How To Determine If Your Business Name Confuses People

I have really been blessed in the recent months with invitations to speak to groups of people. I just recently spoke at Arkansas Tech to the Engineering students graduating in May. The topic of discussion was Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright Infringement. I explained that I am not a Patent Attorney, but I would speak to the importance of such things when it comes to running one’s business. I then guided them to work with a Patent Attorney on specific questions.

As a business owner you have rights to the property created for and by your company. Even without filing for trademark protections or putting a copyright symbol on your works, the creation is what makes it belong to the owner. To check if your business name has already been chosen by someone else, perform an Entity Search in your State. This can be done by going to your State’s Secretary of State website and typing in variations of your prospective name. Completing this step in your business planning process can help you avoid issues and alleviate any potential problems in the future.

With that being said, you also have a duty. This duty cannot be waived by claiming ignorance or lack of knowledge. An article written for Entrepreneur Magazine by Lindsay LaVine titled When Business Names Confuse Consumers: The Basics of Trademark Law provides a basic understanding of the significance of  creating a business name that is dissimilar to other businesses. This article explains the importance of very basic business principles that can have a huge impact on a business before it even gets off the ground.

Here I have summarized the seven factors from Ms. LaVine’s article a court looks at to determine whether a business name is too similar to an already existing business name.

She offers these seven factors as the following:

  1. The strength of the mark. Is it a generic symbol or one that identifies your particular brand?
  2. Commonality of the marks. Is the mark commonly used by third parties?
  3. Proof of actual confusion. Has the name caused confusion?
  4. Similarity of the marks. Comparing the names or marks, could one come to the conclusion that they were created to confuse.
  5. Similarity of services, service outlets, and customers. If one company is providing accounting services and the other supplies vending machines, it is less likely that a similarity in business names will cause any issues.
  6. Similarities of the parties’ advertising media. For Example, if both companies are targeting the same customers on Facebook.
  7. Defendant’s Intent. The defendant’s intent to cause confusion among consumers will be looked upon by an evaluation of their efforts to confuse.

For a copy of the whole article, visit https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/226140.

LynMarie’s next speaking engagement is at the University of Arkansas – Morrilton on Monday, February 12, 2018 to the Entrepreneurship class regarding The Importance of Hiring a Lawyer and Accountant.

References

LaVine, L. (2013). When Business Names Confuse Consumers: The Basics of Trademark Law. Retrieved November 18, 2017 from the World Wide Web at: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/226140.

Disclaimer: LynMarie Liberty Ellington is an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Arkansas. She is an attorney, but not your attorney unless you have a signed attorney/client agreement. The information provided via all print and digital materials is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a personal or business legal issue, please contact an attorney with knowledge on your topic and licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction.

Super Small Businesses: IRS Form 940 and 941 Now Due

Hey, Super Small Business Owners! I hope all is going well as we finish up January 2018. This is just a reminder—and please note that I will NOT be reminding you of all your tax deadlines!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018 is the due date for Form 940: Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return, and another quarter of Form 941: Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return.

So, what does this mean for you… If you set up an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the IRS when you started your business, you are responsible for these forms, unless you are exempt or changed status (such as changed to a yearly filer of Form 941 shortly after creating your biz, terminated business, etc.). If when you filed for an EIN Number you stated that you would not have employees, you need to check your original Letter assigning you your Employer Identification Number: Form SS-4.

Please note, if you are required to file these forms but have nothing to report, you are still responsible for filing the forms.

If you are not sure, check your Letter, Form SS-4 for guidance about what you should file.

If you cannot find this letter or lost track of it, you will want to take the time to call the IRS at 1-800-829-4933 and go to the queue for Employer Forms.

Finally, if when you originally applied for your Employer Identification Number you claimed that you would not have employees and now your business has grown, you need to file the form even if you only have one employee. If you are not sure, contact the IRS at the above number and let them know you now have an employee and they will guide you through what you need to do and what forms you are required to submit.

One last thing, the due date for both forms is January 31, 2018. If you have any questions and need to call the IRS, you will want to do so sooner rather than later. The telephone wait can be 30-45 minutes so plan to do some menial tasks or answer e-mail while you wait.

Resources

Irs.gov

 

Disclaimer: I am an attorney, but I’m NOT your attorney. The information provided on our blog, webinars, books, print and digital materials is for informational purposes only. This in no way creates an attorney/client relationship. If you have a legal concern or issue, please contact an attorney with knowledge on your topic licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction.

Supersmallbiz.com is a division of Liberty-Ellington Law and Mediation, PLLC. Any business information is provided for informational purposes only. The information provided does not guarantee in any way business performance or success.

