Legal Concerns for Nomad Entrepreneurs with Layne Lyons JD
Do you have your legal ducks in a row for your nomadic lifestyle? As an online entrepreneur, freelancer, or even an employee living a nomad life, you need to know about the legal concerns that come along with being a digital nomad.
In this episode, my guest is Layne Lyons JD, U.S. lawyer, business protector for women entrepreneurs, and creator of The Legal UMBRELLA Method™. Layne explains legal issues you need to know about including trademarking, domicile, tourist visas, and other laws you should be aware of when traveling in foreign countries.
She gives valuable insight into the best practices for establishing your domicile and how this correlates to your contracts with clients. You’ll also learn about how to protect your trademark and certain cases where you might need a trademark (even if you don’t think you do)!
In this episode
- Layne’s experience of being nomadic for the past 19 years
- Mistakes to avoid as an online entrepreneur
- What domicile is and what you need to know about it
- What you need to know about contracts and domicile
- How to navigate trademarks globally
- The best practices for trademarking
- What you need to know about working on a tourist visa
- The importance of knowing the laws in the countries you visit
Resources we talked about
Note: Links with an asterisk are affiliate links, which means you may receive free credit or another bonus and I may earn a small commission or other benefits if you sign up/purchase using that link. There’s no additional cost to you, of course!
Amy Scott 00:00
This episode is for you, nomad entrepreneur, or freelancer, or want to be an entrepreneur, whatever stage you’re at, there are some really helpful tips and insights and recommendations in this episode in my conversation with Layne Lyons, who is a lawyer based in the US, and she’s also been a nomad for almost 20 years. So she knows what we’re dealing with, what a lot of the challenges are, she talks about some of the really important things that you need to do to protect yourself and your business when it comes to legal matters.Expand
We talked about domicile, and what that is and what it means and why it’s something that you need to consider when you’re setting up your business. And your residency—and this is residency within the US, right—residency is something that applies to everybody, even if you’re just talking about your home country. We also talked a lot about trademarks, which is Layne’s specialty, and something else that she’s really passionate about as a way that people need to be protecting themselves and something that you might not have thought about too much. So there’s a lot of detail about that as well. I hope you enjoy this episode. And this is just one of the conversations that we record live in the Collective. So if you join us in the Nomadtopia Collective, you can come to future interviews and conversations like this one, and get to ask the guests your questions in person or you know, in person on Zoom. So that’s a great way to further connect with the people that I have on the show. So here we go.
Thanks for tuning in today. My guest is Layne Lyons. Welcome to the show, Layne.
Layne Lyons 01:02
Thanks so much for having me, Amy. Hi, everyone.
Amy Scott 01:03
It’s great to have you here. So to start, tell us a bit about what your Nomadtopia looks like right now.
Layne Lyons 01:22
Yes. So I travel full time, like any good nomad should. And my husband and I have been doing that for the better part of 19 years. So right now we’re in COVID times when we’re you know, we’re just kind of coming potentially coming to the tail end. So we are in Hawaii, kind of waiting out COVID. Normally, by this time, we’re in the springtime. We would be further afield, usually South America. So but right now we’re here in Hawaii. So I work full time. My husband works full time. We have a golden retriever, who is 14 years old. We have been schlepping this dog from continent to continent to continent for 14 years. And we’ve really done it all. We’ve lived on land. We’ve lived on boats, we’ve lived on islands. We’ve lived on mountain tops, we’ve lived beachside, and we both have portable businesses. I’m an attorney. I’m a lawyer, which we’re going to talk about here today. And my husband is an artist, a painter. And really, for me, I’m a Wi Fi wanderer, I have my laptop and a good internet connection and I am all set. My clients are mainly based in the US. My husband is a painter, big canvases. And we always joke around and say art ain’t light, because every place we go, we have to buy art. So we can only go to places where there’s within an hour and a half high quality and he’s a professional artist, so there’s has to be really a place to buy canvas and easels. We have a trail of easels behind us in I think we counted 14 countries and every time we leave a country, we donate that easel, you know, big professional easel, you know, furniture easel, and every time we leave a country, we donate that to either an art school or a family that we meet who has young budding artists so that we can kind of leave, leave a legacy behind.
