Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the best name for my business?
A: There are a few things to keep in mind before deciding on a business name. Trademark law protects you from other businesses that use a similar name or logo, if it is likely that their logo will be confused with yours. In order to qualify for trademark protection your business name must be distinctive. A lawyer can help protect your business interests when selecting a name by ensuring that the name you’ve selected is available and by registering your name.
Q: I am interested in starting my own company, what are the various types of business entities and which would be most beneficial to me?
A: You have many options to choose from depending on your needs. Let’s review:
The sole proprietorship is the simplest type of business organization to establish for an individual. Under this business structure, your business is an extension of you—you are in complete control and responsible for the business including its debt.
Or, if you have partners that you would like to go into business with, you may choose to go with a General Partnership. In a partnership, two or more people share ownership of a single business. As is the case for sole proprietorships, the law does not distinguish between the business and its owners, therefore you and your partners will be responsible for the business and its debt.
The “limited” in a Limited Partnership (LP) or Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) means that most of the partners have limited liability with respect to their investment (i.e. money), as well as limited input regarding management decisions. Forming a limited partnership or limited liability partnership is more complex and formal than that of a general partnership.
A corporation is a unique entity, separate and apart from those who own it. A corporation can be taxed; it can be sued; it can enter into contractual agreements. A corporation has a life of its own and does not dissolve when ownership changes. You, as the owner of a corporation, are considered a shareholder and the board of directors, who manage and control the corporation, are elected or appointed by you.
A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a hybrid business structure that provides the limited liability features of a corporation and the tax efficiencies and operational flexibility of a partnership. For example, your liability to the company is limited to your personal investment in the company.
A formal, written operating agreement is strongly advised to set out in advance potential issues such as each member’s contributions, involvement in the business, management structure, and what will happen in the event of a liquidation.
Q: What is Intellectual Property?
A: Intellectual Property, or IP, is any creation of the mind, like books, music, art, trademarks and service marks, and scientific discoveries and inventions. IP refers to the information contained in these mediums not the object upon which it is captured. Intellectual property rights protect the interests of creators by giving them property rights over their creations. The three main areas of IP are copyright, trademark, and patent.
Q: What is a copyright?
A: Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Tangible in this case means writing on paper or printing a document.
Q: What can I copyright?
A: Copyright law protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.
Q: What rights do I receive when I copyright my work? What are the benefits of copyrighting my work?
A: Copyright protection gives you, the owner, the exclusive right to reproduce the work, distribute copies for sale, perform or display the work publicly, or prepare derivative works based upon the work.
Q: Do I need to register with the Copyright Office in order to protect my work?
A: Not necessarily, your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form; however, if you wish to bring an infringement lawsuit of a U.S. work, you will have to register with the Copyright office.
Q: How do I register my work with the Copyright Office?
A: To register a work, you must submit a completed application form, a nonrefundable filing fee, which is either $35 if you register online or $50 if you register using Form CO; and a nonreturnable copy or copies of the work to be registered.
Q: What is copyright infringement?
A: Copyright infringement occurs when you use someone else’s copyrighted material without their authorization or permission, including, reproducing the work, performing the work, or making derivative copies of the work.
Q: What is a derivative work?
A: A derivative work is a new creative work that contains elements of a previously copyrighted first work.
Q: I am interested in using a work that is in the public domain. What is the public domain? Do I need permission to use these materials?
A: Public Domain is a term used for material that is no longer protected under copyright law either because the copyright has expired or because the copyright has been forfeited. Public Domain items are available to be used without obtaining any authorization or permission.
Q: What is a work for hire? Who owns the rights for a work for hire?
A: A work for hire is a project that is commissioned for by an another person, other than you. For legal purposes, the person who commission the work is the author, not you.
Q: What is a trademark?
A: A trademark is any word, name, symbol, or device used in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods from one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others. A trademark is also used to indicate the source of the goods. In short, a trademark is a brand name. In order to be eligible for trademark protection, a word or phrase must be “distinctive,” in other words unique enough to help customers recognize a particular product in the marketplace.
Q: What is a service mark?
A: As distinguished, a service mark is used in commerce to identify and distinguish the services of one provider from services provided by others, and to indicate the source of the services.
Q: What is trademark infringement?
A: Trademark infringement occurs when you use someone else’s trademark or service mark without their authorization or permission.
Q: Do I need to register my trademark? And If so, what are the benefits?
A: Registering your mark is not mandatory, however, it has several advantages, including notice to the public of your claim of ownership of the mark, a legal presumption of ownership nationwide, and the exclusive right to use the mark on or in connection with the goods or services set forth in the registration.
Q: I’m interested in using a symbol, but I don’t know if someone else is already using it. How can I find out if a mark has already been trademarked?
A: You may conduct a search free of charge on the USPTO website using the Trademark Electronic Search System To locate the proper design code(s), please consult the Design Search Code Manual . Or you can visit the Trademark Public Search Facility in Alexandria, VA.
Q: When is it appropriate to use the federal registration symbol (®) ?
A: The federal registration symbol may be used once the mark is actually registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Even though an application is pending, the registration symbol may not be used before the mark has actually become registered. The federal registration symbol should only be used on goods or services that are the subject of the federal trademark registration.
Q: What is the best type of name for my business?
A: There are a few things to keep in mind before deciding on a business name. Trademark law protects you from other business that use a similar name or logo, if it is likely that their logo will be confused with yours. In order to qualify for trademark protection your business name must be distinctive. A lawyer can help protect your business interests when selecting a name by ensuring that the name you’ve selected in available and by registering your name.
New Media / Entertainment
Q: What is a performing rights organization?
A: The function of a performing rights organization’s (PRO) is to collect performing rights royalties on behalf of its members: authors, musicians, composers and music publishers. Performances of your music must be in a public setting such as on television, nightclubs, stores, restaurants and radio. You must complete a cue sheet in order to keep track if the performances. For more information, visit www.sesac.com, www.ascap.com and www.bmi.com
Q: What is a Sample?
A: A sample is a snippet or piece of a larger composition. Producers often integrate samples into their own work in order to create or enhance a new piece.
Q: How it do I “clear” a sample? Do I even need permission to use it?
A: The first thing you’ll need to do is find the copyright owner of the sample. Once you find the owner you’ll need to ask them for permission to use the sample. If permission is granted, then you can use it. If permission is not granted and you use the sample anyway, you might be considered a copyright violator and subject to various legal disputes.