At the start of the year, we often conduct a self-assessment to review where we are in our personal lives and set goals for the future. Just as we do this with ourselves, business owners should also periodically review the status and maintenance of their business and its intellectual property. Below is a brief summary of some of the items that business owners should consider. Stay tuned for additional articles which will go into more depth on some of these topics.
- Do you have an entity? This can provide some protection from liability related to claims against the business.
- Have you filed your annual reports?
- If you have a corporation, have you been having annual meetings of the shareholders and directors?
- Do you have a shareholder agreement/operating agreement governing the relationship between the owners? This could address, for example, how, when, and to whom owners can transfer their ownership interests, how distributions of cash are made to the owners, and whose approval is required for certain actions.
- Do you have a succession plan for your business? This may tie in with your estate planning.
- Do you know what intellectual property (“IP”) your business has? This could relate to your name; logo; domain name; website, social media, or other written content; photographs; or your product.
- Have you registered /maintained important IP?
- Are you enforcing your trademarks? Trademark rights may be eroded if these rights are not enforced against infringers.
- Are you maintaining the secrecy of your trade secrets? Do you have confidentiality agreements with your employees/contractors?
- Do you have an agreement stating that you own IP created by your employees/ contractors?
- Do you own your domain name? Sometimes, an employee or contractor may register in their own name.
- Are you complying with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act? This can provide some protection if someone posts content on your website (for example, through a chat room or a comment) that infringes a third party’s copyright.
- Does your website comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act?
- Are you protecting and securing electronic data that contains personal information (including information that you may collect through your website)?
- Are you using third-party content/ likenesses on your website? If so, you should confirm these are used properly.