Ask Entrepreneur - Legal Basics For Startups

Whose Trademark Is It Anyway?

Our expert speaks to the nuances of trademark law.
Nina Kaufman

How Can I Get Out of a Non-Compete?

I signed a two-year non-compete agreement last November with a company for which I used to work. I haven't been doing much since leaving that position. Now I have a can't-miss opportunity to do similar work for a competitor company. Is there anything I can do that would enable me to take this job? How can I determine whether my non-compete has a loophole, or whether my former employer might be willing to let me off the hook? Does that ever happen?
Nina Kaufman

Do I Owe Subcontractors Health Insurance?

I'm a self-employed sole proprietor (doing consulting/contract work) and I am thinking about hiring one or two subcontractors this year. A friend of mine told me that if I do that, I'll be liable for providing them health coverage. I can't imagine that being true. He also told me that each one of my clients is responsible for providing me with health care, despite the fact that I'm already covered by my husband's plan. I think all these allegations are outrageous, but he's insisting they are true. Any insights?
Nina Kaufman

Can I Start a U.S. Business As an International Student?

I am an international student currently earning a master's degree in the United States. A friend and I want to start a web company. We each hold an F-1 visa. I already have a Social Security number but no green card. Are there any legal obstacles that might block our plans?
Nina Kaufman

What Do I Need to Start a Consulting Business?

I'm looking into launching a consulting company for people who want to start businesses themselves or who have failing businesses and need help. I would not do the actual consulting, but will match the client with a consultant that I would contract out. I want to be available in most major cities in the U.S. What legal and tax hoops would I have to jump through to accomplish this?
Nina Kaufman

What Type of Holding Company Should I Create?

I would like to create a holding company that I can use to purchase existing small businesses. My plan is to purchase an existing "Beverage Drive-Thru" business that has been established for approximately 15 years and is currently making a profit. My ultimate goal will be to continue in purchasing small existing businesses under the holding company that I create. Which would be the best option to minimize my personal tax impact, as my wife and I will continue to work our day jobs? What other factors should we consider?
Nina Kaufman

Do I Need a Trademark?

My business is an internet-based film production company. Do I have to trademark my company name in order to use it in every state within the U.S. and countries outside of the U.S.? What other legal issues should I consider for a company like this?
Nina Kaufman

How Can I Make Sure I Get Paid?

I currently have a small business that is bringing in a decent amount of work doing street light location design in Phoenix. I had been working with a smaller company that was bought by a larger company earlier this year and since that time I have not received any payment from them. First, the larger company was giving me problems because I was a sole proprietor and they didn't want to write a check to an individual. I have since formed an LLC and have filled out all their forms but still have not been paid. I try to contact their accounts payable department everyday, but I receive no response. Do I need to take legal action? What factors should I consider?
Nina Kaufman

What Are My Rights as an Investor?

My partner and I started a restaurant two years ago. He put in the majority of the money, but I invested about 20 percent and have been running the restaurant by myself. Due to certain differences, he asked me to stop going to the restaurant and I'm not allowed access to any accounts. What are my rights as a minor but active stakeholer in the company? What should I do?
Nina Kaufman

How Do I Bring Partners into the Business?

I have come to a point where I need more people to help me install renewable enery products in Mexico. One of the people who wants to partner with me is a good friend but he has a friend with a lot of money, which sounds good but also worries me. How should I prepare myself to manage my business 100 percent while allowing others to invest but be second or third in command? What legal consideration should I make?
Nina Kaufman

When Do I Need a Business License?

I'm in the process of starting a small wood and toy shop in Maine. But as I am a sole proprietor, located more than 30 miles from a town but right on a major traffic throughfare, what would be considered the "threshold" for requiring a formal business license? The sales tax issue seems fairly clear under Maine law ($400 in revenue is the trigger). But the business permit issue isn't. Is there a set dollar amount of sales to be met? Is it a matter of sales tax accounts being acquired that are tied into the permit process? Or is it a legal formality? What else should I do?
Nina Kaufman

What Ownership Stake Should a Departing Partner Keep?

I co-invented a line of products with a friend. We own 100 percent of the company, in equal parts, so I own 50 percent. I need to leave the company due to personal reasons and my partner needs to bring on another partner. My business partner believes I need to give up 40 percent of my share of the company in order to bring on another partner. Is this standard practice? Is 10 percent too low for a co-inventor?
Tim Berry

How Do I Start a Personal Training Business?

I would like to create a Pennsylvania-based personal training business where I would come to the client's home to train him or her. I have a nationally-accredited personal trainer certification as well as liability insurance. What other legal steps do I need to take before starting up? Do I need any specific license or pay certain taxes?
Nina Kaufman

Do I need an occupational license to work from home?

Do I need to register a P.O. box as my business address?
Nina Kaufman

My subcontractor has stopped coming into work, what are my options?

I gave this subcontractor a 1099 to fill out that he never returned. He worked for about two weeks and then suddenly stopped showing up for work.
Nina Kaufman