involved in developing innovative new products: all products have IP.
Knowing how and when you plan to sell or relinquish control of your business can help you to make better decisions and achieve the best possible outcome.
From bereavement, wills, inheritance, separation and divorce to selling a house, personal injury and traffic offences, learn more about your personal legal rights.
Intellectual property (IP) can be a valuable asset to your business and a vital element of your competitive advantage. Effective intellectual property management ensures that you have the right intellectual property protection and can effectively exploit your IP.
Intellectual property audit
The first step to effective intellectual property management is an intellectual property audit – identifying the key IP your business owns.
Intellectual property typically includes innovative products, designs, processes and so on. Your IP also includes various aspects of your brand – from brand names and logos to your reputation generally. The special know-how and trade secrets you have – for example, your business plan and the data you hold on customers – can also be important forms of IP.
At the same time as identifying your intellectual property, you should aim to assess how much the IP is worth to you. It will only be worthwhile investing time and money in protecting your intellectual property if you can exploit it profitably.
Protecting your intellectual property
Some forms of intellectual property are automatically protected. For example, original works such as books and new music are automatically protected by copyright, many new designs are protected by design right and so on. You are also protected to some extent against 'passing off' by other businesses trying to cash in on your reputation.
But in many cases, intellectual property protection is not automatic – or stronger forms of protection are available. Options can include patenting inventions and registering designs or trade marks. For example, you might want to register your business name as a trade mark.
Obtaining these kinds of IP protection typically requires you to show that your intellectual property is original, and to pay the appropriate fees to the Intellectual Property Office. If you plan to exploit your intellectual property internationally, you may want to pay additional fees for protection overseas.
Keeping information confidential can be an alternative form of IP protection. Suitable employment contracts, confidentiality agreements and so on can help protect your trade secrets.
Exploiting your IP
You can exploit your intellectual property yourself — for example, by manufacturing and selling your patented product. Alternatively, you might licence or assign (sell) your intellectual property to another business that can exploit it more effectively. In a similar way, franchising your business to independent franchisees can be an effective way of exploiting your brand and know-how.
At the same time, you need to remain vigilant to protect the value of your intellectual property. Other businesses may well infringe your intellectual property rights. It's up to you to detect infringements and take action to enforce your rights. You will need to take advice on the best options, trying to avoid costly and risky litigation.