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How startups should handle intellectual property

Colorado entrepreneurs who are starting new ventures must take steps to identify and protect their intellectual property. They should keep in mind that IP is more than just the product they are developing. It may also include logos, website copy, taglines and other assets. The best way to make sure that all intellectual property is identified is to list all creative assets and then consider whether each one needs protection.

Next, it is necessary to make sure that none of these assets infringe on existing IP belonging to another company. Business owners can search the databases of the U.S. Copyright Office and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office before filing for registration. The paperwork itself can be complex, and errors can be costly to fix. Therefore, business owners might want to consult an attorney. An attorney may also be helpful in drawing up agreements that ensure that the intellectual property created belongs to the startup. Failing to address this may also be expensive and time-consuming in the long run.

Once IP is identified and registered and employment agreements are in place, the IP still must be managed, and this is an ongoing process. It is necessary to periodically do searches to be sure that others are not infringing on it and to act if they are. Any new intellectual property the company develops must also be protected.

If a startup does encounter a situation in which another party is infringing upon its IP, an attorney may be able to advise regarding how to respond. In many cases, the first step is to contact the company or individual before escalating. An attorney may also be helpful if a startup is accused of infringing on the IP of another company. There are many other reasons a new startup might wish to work with an attorney including issues around entity formation, contracts and leases.

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