Patent Accessibility for Small Business Owners

Patent Accessibility for Small Business Owners

Patents and the Small Business Owner

While some people launching a small business for the first time might not have legal help at the top of their mind, most everyone would agree that even thinking about pursuing a patent means it’s time to call an attorney. While your lawyer will probably agree that legal advice is a good idea when it comes to patent applications, there are things you can do on your own in the early stages.

Legal Help When You Need It

Giant corporations can afford to keep attorneys on staff or on retainer. If you’re a small business owner, you probably have to budget carefully for legal advice. The good news is there is a great deal of free information and support available from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USTPO). They offer good early planning advice and ideas that can be a big help to hopeful entrepreneurs considering a patent. If this describes you, check out the Getting Started section of their website that includes a patent basics section with good information on Types of Patent Applications, Process Overview, Using Legal Services, and Inventor Resources.

However, much of the material is written for lawyers, not laymen. For example, you can download the 36 page guide to filing a design patent, but you may be dismayed by the opening paragraph:

Since a design is manifested in appearance, the subject matter of a design patent application may relate to the configuration or shape of an article, to the surface ornamentation applied to an article, or to the combination of configuration and surface ornamentation.

Huh? Not to worry! There is plenty of simple, straight forward advice on researching your business idea to see if someone already holds a trademark, copyright, or patent on it. And while you may not yet be entirely clear about what type of patent you are filing for, the USTPO has a good FAQ page where you can start to explore the possibility of obtaining a patent for your idea. Here are a couple of tips from the FAQ section you will want to consider:

1. Avoid Being Scammed
The USTPO recommends that you check on the reputation of an invention promotion firm before engaging one to help you in the patent process – something you can do easily online or on their website.

2. Get Help from the IAC
The Inventors Assistance Center (IAC) provides patent information and services to the public and is staffed by former Supervisory Patent Examiners, experienced Primary Patent Examiners, various intellectual property specialists and attorneys who can answer general questions (but cannot give legal advice).

How to Contact the IAC
Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:30 AM – 8:00 PM (ET), except federal holidays
Toll-free: 800-PTO-9199 (800-786-9199)
Local: 571-272-1000
TDD/TTY customers can dial 800-877-8339 for customer assistance

Greater Clarity, Better Service

While the patent process is complicated, the USTPO has recently launched the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative (EPQI) to strengthen their “work products, processes, services, and how we measure patent quality at all stages of the patent process.” While this may not translate into an immediate do-it-yourself model for patent applications, it does have Denver-area intellectual property lawyers hopeful about a more streamlined process, including more affordable alternatives to the appeals process.

Can a Denver Small Business Lawyer Help?

Patent law is highly specialized and not part of the practice for any small business attorneys that I know of in Denver. However, when it is time to hire a patent attorney, I can refer you. Meanwhile, if I can help you draft company documents, review your online legal standing, or decide on the right language for an employment contract, you can reach me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis PC, home of your Denver Business Lawyer: 720-258-6647 or email me at Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com.

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney
3773 Cherry Creek North Drive, Suite 575
Denver, CO 80209
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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Denver Startup Week is for You

Nirvana for the Denver Small Business Owner

Ever wondered what goes on at the Denver Startup Week, and if you should attend? Powered by the local community, Denver Startup Week is “[t]he largest event of its kind in North America, [and] is the summit of entrepreneurial energy, innovation, and connection.” And it’s free!

Because the mission of Denver Startup Week is “to foster an environment where every member of a team, in every industry, can come to learn, grow, and prepare for their next challenge,” organizers are careful to include a broad variety of topics and business models. If you’ve already got your new business startup list (even if it’s just in your head), or you are an established small business owner and you want to learn more about tech, design, DIY-making, marketing, or leadership, there will be good information available for you and your team.

Education for Business Owners

At Denver Startup Week, you won’t just get advice on achieving balance between work and life: the event offers good education on a variety of topics and is designed around tracks. The tracks are based on the role you play in your business; founder, developer, designer, marketer, maker, etc. If you wear several hats, you can wear them all during Denver Startup Week.

Startup Week Tracks

FOUNDER
Whether you’re just dreaming about starting a business, on your first, or a seasoned entrepreneur, the founder track will provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to found a company. Initial product development, go-to-market strategies, finding funding, and building a team are just some of the topics that are covered. Start down the path of creating your startup!

DEVELOPER
Frontend, backend, full stack, big data, APIs, architecture, methodologies, junior, senior, we have it all. Learn new technologies, refine your skills, or just check out something completely different. Walk away a better engineer than you were before!

GROWTH
No matter how good it is, no product sells itself. A team that markets, sells, and supports the product well is a huge advantage for any startup. Every aspect of digital marketing, inbound and outbound sales, and customer experience is going to be covered at Denver Startup Week. Growing a startup depends on these skills, don’t miss your chance to improve them!