Amy Scott 03:43
I love that. And yeah, it’s great to share that you’re both in professions that one doesn’t necessarily think are very portable. And so it’s great to hear you know that you could take virtually any type of work any type of career and figure out how to make it work
Layne Lyons 03:55
With a little bit of finesse and a lot, a lot of hard work and a little bit of finesse because you know certain countries have import, you know, talking about legal rights. Certain countries have import duties and things so we were living for a while in Grenada and we were getting supplies shipped in and they wanted us to pay duties on those supplies and then if my husband painted anything while we were there, they wanted a piece of the action so you’ve also got to kind of you know, we’ll talk today more about know your know the laws where you’re going and stay on the right side, especially when you’re international stay on the right side of the law.
Amy Scott 05:06
Absolutely. Yeah. So it sounds like we could have like four more podcast episodes to talk about all of these other pieces. But yes, our plan for today is to focus on some of the legal issues. And I know that you’re really coming from the perspective of how important it is to make sure that you have certain protections in place. So you can protect yourself, you can protect your work, your livelihood, your business. And so that’s mainly what we’re here to talk about. And also, you know, there are obviously pieces of that that are going to be the same for any type of online entrepreneur. And then there’s obviously another layer of things to consider for people like us who are more nomadic or maybe spend more time globally, then than your average person. So that’s what we are gonna dive into. To start, let’s just talk about, you know, some of the things like what would you say are some of the biggest mistakes and the things that people really need to be aware of, so they can avoid making those mistakes themselves as online entrepreneurs.
Layne Lyons 06:05
So online entrepreneurs, in general, the biggest mistake is not having written agreements, you have got to have written agreements for every business dealing that you do for everything that you sell, for everything that you purchase, and for everyone that you contract with, because the biggest reason why when, when a new client comes to me with some kind of a legal problem, 95% of the time, it can all be traced back to unclear expectations. And what I find is that those entrepreneurs have those expectations in their mind, right, you can’t see my hands, I’m pointing up here, they’ve got the expectations in their mind, they have it all worked out, but they haven’t articulated and communicated those expectations to the people that they’re working with, meaning the people who are purchasing their services and products, the people who they’re hiring. And what happens is, when we’ve got expectations, just like, you know, we think about bedtime, right? And if the kids don’t know what time bedtime is, come 8:45, there’s going to be some drama in the house. So when we’ve got an when we’re running a business, and we’re online, you know, especially working with people who we may never meet face to face, right, we don’t have that kind of heart connection. They’re just there. You know, there’s somebody that we’re working with online, as the business owner, when you’re sharing your information and your expertise. And when money is changing hands, drama becomes almost inevitable. It’s like, you know, I say, if you only have one thing that’s potentially drama in your business, every year, you’re doing something, right. You know, for me, from where I stand, I’ve been an attorney for 26 years. And from where I stand, getting sued as a small business is kind of a long shot, it happens. But it just happens to a handful. If you’re doing things right, and you’ve got your business buttoned up, getting sued is a long shot, but having drama, that’s pretty much kind of inevitable. So what we do is what the biggest mistake I see is folks not using written agreements to make those expectations really clear. And when I’m talking about written agreements, I’m talking about contracts.