Don’t Make Promises When Hiring

     During the interview and hiring process, managers may have the urge to boast or exaggerate about the opportunities and benefits of being a part of the company. Many business owners and managers “puff up” their company to encourage a great applicant to accept an employment offer. promiseIf you are going to do this, you better be able to deliver what you promised or you may find yourself in hot water. If you tell a potential employee about great stock options or about significant upward mobility and he or she takes the job based on what you said, then they may be able to sue you later on if your statements or promises end up being incorrect. Some courts determine that a contract was formed based on the statements you made if the employee took the job based on your promises. This can get the company into legal trouble if a manager was simply boasting about what he hoped would happen in the future.

     When interviewing and hiring potential employees it is important to stick to the truth and avoid exaggeration about the company or position. Be sure to stay away from predictions about the future, or projected estimates of year-end bonuses. Additionally, be precise about what the job entails. If you are hiring a cashier, but the person ends up doing deliveries as well, you may have a problem. Furthermore, be sure not to tell potential employees that your company “has never done layoffs”, or ”no one has ever been fired for _____.” Statements like these may come back to haunt you in the form of a lawsuit if the individual left another job for more job security at your company due to your comments during the hiring process.

3 Strategies I Use to Make the Most of Your Workday?

I thought I would take the time to answer a question I was asked earlier in the week. I’m guessing that most business owners would have their own way of answering this. Throughout the years, I have incorporated different methods and strategies to try and get more out of my workday.

As a long-time business owner and parent, it has always been essential to make the most of every workday to maintain a high level of productivity. With multiple responsibilities (personal and business related) it is imperative to come up with your own strategies to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to productive workday time!

The best tip I have -that took me a long time to learn- is to STOP multitasking. As a parent, I was a huge proponent of multitasking. Now when it comes to getting the dishwasher going while the dryer is drying a load of laundry and the Roomba is vacuuming the den, that is perfectly find. I promote any use of technology that saves you time and money! However, when it comes to focused, effective use of your own brainpower, multitasking is a scam. Several studies have come out to show that multitasking is much less effective than once thought. Law school really brought this one into reality for me. I found that 30 minutes in a quiet room would allow me to really focus on the material or task at hand and really allowed me to comprehend things and make decisions quicker.

The #1 system or process I use to promote productivity is time blocking. Again, studies have shown that transitioning between tasks or ideas, bogs down the mind and creating downtime and wasted minutes in moving from one thing to the other. I schedule 1-2 hour time blocks that I devote to specific topics. Unfortunately, emergencies or interruptions may occur. This is normal, but time blocking allows you to get back on task quickly with limited time wasted.

My favorite new piece of new technology for productivity is audio typing. As you read this, you may be one of the individuals that have been doing this for years, but I just happened upon this a few months ago. The basic premise is that you speak much faster than you type. So, if you are in a business or occupation that requires a lot of document preparation (Lawyer, bloggers, writer, etc.) you can actually audio type almost three times faster than regular typing. Most smart phones and current computers have the technology already built in. You probably don’t need any additional microphone or other device to start audio typing today. Several authors shared that audio typing has allowed them to write books in weeks.

These are just three things I do to make the most of my workday.Small Business Strategies

Legal Practice Update

I’m really excited to report that Liberty-Ellington Law and Mediation is going better than expected. As many of you know I was a little concerned with opening a practice in a small town because all of my previous businesses were started in large to super large cities. (Albuquerque, Denver, Dallas). Liberty-Ellington Law and Mediation-Reception Area

But I did not let this deter me, because I really wanted to establish my practice close to home with minimal commute. My building has been such a blessing. We are located in downtown Russellville, AR at 100 Denver. We are right next door to Fat Daddy’s BBQ and part of a great downtown community. Downtown Russellville is a great organization that is helping to revive the old, downtown feel with monthly activities such as the recent Fall Festival. As a downtown business, we are blessed to have the opportunity to participate and help the community as well. IMG_1776[1]

We have a great community and wonderful clients. I spend about half my time working with various legal clients on business, landlord/tenent issues, and family law. Our community has approximately 30 attorneys, and everyone has been gracious and welcoming.

I offer unbundled services, which I think has been a great factor in our success this first few months. The rest of my time is spent working with businesses and owners to promote good business and prevent legal issues from arising.

I am really excited that business is going well, and I can’t wait to see what 2018 has to offer!

