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Advertising Do's and Don'ts

With so many products and services available to consumers, how do you make yours stand out? The temptation to cut corners by making misleading claims or not performing that complex and lengthy quality test is real, but come with serious legal risks. Resisting temptations like these may be one key to avoiding legal troubles in the future, but also make sure you understand the more nuanced regulations on advertising. While deliberately lying about the safety of your product in a television ad is obviously illegal, are you ready to back all of your claims with fact-based evidence?

Below is a list of "do's" and "don'ts" for advertising, ranging from the legal to the practical. See FindLaw's Marketing and Advertising Laws section to learn more.

THE DOs

Do pick a company name and trademark or service mark that has not already been chosen by someone else (How to Search for Trademarks).

Do register your company with the appropriate state officials (State Resources: Starting a Business).

Do obtain trade name, trademark, service mark, copyright, and trade dress protections to ensure that your products and expressions are safe from copycats and infringers (Copyrights).

Do make yourself knowledgeable of state and national laws and regulations concerning creation of businesses, management of businesses, and consumer protection (Business Laws and Regulations).

Do follow all state and national health and safety requirements in developing your product.

Do perform the necessary testing to ensure that your product or services stand up to the claims you make about them.

Do advertise and market your product or service in a manner which is lawful (Advertising Mistakes: Lessons Learned the Hard Way).

Do your homework: if you claim your product is the "fastest," the "cheapest," the "newest," or anything like that, do your research before making the claim so that you know it is true.

Do plan ahead. Develop a budget for marketing that you are willing and able to stick to. Be prepared to spend money to market your product, but know your financial limitations and avoid over-extending your pocketbook (Your Marketing Plan).

THE DON'Ts

Don't be a copycat and use someone else's idea for a product or service without their knowledge and approval.

Don't make guarantees or claims in your advertisements that you cannot support with facts and evidence.

Don't advertise in a misleading or deceptive manner. Consumer protection statutes in every state protect against these types of actions and if you are caught attempting to deceive consumers the punishment can be more than monetary -- your business reputation will also suffer.

Don't fail to appreciate your target audience when seeking to market and advertise your products and services.

Get Advertising Law Compliance Help From an Attorney

Businesses are expected to follow all of the laws and regulations that apply, and not all of them are clear. Intellectual property law, which figures prominently in advertising, can be quite confusing for a non-lawyer. A business and commercial law attorney can help make sure your business is in compliance and point out ways to gain an edge without breaking the law. Call an attorney near you to get started.

Next Steps
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