3 Legal Mistakes to Avoid When Starting an Online Business

If you’re considering starting a business, attorney Berkley Sweetapple wants to help you avoid costly legal mistakes. She sat down with Jessica Abo to discuss how she helps clients through her practice and legal template store.

Jessica Abo: Berkley, you are the founder of Legal Template Shop and Berkley Sweetapple Law. Tell us a little about your business and your practice.

Berkley Sweetapple:

I have a legal template store where I offer affordable, downloadable, fill-in-the-blank legal documents like contracts and website policies to creative entrepreneurs. I also have a law firm where I work one-on-one with online business owners. I mostly deal with trademarks, contracts, copyright and website policies.

Still very important things. Have you always wanted to be a lawyer?

When I was five years old, my father, who was a lawyer, told me that the only way I could get the pot-bellied pig I wanted as a pet was to become a lawyer and fight the city where I lived to change local zoning ordinances.

Did you get the pig?

I didn’t get the pig, but I knew I wanted to be a lawyer just like him so that one day I could grow up and fight for things like domestic pigs. I went to law school after college, but I never felt that the path of a traditional law firm was right for me. After graduating from law school, I started a lifestyle blog as a side hobby and decided I wanted to monetize the blog and make a business out of it. I joined online courses and ended up meeting other creative entrepreneurs who needed legal advice about the online business/blog space. I really enjoyed working with entrepreneurs who had online businesses and began educating myself in this area of ​​the law while working full time as a litigation attorney. Seven years after graduating from law school, I stopped practicing litigation to pursue my pattern shop and law firm full time.

Who are some of your customers and how do you help them?

My clients are mostly coaches, online course creators, website designers, copywriters, graphic designers and other online business owners. My favorite area of ​​practice is trademarks, which involves helping business owners secure the exclusive right to use their company name, slogan or logo in their industry. Because trademark law is federal, I have clients with online businesses in all 50 states.

You’ve been at it for a while. What do you think is the most expensive legal mistake you’ve seen someone make?

The most common and costly legal mistake I see business owners make is using a business name without first making sure it is available. If you’re starting a business, it’s important to first make sure someone else hasn’t trademarked the name so you don’t get a cease and desist letter from their lawyer and be forced to rebrand. Changing your business name once you’ve launched, along with the branding, packaging and web design that comes with a business name, can be frustrating and expensive. It is also important to trademark as soon as possible so that no one does before you. If you used the name and competing trademarks first, litigation can be very expensive trying to enforce your rights.

And that, of course, can be a complete business nightmare. What are some of the legal boxes entrepreneurs need to check?

First, make sure your business name is available before you invest in any branding or web design, or before you get too attached to the name. Hire an attorney for a comprehensive trademark search. Make sure it’s available and keep it as a trademark. Second, have website policies. If you have any kind of website, such as a blog or an e-commerce store, you need several legal documents on your site. First, you need to have a terms of service, which is basically your contract with anyone who visits your website or shops on your website. The Terms of Use will contain the necessary disclaimers, your refund policy and intellectual property clauses. Privacy policies are legally binding if you collect any user data. Finally, make sure you have contracts with your individual clients as well as any independent contractors you hire.

How do you make all of this less overwhelming for your customers?

In my pattern shop, I try to make it as easy as possible. I have created contract templates tailored to different types of service providers that can be downloaded and completed within twenty minutes. For individual work, I try to make the customer experience as easy and efficient as possible. For example, for the brand, I work on a flat fee model so clients never have to worry about costs piling up. I handle everything in the trademark process, from the application to Office Actions, so clients don’t have to worry about the legal stuff and can focus on what they love.

Leave a Comment