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Protecting a company's intellectual property

Some of the most valuable assets that are owned by Colorado companies fall under the category of intellectual property, or IP. There are four different kinds of IP, and a company may need to take action to protect all of them. Copyrights, trademarks, patents and trade secrets can all be protected with legal licenses and an IP management plan.

Companies that sell original creative works such as written material, software code and artwork can obtain copyrights to protect the IP from unauthorized use. Registered trademarks are used to protect a company's business, product and service names as well as the company's advertising slogans and branding designs. To protect inventions, a company will need to secure patents. Trade secrets are confidential items like secret formulas, business plans and customer lists, and a company must protect these items by only disclosing them on a 'need to know" basis.

Part of a company's IP management plan should address how the company handles the potential misuse of its IP. When a company becomes aware that one of its trademarks or copyrights has been infringed, it can send a 'cease and desist" letter to the infringing party and then pursue litigation if necessary. A company may also develop a discipline policy for employees that misuse IP.

Not all copyright and trademark infringement incidents have to be litigated, and many of these kinds of problems can be resolved outside of court. A company that believes a competitor is misusing some of its IP may want to work with a lawyer to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. In some cases, a company will pursue financial compensation from a competitor for the misuse of its trademarks or patents.

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