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Tennessee Small Business Law

If you’re a new small business owner, you’re either feeling overwhelmed with how many expenses, laws and regulations you’re expected to stay on top of or you’re not feeling it yet, but it’s coming. Owning a small business is a huge responsibility—up there with raising kids or managing your own life. Even the smallest slip-up can land you in a lot of legal trouble.

For business owners in Memphis, Knoxville or Nashville, it’s important to understand state and federal laws and know how to proceed when a legal issue develops. LawInfo has the Tennessee small business law information you need from the first steps of starting a business to registering for taxes.

Typical Small Business Legal Issues in Tennessee

Legal issues crop up for all businesses, be it contracts, taxes or employment. Legal questions and issues will vary widely by industry and it’s a good idea to consult a business attorney beforehand. But a small business owner may encounter legal issues such as:

  • Hiring and managing employees in accordance with Tennessee and federal employment laws;
  • Which legal structure to select (such as a corporation, partnership or limited liability company);
  • Extending credit and collecting on past due amounts in accordance with Tennessee and federal laws;
  • Protecting inventions and trademarks through intellectual property law;
  • Maintaining the required level of workers’ compensation insurance coverage; and
  • Complying with health and safety regulations when constructing or preparing a work site.

Tennessee Business Plans

A good way to test your small business idea and your preparedness for starting one is to make a business plan. A good business plan will both help you and any potential investors/financiers judge your business’s potential and provide a roadmap to keep your business on track to your goals.

Your business plan should include financial estimates, market research and sales quotes for real estate and equipment. It should answer questions like:

  • What is your product or service?
  • Who are your customers?
  • What are your customers’ needs?
  • How does your product/service meet those customer needs compared to competitors?
  • What are the overhead costs per month? Per quarter? Per year?
  • What are the risks and liabilities your business may face? How will you overcome these obstacles?
  • How many and what kinds of employees are needed to efficiently operate your business?

The primary goal of your business plan is to get you to ask questions and to think critically before you execute the plan.

Tennessee Intellectual Property

Businesses in the United States can protect their original business creations under federal intellectual property laws. By registering your small business’s intellectual property (I.P.) with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or the U.S. Copyright Office, you can ensure that your competitors and any unauthorized individuals or organizations are legally prohibited from using your I.P. without your permission.

It’s important to protect your I.P. by registering it because, without registration, you may not have a legal standing in court to sue someone who is making a profit from your I.P. without paying your fair share of the proceeds. There are three types of I.P. protections, each of which protects different kinds of I.P. and have unique restrictions and requirements:

  • Copyrights protect original creations of authorship, such as books, magazines, writing, art, animation, movies, theatrical productions, music, etc. Copyright protections last for the creator’s lifetime plus 70 years after their death.
  • Trademarks protect words, symbols, icons or other devices that are used to promote, market and sell products. Alternatively, servicemarks protect the same identifiers but for services. Trademark/servicemark protections last for 10 years but can be continually renewed for additional 10-year periods.
  • Patents protect new or original improvements to inventions, such as new breeds of plants, new pattern designs, mechanisms or processes. Patent protections last for 20 years but can be extended.
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