A Startup Legal Checklist

While there are lots of legal considerations for your startup, here is a list of baseline startup issues to consider

Pre-Incorporation

  • Named or numbered company?
  • Federal or Provincial incorporation?
  • How many share classes and what rights will be attributed to each class?
  • To incorporate your startup online with Wires Law, click here.

Create Shareholder Registers

Shareholder registers, and for Federal Companies, a register of beneficial ownership are required by law. 

Founder and Shareholder Agreement

Depending on the nature of your business, consider entering a co-founder or shareholder agreement. These agreements can deal with important issues like:

  • the management of the company;
  • issuing new shares and raising money;
  • hiring and firing employees;
  • shareholder loans or incurring expenses; 
  • what happens on the resignation of a co-founder;
  • the assignment of intellectual property rights;
  • trigger events (death, disability, bankruptcy etc.);
  • access to and control of bank accounts and spending. 

Protecting Intellectual Property

For some companies (particularly tech companies) your intellectual property is your main and in some cases your only asset. Spending the time, effort and money to create an innovative product equally deserves the investment required to protect it. The stories of great products being copied by competitors are numerous. Consider what intellectual property and confidential information you have, and ways to protect it, including trademarks, patents, confidentiality agreements, copyright protection and others. 

Privacy Policy

If you are collecting personal information, chances are you are required to have a privacy policy setting out what information you collect and how you use it. With many companies offering their products and services globally, privacy law is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate. For example, is your business GDPR ready? 

Stock Option or Incentive Plan

While you need to be careful with tax considerations, issuing shares or options for services is an appealing way for start-ups, and even larger companies, to attract and retain talent. 

Commercial Contracts

Consider if there are contractual rights you want to secure with third-parties like distributors, licensor and suppliers.

Post-Incorporation

  • Hold your first shareholder and directors meetings;
  • Pass your initial directors’ resolutions;
  • Issue shares (make sure you can lawfully issue shares under a relevant prospectus exemption);
  • Enter a subscription agreement.
  • Open a corporate bank account. 

Create Transfer Ledgers

Federal and Ontario Provincial legislation also requires that you keep a “register of transfers” in which all transfers of securities issued by the corporation are recorded. We do this in our electronic minute books for clients. Learn more about our process here. 

Employment Agreements

Aside from salary and benefits, the employment agreement is essential to address important issues like ownership of intellectual property developed or brought to the company by the employee, confidentialtiy, non-compete and non-solicitation terms and termination provisions. Often the value a lawyer adds is not just drafting your employment agreement, but advising on the circumstances around the agreement.

 

Contracts with Developers

If you are developing a website, app or software with a development firm or contractor, make sure you are documenting your relationship with with them, including the assignment and ownership of intellectual property and confidential information. 

Terms of Use

Whether you are selling goods online, operating an online marketplace, software or mobile app, terms of use are an important component in protecting your business and defining the legal relationship with your customers. Learn more at our separate website, https://webterms.ca

Domain Name Ownership

Have you carefully considered who actually owns the domain name associated with your new business? Often individual founders register a domain name without consider whether its an asset that should be assigned to and owned by your operating business. Read our blog post on this issue here

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DISCLAIMER: The information on this page is not (and is not intended to be) legal advice. This is legal information only. Reviewing information about the law may help you understand whether you need legal assistance. Whether and how this information applies to your circumstances requires the assistance of legal counsel who can apply the information to your needs. Do not rely on this webpage to make decisions. You may contact Wires Law, and we would be pleased to determine whether our firm can assist you. No solicitor-client relationship is established until we confirm we can act for you in a legal services agreement. Read our Terms of Use for more information.