So you need contracts with everyone you work with. These are your clients, your one-on-one clients, your group clients, your membership members, your mastermind members, these are your social media visitors, your website visitors, and then these are your hires. So these are your virtual assistants, your executive assistants, your OBM or business managers, your web designers, your graphic designers, your content team, your marketing team, everybody needs to know what’s expected of them. And I always say if you, especially if you look at any of my contracts, I write my contracts very intentionally. And I invite everyone to take it when you see my contract, read them as if they are two halves. And the first half of each contract that I draft very intentionally, is going to be all of the what I call the sunshine and the rainbows, all the stuff that you know, you need to have in the contract to make it easy for people to say yes to work with you. So that’s what are they buying? How much does it cost? If it’s a package of sessions? How long do they have to use the sessions? What are the communications between sessions? What is your confidentiality, maybe a little bit of intellectual property. But then we’ve got—and this is really where contracts come into play—the second half of the contract what I call the “oh shoot” half of the contract. This is the hurricanes and the tornadoes and the thunderstorms. I always say the only thing worse than a disaster is a disaster with no disaster plan. And when we’re talking about unclear expectations, and drama and things going off track around money, business policies, what the scope of work was, when you have that second half of the contract, you’ve got that roadmap that you’re going to go back to and say, Okay, what were the expectations? What did we agree to, and you’ve got that written document, it makes life so easy. And when I say it’s the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make, it’s because without those written agreements without those contracts, when a client shows up and asks for, let’s just say, for example, asked for a refund, what do you do? Well, I can promise you, when you don’t have a contract, the first thing that happens is your palms get sweaty, and you realize you’re gonna have to wrestle with this client, you’re gonna have to set hard boundaries, because you didn’t have your boundaries in the first place. So when you’ve got a contract, you very easily just take a screenshot of the section saying Let’s say, for example, it says, No refunds after seven days. You take a screenshot of that section, you take a screenshot of the signature block showing that you’ve both signed the contract. And you attach those screenshots and a PDF of the signed contract to the email and lickety split, you move on to the next to do in your list without getting in the drama. So you can see how creating those expectations and articulating them, let your contract do the heavy lifting for you, is going to allow you to stay out of the drama and keep doing the awesome important work that you’re doing in the world.
Amy Scott 11:33
Yeah, that makes so much sense. I can definitely think of some situations where those things have been helpful or not helpful because they didn’t exist. That’s great. And, you know, as we said, to also look at it through the filter of a more nomadic entrepreneur, is there anything specific related to contracts that people like us should be more aware of?
Layne Lyons 11:54
Yeah, definitely. There are definitely really legal concerns around digital nomad entrepreneurship related to contracts. Let me just say that because I’m an attorney in the US, what I’m going to say is really from the angle of a US business owner traveling or residing abroad, while taking clients or customers from everywhere. And as we dive into this kind of more legal part, let me just give a quick disclaimer. Of course, listening to this podcast is not legal advice. It’s information and education for you to use as you build your business. And while it is not a substitute for speaking to a local lawyer who can advise you on your specific situation, it is going to be very helpful.
So let’s talk contracts from the lens of digital nomad entrepreneurship. So one legal term that you really got to understand here is this word, domicile, domicile. And domicile is a legal term that refers to the place the one state right we’re narrowing this to US, a US conversation. So it’s a legal term that refers to the place the one state where you permanently reside, or where you intend to return and establish residency. And your intent is key. So let me give an example. Let’s say that you’re traveling the world and you know, you’ve got your laptop business, and you move from country to country every 12 weeks. You start out in San Francisco, and then you head off one month you can be in Bali, the next Phuket, then Auckland, then Sydney, right, you get the point, you’re on the go. And to be able to afford all of this. You sublet your apartment, in San Francisco in our example, and you’re away for six months, but you’re registered to vote in California. Your driver’s license is in California, your car is registered in California. Therefore, your domicile in this situation is going to be California. Or let’s say it’s a domestic situation, same thing. You road trip across the entire US and back again. But driver’s license California Voting California car’s registered in California, your domicile is going to be California. This is confusing for people because they say well, what if I don’t want my domicile to be California? So one of the biggest key factors in figuring out where is my domicile is your intent. And you need to look at where are you set up where are you registered to vote? Where’s your driver’s license vehicle bank accounts? Where’s your dentist? That’s what I ask people all the time. Where is your dentist? Where’s your primary care physician? Where do you pay income taxes? Do you belong to any professional organizations in a specific state? And these are some questions the kind of brainstorming questions for our nomads out there that can help them figure out where they’re domiciled. But each state has its own laws. And just so that you know that so this is the first step.
