Structuring Your Business
One of the first decisions that you will have to make as an entrepreneur is how your company should be structured. There is no one legal structure that is best for all small businesses. Whether you are better off starting as a sole proprietor or choosing one of the more complicated organizational structures (such as a partnership, corporation or Limited Liability Company (LLC)) can depend on several factors. This document may give you an overview of the differences.
Business Entity Comparison Chart (PDF)
More information on Structuring your Bunsiness
Protecting Your Business
Trademark, Copyright, and Patent
Trademarks, service marks, copyrights and patents protect different works. A copyright protects an original artistic or literary work. A patent protects an invention. A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the good of one party form those of others. Examples of trademark are the Nike swoosh, Doritos, McDonald's arches.
Trademarks and service marks can be established by simply starting to use the mark, but the rights are limited to that state. You may apply for a federal registration for use nationwide. Federal registration provides nationwide priority rights and offers federal court protection against infringement.
Trademark registration and search
U.S. Patent & Trademark Office/U.S. Department of Commerce
Washington D.C. 20231
Fees for applying ranges from $275 - $375
The designation "TM" for trademark and "SM" for service mark is used with the name when the mark is not federally registered - ®.
Copyright Registration ©
U.S. Copyright Office
Library of Congress
Washington, D.C. 20559
Fee is $30
Owning a patent gives you the legal right to stop someone else from making, using, sell, or offering for sale your invention without your permission. Yet, proving that someone is infringing on your patent requires a legal trial which may take three years to be heard in court.
There are three types of patents: design, utility, and plant patent.
Fees vary depending on type of patent.
Application filing: www.uspto.gov/main/patents.htm
Finding An Attorney
Legal Services for Entrepreneurs (LSE)
Tuesday Night Legal Services Clinic
California Bar Association - Public Services
Contact Help Link for legal resources in California, 415-808-4357, 1-800-273-6222
(good small business legal guide, also available in book form) ABA Legal Guide for Small Business (available at most major bookstores)
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a federal agency that enforces laws concerning prohibiting job discrimination. The EEOC also provides oversight and coordination of all federal equal opportunity regulations, practices, and policies. They provide information to small businesses which may not have a human resources department or a specialized EEO staff.
350 Embarcadero Street Suite 500
San Francisco, CA 94105-1260
Tel: (415) 625-5600
Tel: (800) 669-4000
Small Business Assistance Center, City Hall, Room 110, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 415-554-6134 Office Hours: M-F, 8 AM - 5 PM