1. Basic business structure. First and foremost, it is important to make sure that your enterprise is incorporated correctly, whether that be as a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or otherwise. Making sure that you have completed the applicable governing documents in order to legitimize the overarching business is essential to making sure that a product launch runs smoothly and without legal issue.
2. Separating yourself and employees from competition. Many products or services grow out of pre-existing ones, however, it is critical that those in charge of the operation, as well as any employees, separate themselves from possible conflicts of interest or potential competitors of the product or service in question. Doing basic background checks of employment history is a common way in which new employers come to know of any hindrances of an employees’ ability to work, such as non-compete agreements or confidentiality agreements.
3. Clear contracts. Contracts with processors, retailers, suppliers, and otherwise all need to be in good standing and properly executed by the time a product goes to market. Ideally, they should be kept up to date and crucially specific, going well beyond the basics of what is being bought or sold, for how much, and when. They should also abide by all applicable laws and customs and therefore consulting a reputable attorney is critically important when accomplishing this task. All too often companies will utilize a generic contract that provides miniscule amounts of protection (if any) and that leaves clients with too much exposure to risk.
4. Licensing. If you are a relatively small company and would perhaps like to broadly expand yet you don’t have the resources to do so, you may want to consider licensing as an alternative approach to taking your product to market yourself. Licensing is a tool that allows you to essentially enter into a legal agreement with another and have them pay you for your ownership of a product or idea. It’s important to note here, however, that licensing agreements bring with them a myriad of other legal considerations to think about in and of themselves so it is important to not think it is the perfect legal solution.
5. Laws around sales and marketing. Sales and marketing are integral parts of making a new product launch a successful one. However, even though the ever-expansive internet may make reaching target markets exceptionally easier than ever before, the laws surrounding just what you can and can’t do are equally broad. For example, you must be careful not to include copyrighted infographics or photos in marketing as well as make sure any user data you may be collecting or using for such purposes is, in fact, legal.
6. Confidentiality. It is generally a good idea to keep new products or services, especially those of a “new” or “unique” nature, relatively private in order to preserve them until they are ready for the broader market. From a legal perspective, it is important to prevent public disclosure, otherwise you may lose your ability to file for intellectual property rights protection. Non-disclosure agreements are also commonplace in such scenarios, even when dealing with information that is merely sensitive and not specifically product-related.
7. FDA approval. If you are considering taking a market that is generally susceptible to applicable United States Food and Drug Administration Laws, it is very important to make sure you are abiding by all applicable rules in relation to that enterprise as well. The FDA approval process is notorious for being not only costly but time-consuming, so make sure to allot for such provisions in both your overall budget and timeline.
8. Trademarks and patents. Trademarking and patenting certain concepts or ideas is often a good idea in terms of protecting your own interests, though it also reassures you that your business is unique in nature and is not already trademarked or patented as well. It is a good idea to comb through the website of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, either by yourself or with the help of a lawyer, at https://www.uspto.gov/ and do a bit of background research. You might also consider looking internationally in this regard if you plan to expand as well.
9. Understanding liabilities. Be sure to know the risks associated with your product, and reasonably protect yourself against them. For instance, it may be in your best interest to specifically limit your liability in contracts by placing carve out clauses relating to such in the various agreements you use. Likewise, indemnification clauses are another common way businesses protect themselves, namely by stating that if a specific action occurs, a different party, like a supplier for instance, is held responsible.
10. Hiring and experienced lawyer. Lastly, and as you’ve seen, partially woven throughout this list, it is important that you consider consulting with an experienced business attorney when embarking on taking a product or service to market. Entrepreneurs face specific challenges when beginning a business venture, and receiving adequate, competent legal advice is vitally important to starting off on the right foot.