People ask me all the time, is it legally possible not to have a domicile, not possible, not possible. Everyone has a place of domicile, it’s either the place where you previously established domicile or where you intend to establish domicile, just because you run an online business that doesn’t matter. And also remember your current place of residence, like where are your tennis shoes at the front door, that does not automatically translate to your place of domicile, you’ve got to remember intent is key here. I also get asked a lot, is it legally possible to have more than one domicile? Nope, you can have more than one residence lucky you have more than one residence, but you can only have one domicile. And another question I get all the time is, can I change my domicile? So yes, you have to have the intent, right? Again, we’re focused on intent, you have to have the intent to cut ties with the old state, and intent to establish domicile in the new state. So now we’ve got a little bit of education out there about what is domicile, let’s loop it back to contracts. So why is domicile important? And what the heck does that have to do with a contract. So when you’re traveling, and you sign a contract? Well, first of all, first of all, one more time, always have a contract, always have a contract, don’t ever get into any business agreements without a written contract. I personally got burned by this. And I’m a lawyer, for Pete’s sake, like this is having contracts is not the place to be casual, or like winging it, oh, it’ll be fine. You know, we’re aligned, we’re on the same page. No, you have to have it in writing just to keep things good neighbor. Good fences make good neighbors. So in that contract, and this is where we’re going to loop back to domicile in that contract, you’re going to have certainly if you have one of my contracts, you’re going to have a section that defines what state’s laws governs or a fancy word just meaning controls your contract. So when we say governs or controls, if there’s ever a dispute with your contract, this is going to be the state and the county where the dispute will be handled. This will be when a court is looking at your contract, they’re going to interpret it with the laws of that place that you have defined in your contract. If you want to get fancy, we can use the legal word jurisdiction.
And what’s so important with domicile and with contracts and with digital nomads is avoiding jurisdiction confusion. So your jurisdiction where your contracts are going to be governed or controlled, should almost always be your business’s home state your domicile. But if it’s not clearly written in your contract, you’re leaving it to chance, right? We talked earlier about having those expectations up in your mind, but not articulating them. So if you don’t establish domicile in your contract, then the dispute could land in court where your client lives or where their business is located. And this could be a state that is very unfavorable to small businesses, which could really hurt you because you’re going to have to then spend time and money to travel there to defend yourself and more money that you could potentially lose if they win the dispute. So always a contract, always a jurisdiction clause always aligned with your domicile.
Amy Scott 18:19
Perfect. That’s super helpful. And of course, I’m sure like everyone listening as you were describing the domicile thing, I was like, Okay, wait, so what’s my domicile? Cuz I, I haven’t lived in the US since 2007. But as you said, I still have a driver’s license, I still, you know, so it’s based on those types of things as well, like, I don’t have any intention to go back to the US. But you mentioned also it’s where it was in the past. So in like my case, it would be the past history I would use.
Layne Lyons 18:52
Right, unless you’ve cut ties, and done things to intentionally create domicile somewhere else in the within the US, I’m assuming that you have your driver’s license for a reason. So there are some if you want to think about it like this, there are some taking advantage of what the US has to offer by having a passport, a driver’s license, there’s some Hey, I’m a US citizen. And in order to be a US citizen, they’re going to make you choose a state. So you know, and there are certain states that are more favorable to small businesses, there are certain states that are more favorable as far as domicile. Like, you know, Delaware is like Corporation Central, but Delaware actually requires you to live there for two years in order to establish domicile. So we’ve got and there are a handful of states, which I’m not sure if that’s interesting to folks to hear about which states or whatever that is. So I know we have a lot of ground to cover, but there are certain states that are more favorable to small businesses to corporations, and there are certain states that are favorable as far as income taxes, which is another one, right? So you know, in our example, the example person lived in San Francisco, which, you know, California is a tough place, we lots and lots of corporate fees not as friendly to small businesses, big big income taxes, big state income taxes. So that’s something to think about, if you don’t live there, like wherever, wherever your driver’s license is, if you want to make a change, that’s something that can potentially, it’s a lot of red tape, you know, not necessarily for a lawyer to slog through but for the average person, it may be a lot to have to travel and back to the US and change your domicile. But it could in the long run be financially advantageous.
Amy Scott 20:35
Right. Yeah, there’s so many factors to consider. And yeah, we won’t even get into all of that. Besides contracts, I think one of the other things that you and I had touched base about before that I think is a helpful one for us to cover is trademarks, especially because I think a lot of us have the understanding that trademarks are, again, like a lot of things tied to a specific place. And so like if you’re all over the place, or your business, you know, works with people all over the world. How do you handle maybe anything that tends to be more specific to one location? And then you know, specifically something like trademarks?