 

5 Business Books I’m Reading (or Just Finished)

As a business owner, it is important to be a lifelong learner. I am constantly reading about the topics that are important to me. Unfortunately, (or not) I do not spend much time on fiction books. Business and law are my dreams and reality!  IMG_0229

With technology and strategy changing so fast, it is important to stay on top of new ideas and exploring new directions. I strive to read a book or two per week. I thought I’d share a list of business books that I just finished or am currently reading.

 

Business Boutique: A Woman’s Guide for Making Money Doing What She Loves

by Christy Wright

How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life

by John C. Maxwell

Small Time Operator: How to Start Your Own Business, Keep Your Books, Pay Your Taxes, and Stay Out of Trouble

by Bernard B. Kamoroff C.P.A.

The Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting and Running a Business: Turn Your Ideas into Money!

by Steve Mariotti

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It

by Michael E. Gerber

To promote transparency, please note that I was not paid for the contents of this post. Happy reading!

 

Get Your Business Ready for Summer

Are you ready for the dog days of summer?IMG_1591[1]

For some, the summer means lying around the pool with unlimited lemonade and an umbrella overhead with a convenient misting system. For others, it’s business as usual! If your concerned about how the summer is going to impact your business, plan ahead and make the summer your best quarter yet!

Many business owners run their businesses the same way all four seasons. They set up a marketing plan with the goal of promoting their services or products without any thought to the changes that occur throughout the year.  It’s important to realize that business is different in the summer and recognize how this should affect your marketing efforts and will impact your bottom line.

Typically, one would think of clothing retailers and travel-centered businesses as examples of businesses that would be most affected by the seasonal changes that summer brings. A few others come to mind as well, like rental property, or even children’s dance studios (most do not provide dance class during the summer because of summer travel).

IMG_1589[1]But it is important that other businesses recognize that beautiful weather and time off from school can impact more than the typical businesses you often think of.

Take the time to brainstorm how your business may be impacted by the following:

  • Increased time available for children and teens
  • Increased demand on a parent’s time (possibly)
  • Hot whether equals less casual attire (at home and in the office)
  • Increased level of boredom for children at home while parents are working
  • Decreased funds due to having to entertain and feed kids all day, every day
  • Decreased local socializing and purchases due to family vacations and travel out of town or out of state
  • More or less outings to restaurants due to kids being out-of-school

The above list are just some examples that may affect your community during the summer months. On the other hand, your locale may see an opposite affect. For example, if you live in a vacation destination, you may have increase in traffic. Additionally, explore other changes (not just around family and children) that may affect your business.

Some people increase the amount of reading they do during the summer months. Others hire landscapers to free up time while DIYers may take on yard work to be outside more.

Evaluate changes in the market that could impact your business in the summer, and plan ways to reduce any negative impact they may have on your business.

Possible solutions to making the summer a great experience for you, your family, and your business include:

  • Using time-saving technology to schedule obligations in advance
  • Incorporate children into your daily business routine
  • Create a different marketing strategy or campaign for your business to utilize positive changes the season brings
  • Plan ahead to occupy children while you take care of your business responsibilities
  • Include rest and relaxation into your summer quarter and you would feel like you missed out

Feel good about the plan you’ve created to enjoy and make money during the summer. Look forward and do the same for the Fall! You’ll feel more prepared for the months ahead and reduce any negative affects the next season brings with it.

Practicing Conscientious Business

christmas parade

Give back to the community!

Conscientious businesses are also referred to as conscious business or conscious capitalism. They are businesses that choose to follow a business strategy that includes corporate social responsibility. Conscientious businesses approach day-to-day operations with an underlying awareness of purpose. This purpose is value-based and shines through from an organizations mission to its overall impact on the community.

Conscientious business is not just about profits, but an ongoing process of building relationships with other organizations as well as creating a better community. Some conscious businesses even express their efforts in reducing the impact their products and services have on the local environment and planet as a whole.

The unique component of conscientious business is that sometimes the fundamental principle of profitability, one of the most important aspects of for-profit businesses, conflicts with one’s interest in helping others or the overall social good.

On a global level, conscientious business can include working with environmentally-friendly distributors to creating sustainable product packaging. Overall, a conscious business is seeking to minimize its environmental impact on the planet.

A more local approach to conscious business would be to promote your positive impact on the people, businesses, and the community in which you live. Investing your time and energy in your community results in better local environment from a socio-economic standpoint, as well as, build relationships and promote purpose. Improving your community can include such things as working to improve parks and recreation programs for the summer, or striving to reduce hunger among your neighbors.

The great thing about conscientious business is that the efforts of the few have an exponential impact of the community at large. What can you do to make an impact on your community?