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What Licenses, Permits, and Permission Do You Need?
November 1, 2010

You can't operate legally unless you obtain the licenses and permits required for your particular operation. You may not even be aware of the need for certain permission, but if you fail to get it you can expose yourself to penalties and lawsuits. Here are some licenses, permits, and permission you may need to run your business.

Government licenses and permits
Depending upon what you do, you may have to obtain licenses or permits from your state or local government to operate your business. For a professional, such as an accountant or attorney, you need to meet testing and continuing education standards to maintain a professional license. Other occupations, such as bill collectors and private investigators, also require licenses. New York, for example, has hundreds of services and occupations that require licensing; it is not only a way to help regulate business practices but also to raise revenue.


  • Business.gov to click on your state to determine your licensing requirements.
  • SBA for general information about licensing.

Software licenses
When you buy software, you have the right to use it on a set number of computers. If you use it for more than the permissible number, this is software piracy. Software piracy also results when software is copied and used by someone who has not directly purchased the software. Besides the fact that it's illegal (with severe civil and criminal penalties) and unethical to do this, pirated software doesn't have tech support and is vulnerable to malware attacks. 

According to the Business Software Alliance:  "Currently, more than four out of 10 software programs installed on personal computers around the world are pirated. Most of this unauthorized software use occurs in otherwise legal businesses that buy too few software licenses for their employees' computers. The United States, the world's largest software market, could add more than 25,000 jobs, nearly $38 billion in new economic activity and $6.1 billion in tax revenues by reducing piracy 10 points in four years."


  • Adobe provides an overview on software piracy.
  • Business Software Alliance, the voice of the world's software industry, provides news, studies, and information about licensing and software piracy.

IP permission
If you want to use certain protected intellectual property, you may need permission from the property owner. If, for example, you want to use someone's copyrighted work in your sales materials, determine whether you need permission to use it; if so, get that permission. If you want to use a company's design for your product, again permission may be necessary.

What happens to an infringer? Any or all of the following can result:

  • A temporary restraining order or injunction (preliminary or permanent) to prevent or stop infringement can be issued.
  • Actual damages plus additional profits of the infringer or statutory damages can be required.
  • Goods can be seized and even destroyed.
  • Liability can be imposed for injury to business reputation or the dilution in the value of the copyright, patent, or trademark, plus costs and attorneys' fees in some cases.

When in doubt, consult an attorney specializing in intellectual property, which you can find through IntellectualPropertyLawFirms.com and FindLaw.


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