My husband and I have an idea for a website, and my questions are:
How do we protect our idea? Is it going to be enough to just have it online?
What business type should we choose for our company? (best option?)
And we want to develop a good policy for the website users to agree with when signing up, where can we find sources for that?
Before I respond to your inquiry, I must state that we have not spoken, I have not reviewed the relevant documents and facts, and I do not represent you. Therefore, my discussion below is not a legal opinion, but is informational only. Finally, my discussion applies only to issues to which Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Federal law apply, unless otherwise specified.
That being said, your questions have no simple answers, but I'll answer as best possible as follows:
1. If you want to protect your brand or logo, that can be done with a trademark/servicemark. If you want to patent your idea, that's a much harder process, and you need to discuss with a patent attorney BEFORE you put it into practice. If you want to copyright content, merely creating the content will create a copyright, but you should register the copyright for greatest protection. If you want to protect a business model, that's even more difficult.
2. Nobody can answer your question regarding a business entity type without asking a lot of questions, such as how you will obtain financing, whether you and your husband will be working personally on the project, how you want to exit the project, what capital and assets you are putting in, whether and how others might become partners with you, etc. These all need to be considered before an answer is given. I suspect the answer will be that you need to create a Limited Liability Company (LLC), but cannot tell for sure without further discussion.
You have some complex questions; you should discuss with an attorney before going into business.
If you would like to discuss this matter further, please feel free to contact me at the below address(es) or telephone number.
/Christopher E. Ezold/
The Ezold Law Firm, P.C.
One Belmont Avenue,
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
1. It really depends on what your idea entails. You may be able to protect it through copyright, trademark, or patent.
With copyright, you cannot copyright an idea. The law does not protect ideas. Copyright protects the expression that explains the idea once it is in a tangible form, like a writing or drawing. Writing content on a website will establish common law copyright. However, registering it with the US Copyright Office will afford you with better protections.
Trademark can be somewhat expensive and is generally not necessary for small, local businesses. It depends on whether you are trying to sell products across States and expand. You should speak with an attorney to determine whether you should consider trademarking.
Patent is very expensive, and very specific. Again, it depends on what your idea entails.
2. The type of business entity you should select will really depend on your goals. A Limited Liability Company is the most common; however, there are instances where another entity might be a better decision. Find an attorney who will provide you with a free consultation to discuss your particular facts. An experienced attorney will be able to fully explain the positives and negatives with each business entity and advise you on the entity that will best fit your needs.
Depending on the nature of your website, it may be protected under patent or copyright law.
In order to obtain a patent, the website would have to meet a rather high threshold of being novel and non-obvious. A patent attorney would be able to guide you on whether your idea would meet these requirements and as the process to obtain a patent is lengthy and expensive, a patent attorney would also be able to advise you on whether it's the right move for your business.
Unlike obtaining a patent, the requirements for copyright protection are fairly simple. The first step is to create the website. Upon creation, the website will be protected under copyright law which prohibits the unauthorized copying, display, distribution, and arguably the most important right, creation of derivatives. The second step is to seek federal registration of your copyrightable work. The registration process for copyrights is not as arduous as it is for a patent and offers a variety of benefits. Moreover, registration is a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit in federal court for copyright infringement.
Trademark law may also be useful for your business. Trademarks are words, symbols and/or designs that designate your business. For instance, your website's name may qualify as a trademark.
As mentioned previously, the appropriate business entity for you and your husband depends on a variety of factors. The most common entities for budding entrepreneurs are limited liability companies and s-corporations.
If you would like assistance with the above matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.
You want to know how to start and run a business. So either learn how via an existing job, take classes [from your local chamber of commerce, SCORE chapter, SBA outreach center, community college, or university] or read a lot of books [many good ones are listed below]. You should also read the very insightful information already published by attorneys on Avvo on how to start a business [see the links below] and how to "protect" a business idea What you should not do is think you know what questions to ask an attorney before you learn how to start and run your business. The downside to dribbling out questions like that is that you -- and your attorney -- miss the forest for the trees. Read, take notes, then visit with your own business attorney licensed to practice in your state.
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