Jump to content
  • Advertisement
Novadude987

How to Legally Protect My Company?

Recommended Posts

Posted (edited)

So I am starting my video game company and I have no legal knowledge. How do I go about legally protecting my company? I need to protect my company name, company logo, company website, and any games that my company will produce. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Edited by Novadude987

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Advertisement

Novadude, you didn't say what country you run your company in. If it's the USA, you could start by making inquiries of the Small Business Administration for lots of free starting advice. sba.gov

You could form an LLC (a Limited Liability Corporation), or use other corporation forms. Since I don't know if you're in the USA or not, I'm not going to spend more time replying right now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, Tom Sloper said:

Novadude, you didn't say what country you run your company in. If it's the USA, you could start by making inquiries of the Small Business Administration for lots of free starting advice. sba.gov

 

Sorry about that. Slipped my mind haha. Yes sir I am in the USA, and I'll have to give sba.gov a look-see.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Then check out sole proprietorship, LLC, and other forms of incorporation. Probably a bit soon to try to register trademarks until you've been in business for a while. Start looking for an attorney to advise you. You'll need to register with your local municipality for a business license and for tax purposes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Tom Sloper said:

Probably a bit soon to try to register trademarks until you've been in business for a while.

So do I have any legal protection if I just start the company without an LLC, trademark, etc.? My biggest concern is me releasing a product and then people releasing an unrelated product under my business name.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
25 minutes ago, Novadude987 said:

So do I have any legal protection if I just start the company without an LLC, trademark, etc.? My biggest concern is me releasing a product and then people releasing an unrelated product under my business name.

If you don't have a business than you don't really have a business name, do you?

There are some minimal automatic legal protections when you use a fictitious name, but they get much stronger if you follow all the steps to ensure your business is a proper legal entity.

 

And even with protections like trademark (people using your names and marks) and copyright (direct theft of the program) you still need to enforce it in the courts.  If you can't afford to have a lawyer file the lawsuits and fight it through the system then the protections don't really matter.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Novadude987 said:

So I am starting my video game company and I have no legal knowledge. How do I go about legally protecting my company? I need to protect my company name, company logo, company website, and any games that my company will produce. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

This is just how I've personally handled my companies and trademark registrations. I'm not in the USA but in Canada so the terminology might be off, but I believe we have not exact but similar concepts regarding this process.

I registered a limited entity (not a sole-proprietorship because you need to separate yourself personally from your business) to run my business as, then I registered a "Doing Business As Name" as I advertise and have contracts under different divisions.

ie. Something Studio Inc (I think it is LLC in your case but someone can correct me otherwise). Then I have a DBA name: Something Studio Games so my agreements are all: Something Studio Inc DBA Something Studio Games (sometimes you will see O/A). But, all my advertising is under my DBA name.

Now for trademarks, there are some differences in Canada and the USA so you'll need to look more into this and I would recommend a lawyer do this for you if you're unsure. Some trademark registrations require you to be using the said name or image prior to registration, others have an implied use registration, then you have "class registration" (which means more than one person can use the same trademark name but in different industries that wouldn't cause confusion in the marketplace), ect... but check with a lawyer. Assuming you want to keep this all under your limited business, the owner of the trademark would be your company: Something Studio Inc (or LLC in this case).

The entire point in doing all the above is to keep business and personal divided. If your business gets sued and you have no personal liability attached (ie. personal guarantees), it will help keep your personal assets safe. The same applies to you personally, if you get sued nobody can touch your business if unrelated.

As @frob stated, you will need to enforce your rights if someone decides to use your trademark, or infringe on  your copyright. This is very expensive as I've dealt with lawyers before and you'll need tens of thousands of dollars to fight a case. (retainer, plus hourly fees) In my area the higher up courts do not allow limited companies to self represent, so it might be different in the US state to state. The last case I had to deal with was $5000.00 minimum, plus $350.00 an hour, and if the claim is defended expect that bill to skyrocket.

The cost to do all the above and maintain your limited company can be expensive.

Your other option is to just register a sole-proprietorship, do all your trademark registrations under you personally (if allowed). Once you've hit a point where protection is needed you can always register a limited company and transfer over. Keep in mind that if you don't register your trademark but the general public has recognized your slogan in commerce for a period of time you can still fight infringers  or people who make applications to register something you've used successfully, but again you really need to sit down with a lawyer.

2 hours ago, Novadude987 said:

My biggest concern is me releasing a product and then people releasing an unrelated product under my business name.

I know in my country and I have many friends in the US state to state that do business under a DBA, which is used over and over throughout the US. You have have 100's of companies running around using "Franks Plumbing", but they're usually registered under an LLC, if not a tradename for an individual or partnership. You would have to look into trademarking that business name to protect yourself, but again, you still need to enforce your rights which isn't cheap. Some names you cannot trademark if they're too generalized, but a lawyer who handles trademarks can assist you better.

I personally wouldn't worry about IP protection through trademarks this early on. Once you have a lot of money coming in and a reason to protect, then I would suggest doing so. I would however recommend you do register a limited entity to sell your game to protect yourself from lawsuits personally.

I'm assuming you're doing game development as a commercial venture? If so, you really should make an appointment face to face with a lawyer because the internet usually isn't the best place to get such advice, especially accurate advice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Rutin said:

If so, you really should make an appointment face to face with a lawyer

Absolutely.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks everybody for the replies. you guys are awesome! It was always my intent to go meet with a lawyer, I just felt that I needed a generalized idea of what I might need before meeting, seeing as I know very little about legalizing a business. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Advertisement
×

Important Information

By using GameDev.net, you agree to our community Guidelines, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policy.

Participate in the game development conversation and more when you create an account on GameDev.net!

Sign me up!