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What You Need to Know About Business Law

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The basics of commercial legalities and where to seek additional information

Owning a small business means navigating the many laws meant to regulate U.S. businesses. Among the categories of law that businesses should be aware of are advertising and marketing law, employment and labor law, finance law, intellectual property law, online business law, workplace safety and health law and privacy law.

Advertising and Marketing Law

Exciting and creative advertising and marketing campaigns are a great way to get the word out about one’s small business, but companies need to stick to the truth when doing so.

All businesses, explains the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA), “have a legal responsibility to ensure that any advertising claims are truthful, not deceptive and that your marketing activities don’t break the law.”

While a full explanation of laws can be found at the Federal Trade Commission’s website at www.ftc.gov, a few things to keep in mind are the correct labeling of products, steering clear of untrue or unproven health claims and staying within legal boundaries when advertising to children.

Finance Law

Antitrust, bankruptcy and securities laws exist to protect small businesses. Among the reasons that small businesses should be aware of these laws is to protect their companies from bankruptcy. Or, if a company is already facing bankruptcy, awareness of these laws and the tax consequences of bankruptcy become important.

Intellectual Property Law

There are few things more important than protecting a company’s great idea, logo or business name, and that’s where intellectual property law comes in. To learn more about filing for patents, trademarks or copyrights, as well as non-disclosure agreements for employees or vendors, visit the website of the United States Patent and Trademark office at www.uspto.gov.

Online Business Law

As online sales grow, so do the rules and regulations that govern them. Most important is the collection of sales tax because, as the SBA says, “Collecting sales tax as an online business differs from collecting sales tax from customers who visit a brick and mortar store.”

Likewise, when sales go international, companies face additional challenges in dealing with customs laws and consumer protection regulations. For information about this, go to Export.gov.

Privacy Law

“For many companies, collecting sensitive consumer and employee information is an essential part of doing business,” explains the SBA. “It is your legal responsibility to take steps to properly secure or dispose of it. Financial data, personal information from children, and material derived from credit reports may raise additional compliance considerations. In addition, you may have legal responsibilities to victims of identity theft.”

To learn more about privacy law, visit the FTC at business.ftc.gov/privacy-and-security.

Workplace Health and Safety Law

Protecting employees by establishing a safe workplace is not only important to employees, but it’s critical to the success of your business.

For starters, says the SBA.gov, “Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), employers must provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that cause, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to your employees.”

Visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at www.OSHA.gov for more information.

Starting and owning a business is always exciting, but it’s important that companies dot their I’s and cross their T’s when it comes to the legal process. Doing so could be the difference between commercial success and failure.

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