Layne Lyons 21:14
Yeah, that’s a great question. So trademarks are territory—I’m a trademark attorney, that is what I do all day long, I file trademarks for my clients all over the world—so when we’re when we were earlier talking, and we said we were going to limit the contracts conversation just to the US. But trademarks are global. However, they are territorial. So meaning trademarks have to be filed and hopefully approved in each country where protection is sought. So my best practice is always to start with a US trademark. US is kind of a commerce leader. The United States is a place of a lot of suing people back and forth, it is a litigious place, if there is going to be a battle, chances are, you know, unless you’re not doing business in the US, but if you’re doing business in the US, start there, because that is going to give you your base and your broad protection. And when it comes to trademarks, I can’t say this enough, you need to have a lawyer file your trademark for you. I say it like this, you can take a splinter out of the bottom of your foot that is totally fine. Don’t try to do eye surgery, you can negotiate a contract with a client back and forth and agree to a different price. Don’t do your own trademarks. Trademarks are a very, very intricate area of law. It’s federal. So it’s—just to be clear, let me just back up. There is not a state trademark registration. Trademarks are federal or what we say national in the entire United States. So when you get your trademark, even if you just live like our example, California, your trademark is going to be federal US registered, it is not going to be specific to your state. But it is country by country. So there are a lot of nitty gritty little details about trademarks. And there are ways to get it right and ways to get it wrong. And it is not taking the splinter out of your foot it is eye surgery. So definitely definitely work with a lawyer on this one.
So registering—well, let me just say, people ask me all the time, on all my interviews, what’s the biggest mistake that entrepreneurs make around trademarks. And really, for me, it’s one mistake: waiting too long. The biggest mistake that you will make is waiting too long to trademark because this last year with the pandemic, the influx of entrepreneurs on the market has cascaded into an absolute nonstop avalanche of applications into the trademark office of people saying I’ve started a podcast, I want to trademark my name. I’ve started a business, I want to trademark name. I’ve created a new coaching package, I want to trademark my offer name. It has become, the backlog used to be three months for us to get assigned there. You know, I’m the attorney on this side. There’s an examining attorney on the other side at the trademark office. And the wait from the date of filing the application used to be about three months, we’d wait about three months to get assigned to an examining attorney on the other side, the current wait—we are in May 2021, and the current wait is six months. So that kind of reflects like a double, a 2X in the amount of work that they’ve got going there. So waiting too long. I have had so many heartbroken clients in the past three months, trademark clients in the past two–three months. I can think of four different women whose businesses they could not get their name and the unfortunate thing is somebody jumped in right before them. So the biggest mistake, the only mistake—well, not working with a lawyer and you know working with big box legal who is not going to do a trademark the way that you need to, they’re just going to kind of McDonald’s it, that’s how I like to say it. But waiting too long, waiting too long is the biggest mistake you can make.
So let’s talk trademarks from this kind of global international lens. Registering your trademark with the US United States Patent and Trademark Office is going to give you trademark protection throughout the United States. But it’s not going to give you protection in other countries to protect your trademark abroad, you need to register it with the foreign countries that you want protection in. And really the question to ask here is, where am I doing business? So you have to determine the countries where you want to register. And you’ve got to consider where are you current—which countries are you currently doing business in? And which countries do you plan to do business in in the future. And once you’ve decided where then you can begin the process to apply for trademark registration internationally.
