"Obamacare," or the Affordable Care Act as it's really called, has a myriad of confusing provisions and if you are a small business owner, you may be confused as to your obligations and deadlines.
The requirements vary depending on how many employees a business has. We found a great resource at the SBA website for those with fewer than 25 employees. The site lays out requirements for small businesses with fewer than 25 and those with over 50 employees. A major upcoming deadline is the Oct. 1 deadline to provide employees with the required notice of the new Health Insurance Marketplace. Any employer covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) must provide this notice to employees. Two sample notices can be found on the SBA website, depending on whether the employer offers health insurance coverage or not.
I will soon be hosting an informational breakfast in Manayunk for small business owners and their obligations under the Act. Watch this site for details!
While many people in America could probably not recite most of the rights enumerated in the first ten amendments to the Constitution, most people do know that in the event of an arrest, they have the right to remain silent. While this is generally good advice in a criminal matter, a civil dispute may turn on speaking up and asserting your own position and doing it in a timely manner.
In a legal dispute, don't bury your head in the sand. If you receive papers in the mail, ignoring them will not make them go away. Court filings have tight deadlines and missing them can make it very difficult to defend a case. Make sure to consult with an attorney right away so you don't lose any of your legal rights.
Portlandia- Put a Bird On It
In the above episode of Portlandia, the characters mock the phenomena of putting a bird on something and calling it art. If you make products for sale using images that you did not create, there are copyright implications to consider.
Go to a craft show or browse crafty websites and you will find many products for sale using images not created by the seller. If you find a drawing, image, illustration or other picture you'd like to use on products for sale, you need to research the copyright. For example, say you found a drawing of a bird in a recent book. You like the drawing and photocopy it to use on a tote bag that you intend to sell to others. In most instances, unless you can make a "fair use" argument that you are using the copied bird for comment, criticism, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research, you may have committed copyright infringement.
Many non-lawyers will tell you that instead of copying the bird, if you simply cut the image out of the book and use it directly on an object to sell, it is acceptable under the "first sale" doctrine. That is not necessarily true. The original copyright owner also has rights to any "derivative" works using the image. Courts have split under different fact scenarios as to what is a derivative work and when a new work is protected by first sale. Ultimately, it is up to a court to determine what is "fair use" and what is not if a dispute occurs and there are no bright line rules. In considering whether to use images created by someone else in your products for sale, carefully evaluate the copyright considerations and seek legal counsel.
I often hear people refer to their business as their "baby." They view the business start-up process and subsequent growth period as similar to birthing and raising a child. While sometimes there are similarities, viewing your business as your baby is a huge mistake.
Your business is just that, a business. The only point of having a business is to make a profit. Yes, you hope it will be fulfilling, etc., etc., but if it's not profitable and making money for you, it's just a hobby. This can be a hard pill for some people to swallow.
The first step is you must emotionally detach yourself from your business. Viewing it as a baby will cloud your judgment when it becomes time to make some difficult decisions. For example, you may be totally overwhelmed and desperately need help running certain aspects of your business. You might hold yourself back from hiring much needed help because it's "your baby" and no one else could possibly understand your vision or do things right. You may hire people but dismiss them when they fail to do things exactly as you would do. Or worse, you may fail to fire people that are taking advantage of you because your employees are like family. Save the strong emotional relationships for your family and friends, not your business and employees.
While being a small business owner definitely takes passion, cooler heads prevail when it's time to make important decisions. Take a step back, cut the cord, and make decisions that are good for your business.
When starting a business, one of the first things many people come up with is a name. They may start doing business under their company name for quite some time before they decide to make it "official" by incorporating, establishing a bank account, building a website or ordering business cards. By the time they get around to doing these things, they may be disheartened to find their desired business name is not available.
When setting up a business for which you will not be using your own name, first check your state's corporations database to see if any others have registered that name to do business. If they have, it does not automatically mean you cannot use the same name, but if the name is being used in the same industry or same type of business in the same area, you may need to think of a new name. In many areas, if you do business as any name other than your own, you may have to file a "fictitious name" registration with the state.
A second concern with a name is to find out if the name is already trademarked. You can do a simple trademark search at the federal government's TESS website, here: http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=tess&state=4805:nxa6t5.1.1
If the name is already trademarked, look at what industry and location the name is used for. If it's a nationally recognized name brand, it may be best to steer clear and find another name.
Finally, but sometimes most importantly, is to find out if your business name is available as a website domain. A simple search can be done at godaddy.com. If you plan to have people find your business on the internet, your domain name needs to be some variation of your business name or the type of good or service you are providing. For example, if you are starting a XYZ paper company in Philadelphia and you need people to find your business on the internet, you need to find out if the domain XYZpaper.com is available, or XYZphiladelphiapaper, or phillycheappaper.com. If you cannot get your company name for a domain, at least get a domain name that is a description of what someone will type into a google search to find your product or service.
Of course, a small business lawyer can help you with all of these tasks. I offer name search services as part of my small business and incorporation packages. Email or call me today for help.
Sarah E. Holmes is a Philadelphia business attorney and strategist that helps start ups and established businesses looking to expand, protect their assets and increase their profits in an approachable, down-to-earth way. When you're looking for a business lawyer in Philadelphia, the Main Line or New Jersey, we can help.