Why innovation is peaking in Colorado

Here are four tips to protect your great ideas

Our progressive, innovative business culture is stimulating an “innovation movement” that’s reaching new peaks. Literally! And our mountains and active lifestyle are attracting entrepreneurs with fresh thinking and risk-taking attitude, who are pioneering ideas in local industries, such as computer technology, medical devices, life science, alternative energy and outdoor products. In fact, Colorado is now the 17th most-active, U.S. state for patent application filing.

Why? Coloradans are innovative, progressive and educated. In fact, Colorado is in the top-five of states having the highest percentage of adults, ages 25-64, with a bachelor’s degree (23.2 percent by one measure) and in the top-10 of states with highest percentage of graduate or professional degrees. Colorado’s universities and colleges continue to improve in national rankings and produce quality research and startups.

And, our outdoor culture is also attracting a quality workforce and entrepreneurs with a more adventurous approach to business. People want to live here and will continue to relocate here, start businesses here, and grow industries here. Companies want to move here, as well, as it’s a place where innovative businesses and industries can thrive with the help of a deep pool of motivated and educated workforce.

As this innovation movement increases in Colorado, idea protection is becoming an important part of this innovative cultural shift. Brand names, logos, websites and inventions must be protected from those willing to copy and benefit from the hard work of others.

So when do you want to protect your idea? You want to begin thinking about it immediately — do not wait! Understanding the basics of intellectual property law from the beginning will help you avoid wasting time and money developing a brand or product that is already owned by another. Following are four tips that businesses should consider during the development process:

Privacy. Do not publically discuss your idea or invention until you determine if patent protection is appropriate. For example, until you file a patent application, “your” idea is “everybody’s” idea.

Potential Legal Protection.  There are often many options available to protect you and your company, including its brand and ideas, but that you will commonly wish to pursue protection before your website goes live or you make your first sale. Some examples of common ways to protect your ideas include the following … A registered trademark protects a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes your source of the goods or services. Common trademarks are company or product names. A design patent protects the look and feel of a product. Common design patents relate to the look and feel of your favorite smart phone. A utility patent protects the functionality and use of an invention. Common utility patents relate to a unique process, method, device, composition, or machine that has utility.

Early Assessment. Work with an attorney who practices intellectual property (IP) law. He or she will help you determine what kind of protection you need, if any, and how to best to proceed given your situation. Every company is unique. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. An IP attorney will help you determine whether or not your idea is protectable and how best to protect it. For example, an IP attorney will help you decide whether your proposed company or product name is already a registered trademark or confusingly similar to another’s registered trademark. Addressing this issue early on will help you avoid developing a brand around a mark that is already used and owned by another.

Develop a Plan. If often costs very little money to consult with an IP attorney concerning your ideas and goals. An IP attorney will help you generally understand how your ideas and goals fit within the umbrella of IP law. Once you understand the benefits, limitations and risks associated with when and how to proceed with protecting your brand or idea, you will be able to make an informed decision for your company. For example, filing a patent application today might not make sense, because your idea is still developing; but at least you will understand if a patent application makes strategic sense for your company – in case you wish to file it before your first public disclosure or first offer for sale.   

Colorado is a culture of big ideas, and it’s important to tap into the intellect that’s available here. At the state level, a number of strategies, leadership/entrepreneurial programs and “Startup Weeks” are in place. At the legal level, the importance of IP continues to grow.

We have an exceptional business community and an environment that both inspires and supports it. As this “innovation movement” keeps growing, so do the possibilities. And so does Colorado.


Ryan Fletcher

With a Ph.D. in biochemistry, Ryan Fletcher, attorney at Merchant & Gould, a national intellectual property law firm with clients in the Rocky Mountain Region, brings a deep understanding of science to his clients' patent needs. He enjoys working with companies that develop forward-thinking technology, helping them build and protect their intellectual property assets. Ryan also enjoys Colorado’s outdoor culture through road biking, mountain biking and skiing. He can be reached at rfletcher@merchantgould.com or 303-357-1651. Visit www.merchantgould.com for more information.

Categories: Industry Trends, Tech