So there’s something that is called the Madrid Protocol, which I always think kind of sounds like a spy movie. And the Madrid Protocol is a treaty. And that allows a trademark owner to apply for their trademark in any of the member countries who are members of the Madrid that have this treaty, the Madrid Protocol, they can file a single application in their native language, called an international application. And it will be the trademark will be applied. In any of that they choose you choose which countries in any of the 108 members, 124 countries, there’s 108 members in this Madrid Protocol that covers 124 countries. And this represents more than 80% of world trade. It includes the US, China, France, Italy, Australia, the European Union, but it doesn’t include Brazil, Mexico, or the Middle East. So there are limitations. And what happens is this doesn’t mean your trademark is going to be registered in all of these countries that you apply for. It just means the app that you get only have to send in one application. So what happens is like, I don’t know if you remember Amy, but back when I applied to go to university, and this is you know, back in the ’80s. When I applied for university, we had to use a different application for every single college that I was applying for. I remember, and this is in the days of typewriters, y’all. And we would have a packet and a form for each and every school that I applied for. So if you apply for 10 schools, you had to fill out 10 applications. Now my nieces and nephews who have already gone through that system, when they were applying for schools, there was one universal application. And they typed it in once on the computer, not every school belong to it, just like the Madrid Protocol. But it was one application that the basic information was going to each and every school that they applied for. So it didn’t mean that they were admitted to the school, but the application process became so much easier. So once you apply under this Madrid Protocol, it simplifies the application process. It has nothing to do with approvals, you still have to get approved country by country. And it doesn’t of course guarantee that a specific country is going to register your trademark. There’s no such thing as an international trademark. But this Madrid Protocol simplifies the application process. Completing one application in your home language is so much easier than submitting an application with each and every country, especially if you’re going to apply for multiple countries at once. It saves you money as well, because there’s going to be this one application fee. And if you’re doing a basic filing and applying in many, many countries, this can really reduce your costs.
There are downsides of course as there are with everything. So the Madrid Protocol has downsides. And once your application gets to each of the country, it can meet legal hang ups, just like if you applied separately. And you may of course, just be aware, I always like to caution people be aware that if your trademark application gets hung up in a specific country, that’s not that’s not the United States where you started or you’re English native speaker, then you may need to hire local counsel to assist you in responding to any actions in that country. But Madrid Protocol makes it simpler. Really. It’s about get your trademarks, my advice, start with the US I’d be happy to help you. You can go to LayneLyons.com/trademark We’ll have that in the show notes for you. Just LayneLyons.com/trademark to read all about our services and what we do we white glove it the whole way. Really hold your hand on the application we just do it all we have one intake we find out everything we need to know and then we just take the ball and run with it for you because trademarks are again a really intense nitty gritty area of law that there’s so much to know. And really sometimes more importantly, not know, and you don’t want to miss it. So we handle it all for you. And I say like, it’s so it’s so much fun. We have a great time with our trademark clients, we really enjoy it here.
Amy Scott 30:15
Nice. So going back to what you were saying about, you know, wanting to establish your trademark in the countries where you do business. I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking like, Well, I mean, it’s the internet, like I kind of do business everywhere, right? Like you could have someone buy your product from Singapore and someone buy your product from England and everywhere in between. How do you determine where you’re actually doing business? You know, like, to the extent that it’s actually worth protecting your trademark in a certain location?
Layne Lyons 30:45
Right. And I think exactly what you just said, Amy, to the extent that—so one client in Singapore, one client in South Africa, I wouldn’t say that that’s really doing business, I would say that’s random. But if you’re going to set up a marketing channel, that specifically, first of all, any brick and mortar, of course, first, right, any brick and mortar where you’re establishing in a location, but then really looking at how much business am I doing? So let’s say that you, I’m just gonna make something up, you attend a conference. And there are a bunch of people who are your ideal clients, and they’re all from South Africa. And you attend this conference, and all of a sudden, you’re getting referrals and names, and you’re here, and then you get invited to be part of another conference that’s hosted and local in South Africa. And then maybe somebody wants to publish in a South African publication, a magazine wants to publish an article about you now you’re starting to say, Well, wait a second, this is kind of a hotspot for me, this is where I’m doing business. If you—another thing that comes to mind immediately, if you’re doing any kind of manufacturing in a country, you definitely want to have protections there. So if you have any kind of overseas, manufacturing, and you’re doing so these are the kinds of touch points you’re looking at, am I getting known in this place? Am I having multiple clients and a big stream of income that’s coming in from this global location? And what are the kind of roots—if you could see my fingers, I’m putting my fingers out for all kinds of roots that you’re setting up in a location—and the more bridges, if you will, the more bridges you build between your business and that country, the more chance that your name is your brand name is going to become important in that country.
