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Denver Business and Commercial Law Blog

Starting up on the right foot

Entrepreneurs living in Colorado are often excited about building new businesses. As many people know, however, startups can be prone to failure as their leadership navigates the pitfalls of precarious cash flow, a new client base and hiring an effective team. As a result, even talented business owners may find themselves struggling to keep their companies afloat.

Perhaps the most significant pitfall for owners is that of failing to put an effective business plan in place. Unfortunately, this can result in the poor execution of a business concept, underfunding and wasted resources. Working with a business plan professional can help an entrepreneur understand what to expect when launching a startup.

Cannabis a growing battleground in IP law

Cannabis developers and companies might be able to protect their intellectual property by pursuing plant patents, according to one Colorado registered patent agent. The strategy is largely overlooked, at least in part because the cannabis is still a Schedule 1 controlled substance in the eyes of the federal government, making it considerably more difficult to secure patent protection from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A plant patent lasts for a period of 20 years, like a utility patent, and protects every part of the relevant plant, including the seeds.

This prevents large corporate agriculture companies from ripping off smaller companies because they would be required to pay licensing fees for each of the patented seeds they sell. There have been cases in which plant patents were granted for cannabis. In 2016, for example, the USPTO issued a patent for a sativa strain originating in Ecuador. Since then, seven or eight predominantly CBD-heavy strains have received patents.

Business startup financing often comes with a catch

Securing startup capital is a major hurdle for entrepreneurs in Colorado, even when their plans seem sound and their ideas are good. High street banks follow strict underwriting guidelines that make borrowing a challenge for entrepreneurs who cannot provide a track record. Even loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration can be difficult to qualify for unless the applicant has collateral to put up and an excellent credit history.

Personal savings, friends and family members are common sources of new business seed capital, but this type of borrowing involves taking on a different type of risk. If the commercial venture fails or does not perform as well as expected, entrepreneurs who have exhausted their savings or borrowed from loved ones could find themselves financially vulnerable or shunned. The online crowdfunding offered by websites like Kickstarter allows entrepreneurs to obtain startup funds from the general public, but the marketplace is crowded and ideas that are not newsworthy or novel may struggle to attract attention.

Did your pregnancy lead to unexpected discrimination at work?

Having a child or even multiple children may have been a dream of yours since you were a young girl. You likely looked forward to motherhood and all the joys and difficulties that would come with it. What you may not have expected, however, was to face difficulties at your place of employment.

You may have anticipated needing to change the way you worked because of your pregnancy. After all, you may not be able to lift a certain amount of weight or perform other duties that could put you or your unborn baby at risk. Though the Pregnancy Discrimination Act works to prevent unfair treatment in the workplace due to pregnancy and its related issues, you may still have been a victim.

How to succeed as an entrepreneur

Starting a company in Colorado or any other state can be a risky thing to do. However, this can be seen as a good thing as startups are generally considered to be experiments designed to push forward new ideas. Roughly half of all startups fail to make it to their fourth year, and this is partially because of poor planning on the owner's part. Business owners who start companies tend to be young, which means that they lack the experience necessary to run a successful company.

Another reason why new companies tend to fail is that there is little margin for error. When a small company makes a mistake, there often isn't enough money to recover from it. To succeed as an entrepreneur, it is important to choose a market that is primed for growth in the near future. From there, it is generally a good idea to find a niche within that industry and start gaining market share quickly.

How to have a successful merger

Those who own companies that operate in Colorado or anywhere else need to have a vision for their organizations. In some cases, this vision may include acquiring other companies to help it grow or otherwise meet its goals. However, it is generally not enough to simply acquire a new company and expect good things to happen. According to one study, 83% of acquisitions failed to yield positive results.

Therefore, buying or merging with another company has to be done strategically for it to be a worthwhile endeavor. For instance, companies that are in the service industry may want to look to acquire other companies that specialize in improving a customer's experience. Companies that produce goods may want to look to buy other companies that can help make it easier to produce them in less time and at a lower cost.

New study highlights trends in ageism

As ageism continues to be a major problem in several industries, it is important to compare and contrast as much research on the subject so we can make the workplace safer for several older Colorado workers. Recently, a career site for women surveyed 1,000 people over 40 years old to observe the current state of the issue and if there were any major differences between men and women.

They found that around 70 percent of the respondents have not personally experienced ageism at work and that the percentages were nearly equal between both genders. While that sounds encouraging, their percentages for those who observed ageism was almost split, and it doesn’t have as much respondents as the AARP survey last year that found nearly 61 percent of people 45 and older observe or experience age discrimination.

PayPal launches trademark lawsuit against loan company

Many people in Colorado use online payment systems like PayPal and Venmo to transfer money or make purchases. Now PayPal is accusing a loan company of infringing its trademarks with its brand, Lenmo. Lenmo, described as a peer-to-peer lending startup, is far less well-known than PayPal or its Venmo brand. PayPal says that Lenmo obviously intended to benefit from the popularity and fame of Venmo without any connection to the company. In addition, it argues that consumers may even believe that Lenmo is a part of Venmo or PayPal due to the similarities in their names.

While money transfers and easy online purchases are perhaps the best-known parts of PayPal services, the company also offers credit and even loans to its customers, putting it in direct competition with Lenmo. PayPal spends a lot to publicize its own brand name and that of Venmo. In the second quarter of 2019 alone, the company spent $356 million on marketing, an increase of nearly $50 million over the year before. PayPal's trademark infringement lawsuit says that Lenmo wants to profit from PayPal's work and expenses, and it is requesting an injunction against use of the name as well as monetary damages.

Amazon faces trademark infringement lawsuit

Amazon Prime trucks deliver products throughout Colorado and the rest of the country. The service may be so popular that it's having a negative impact on the similarly named trucking company Prime Inc. On July 2, Prime Inc. filed a lawsuit against Amazon in a Missouri federal court for trademark infringement.

The lawsuit says that Prime Inc. notified Amazon in writing about the infringement more than two years earlier. Prime Inc. also started proceedings at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. In the lawsuit, the trucking company states that Amazon started using the Prime logo on its trucks in 2016 or 2017. This was more than four decades after Prime Inc. began using the name. While the Amazon Prime uses different fonts and stylings, an attorney at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office says that the word is the dominant characteristic of the trademark and carries the most weight.

Trademark settlement restores historic park names

Colorado fans of Yosemite National Park may be pleased to know that historic sites at the national park are reclaiming their names after a lawsuit was settled. A former concession operator at the park sued the National Park Service in September 2015. The operator claimed that the park service was infringing its trade names and trademarks. As a result, the Ahwahnee Hotel was renamed the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Other sites also received new names: Curry Village was called Half Dome Village, and the Wawona Hotel was rechristened Big Trees Lodge. Even some of the park's ski areas took on new names during the pending litigation.

On July 15, the National Park Service agreed to a $12 million trademark litigation settlement with the former concessionaire, leaving the service free to use the sites' original names once again. A spokesperson for the park said that they were looking forward to using the names, which have an emotional resonance with many park visitors. During the lawsuit, temporary signs were erected over the original signs at the park with the new names. While the old names were covered up, they were not removed. Park officials removed the covers as soon as the settlement was announced. On the other hand, road signs, websites and directories will take longer for updates.

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