And let me say this about trademarks, because we kind of dove straight into the global issue. And we didn’t really cover why are trademarks so important. Because I think people have an idea that trademarks are so important because it’s going to allow me to stop anyone else from using my name. So I’m going to be able to protect my name by not allowing anyone else to have the same name as me. To me, that’s like 10–15% of the game, to me from where I stand and in our practice here. The big thing about trademarks is, you want to know that your name, your brand name that you are building is yours and yours alone, that you own it. So here’s what happens when you don’t own it. You’re building a brand, you’re creating a following, you’re building an audience, you’re building offerings, people are starting to associate that brand name with your services, with the way that you do business. And then suddenly, you wake up one day, you get a cease-and-desist email, it’s not nearly going to be as nice as I’m going to say it I’m going to say it in a nice way. The cease-and-desist letter says it’s come to our attention that you’re using this name, and my client holds the trademark for that name for this other name, which is confusingly similar, and we demand that you stop using your name. Right? This is another sweaty palms moment, you know—and trust me, the cease-and-desist letters are not as nice as what I’m how I’m saying it they can they you know, they of course, run the gamut. They can be very aggressive. And this is like a heart pounding out of your chest kind of moment. Because what happens now, you have to literally take everything down and start over. You have no choice. If somebody sends you a cease-and-desist letter and they hold the trademark and they are accurate, that it is confusingly similar to yours, this—people think all the time, it has to be the exact same name. We use the example Starbucks with two s’s at the end. No, you may not have Starbucks with two s’s. You may not even have Starbucks Tea or Starbucks Coffee. You can’t have anything that is confusingly similar. You can’t have Starbucks Food. You can’t have Starbucks Liquids. Nothing that is confusingly similar. Of course there you know, we can go down the rabbit hole of what’s still similar because the US Patent trademark office thinks a lot of things are similar. They’re trying to avoid confusion in the marketplace.
Amy Scott 34:58
Layne Lyons 34:58
So if we have Coach Sarah Joy. And a client is running a business as Coach Sarah Jane. And Coach Sarah Joy. Those seem pretty different, right? Those are women’s names. Coach Sarah Joy, Coach Sarah Joy trademarks her name. And Coach Sarah Jane is told she cannot use that name anymore. And she’s like, Well, wait a second, this was my name. Which brings me back to my original point about waiting too long. So you don’t want to have anyone else tell you that you have to take your entire business down. Because what yet what you have to do, you have to take your business down, you have to pivot, you have to choose a new name. And then you have to cross your fingers, toes and eyes to hope that your following is going to come with you over the new name. This can be potentially devastating for a small business when it has a following like a podcast, when a podcast doesn’t have their name registered. It’s always a big red flag for me like this is something in the podcast space. Oh my gosh, talk about crowded in 2021. The podcast world has just become so so…
Amy Scott 36:01
Layne Lyons 36:02
Yeah, so sat—that’s the word I was looking for. Thank you, that’s, you picked it out of my head—saturated with so many people. And because podcasts are only one there’s only one class. Not to confuse, but trademarks are in classes. So that’s how we can have like Delta Airlines and Delta faucets. They both have the name Delta. Why isn’t that confusing? Because one is selling travel, and one is selling home fixtures. Not confusing at all. But in the podcast space. Hey, look, it’s a podcast, a podcast or a podcast, we don’t have this kind of wiggle room to say, Oh, well, it’s a faucet, you know, or it’s an airline. So we don’t have this. So we don’t have this kind of luxury to say, well, it’s a different kind of podcast, well, podcast or podcast. And if it’s too confusing, they’re not going to approve it. So and then what happens? You got to change your name. What that could be like, you know, a really devastating situation for a podcast who has especially one who’s been creating a following.
Amy Scott 36:55
Okay, great. So this is super, super helpful. I’m sure this is giving people a lot of food for thought and really helping clarify some of their questions around this. And thank you because I can tell this is something you’re really passionate about and, and I your like your emphatic, you know, feelings about how important it is are really coming across.
Layne Lyons 37:13
Amy Scott 37:13
Yeah, that too. So thank you. So I think the last thing I’d like to touch on a little bit is just anything, maybe a bit more general that we haven’t talked about yet that kind of bridges, the legal and the nomad, you know, like, what are any other things that you just want to make sure that people have in their minds, you know, on their radar as things that they really need to be paying attention to? You know, we don’t need to get into all the specifics, but just like what else should they have on their radar?
Layne Lyons 37:46
Yeah, sure. Two things come to mind immediately for me, visas. There’s no global rule for visas and legal issues. They vary from country to country. So you know, when you’re a digital nomad, you’re going to probably be visiting on a tourist visa, and it means that it’s going to be very well possibly illegal for you to work in that country. A lot of countries if you’re discreet, and you’re not taking a job away from a local person, a lot of many countries, let me say this, many countries will turn a blind eye to nomad work. However, it is possible, I would be remiss if I didn’t say, if you are working on a tour—if you are residing in a place, visiting a place with a tourist visa, and you are working and you get caught, it could lead to arrest, fines, jail, and even deportation. So you want to be careful if you are working and you are on a tourist visa, be careful.
And of course, I wouldn’t want to leave a conversation about the intersection of legal and travel without saying you must be familiar with the laws of the place that you are visiting as they relate to you. For example, the example that I love to use, the Western world has become incredibly tolerant, beautifully, beautifully tolerant of gender rights, and especially homosexuality. But there are still sadly, heartbreakingly many, many countries around the world where homosexuality is illegal, and even a few countries where it is punishable by death. So before you visit a country, to ensure that you’re going to stay on the right side of the law, read up on the laws, ask questions, go on online forums, mention anything about your unique situation like I’ll be working there. Or if you’re in a same sex couple we’re two women who will be traveling we’re two men we’re husbands we’re two husbands we’re legally married in the US. Somebody may say don’t ever walk down the street arm in arm with another man don’t ever kiss or hug or be affectionate with another person of the same, especially men. This just seems to be the target. And I think it’s also kind of worth noting that the quality of police assistance varies greatly around the world, from nonexistent to excellent. People don’t understand. And most people, I’m sure listening to this podcast are seasoned travelers and understand when you leave the United States, things are different out there. So always find out. And this is not from a standpoint of you getting into trouble. This is from a standpoint of police assisting you if there is trouble. So always find out what you can expect. If things go wrong in a country where you’re visiting, it’s all about research, and being aware of what you need to do and what you need to not do while you’re traveling.
Amy Scott 40:36
Yeah, that’s super helpful. Thank you for bringing up both of those points, really important. I mean, I still have a million other questions. But I think of the general topics that we were planning to cover today I think we’ve done a pretty good job. So thank you, this has been great. And well just to wrap up, you mentioned earlier your website, but tell people where they can find you online.
Layne Lyons 40:56
Yeah, absolutely. So if you’re listening to this episode, and you’re kind of a little bit curious and thinking, Hmm, maybe I should get my legal in order, then I invite you to go to LayneLyons.com/checklist. This is a checklist of everything. It’s specifically set up for online entrepreneurs. It is a checklist of what you need, if you have a website, what you need if you work with others, all the different contracts that you need. And for anyone listening to this episode, who’s like, oh, I should have handled this legal stuff like yesterday, then I invite you to book a call. Super simple. You just go to BookWithLayne.com. We’ll have that for you in the show notes. You just go to BookWithLayne.com and we’ll take a deep dive on the call. It’s a free call. We’ll take a deep dive into your specific business, I’ll help identify exactly where your business is vulnerable. And then craft the exact plug that you need to plug up those legal leaks. And yeah, exactly what you said, Amy, I’m emphatic and enthusiastic. I love what I do. I’ve been a lawyer for 26 years. I love helping people build their businesses. I you know, you could tell from this episode. I don’t come at this from the normal doom and gloom and all the terrible things that are going to happen to you if you don’t get your legal handled. It’s really from a place of if you want to build a solid business and you want to take it on the road, and you want to have this digital nomad lifestyle, then you need the solid foundation. And then when you have that foundation all set up, you can build anything you want on top of it. So I look forward to speaking to people and to helping people get all set up with their contracts with their trademarks with their businesses.
Amy Scott 42:35
Sounds great. Thanks again, Layne. This has been fabulous. And thanks everyone for listening, and we’ll see you on the road.
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