PRODUCT
Product management, development, and marketing, all different sides of the same coin that somehow bridges the gap between building the product and delivering it to the market. Product skills are in huge demand but there aren’t very many places where you can go to acquire them. Come improve your product game at Denver Startup Week!

DESIGNER
Seeing things others do not see is an art and our design track is packed with creative outlets to expand your thinking and ability to design. From fashion to architecture to breakout digital design and artwork – the design track is focused on the critical elements of design. Learn new skills, hear from those responsible for some of the best projects in Colorado, and let your creative juices flow. Enjoy connecting with fellow design leaders and leave the week with fresh inspiration!

MAKER
From craft skis to craft beer, robots to 3D printing – the experience of ‘making’ physical products is totally unique. Through the lens of physical goods across multiple industries, hear the stories behind breakout brands, learn about new technologies in manufacturing, and dig into the micro-production concepts needed to get started. Connect with the best craftsmen and makers in Colorado and see how they create their work – all in one week!

Still wondering if you’ll find something useful for your business? Take a look at some of what’s available from last year’s event. You will learn something new from Chris Frank’s presentation, The Art and Science of Finding Customers for Your Startup, within the first five minutes of his video, and that was last year! In fact, several excellent past presentations that are well worth your time can be found on the website.

The excitement, energy, and renewed vision that the event generates for local business owners and hopeful entrepreneurs who are testing the waters could easily produce an uptick in the GDP! If your business could use a little uptick, or a big boost, make sure you make the time to be at Denver Startup Week 2016. If you need startup legal help, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney
3773 Cherry Creek North Drive, Suite 575
Denver, CO 80209
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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Outdoor Recreation Business Is Heating Up in Colorado

It’s no surprise that Colorado is a destination for some of the greatest skiing and snowboarding on the planet. What’s changing though is the increase in emphasis on other types of seasonal recreation in our state. The Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) has formed what they call the “Colorado Tourism Roadmap“, and some of the main objectives are to get the input of locations throughout the state and develop marketing campaigns aimed at drawing visitors of all kinds to Colorado. While some of the strategy is to tap into the obvious and abundant natural resources in certain areas of the state, the purpose for CTO is to market cross-region experiences for both in-state and out-of-state travelers. More travel equals more spending and tax dollars into the state’s coffers, as evidenced by the last few years data. According to recent numbers, Colorado leads most states when it comes to the outdoor industry, boasting $646 billion dollars in business.

Key in that has success has been the development of jobs surrounding the outdoor industry, and leading the charge to make sure that happens is the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (CORIA). Established in 2015 the mission is not only to help with economic development, but to help promote stewardship, conservation and sustainability in the use of Colorado’s natural resources. CORIA’s mission is to try and both keep and attract outdoor industry businesses in Colorado. In their words, “We champion industry, communities and people to come to life through Colorado’s Great Outdoors.” Another area of concern is how to slow the departure of businesses, as some outdoor businesses and organizations have left Colorado for Utah, and CORIA is in part responsible for being an ambassador for the outdoor industry in Colorado; part of that work is to show how Colorado is a better option to over our neighbors in the Beehive State.

With these initiatives working in tandem, it goes to show that Colorado is well-positioned to be an attractive location for businesses who run in the outdoor industry space, for both existing companies and those considering making Colorado their home. Something that should work in the favor of those businesses is proposed legislation that could streamline the permitting process that exists now. If passed, the bill would create a special designation for certain prized recreation spots, and in turn, that means support businesses would be able to come into existence to offer provisions, equipment and even accommodations. Colorado is already home to a very strong manufacturing culture, so it’s doubly positioned to provide both the facilities and the workforce to support such industry, should it either come from elsewhere or be spawned locally because of outdoor industry’s growth. Either way, the time is right for small business to make it big in the outdoor industry and at the same time, help continue to grow the Colorado economy.

If you need legal help, don’t hesitate to contact me at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com.

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney
3773 Cherry Creek North Drive, Suite 575
Denver, CO 80209
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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Colorado’s Cottage Food Industry Grows Stronger

For a small business owner looking to test the waters of entrepreneurship in the food industry, the cottage foods industry option might be just the thing. You might ask, “What are cottage foods?“, and for that, we can consult with the Act itself, but it’s largely limited to a variety of foods that are prepared in such as way as to not require refrigeration and must be sold directly to consumers, versus restaurants or grocery stores. Additionally, the sales of such items must take place at the producer’s location, or at a farmer’s market or other similar community-supported event/venue that deals directly with consumers. Think back to the time where you bought a jar of specialty jam or pickles at your local farmer’s market, and you were most likely supporting a cottage food producer.

When the Senate Bill 12-048 (or the Colorado Cottage Foods Act) was enacted, a cap on the amount of sales permitted under the act made it difficult for a producer to scale up as they needed, should their micro-business experience rapid growth. An additional issue was the short list of approved items, which seemed slightly thin on the variety of products available for making. In 2015, things changed under a few amendments, designed to lift that sales cap and also provide for a greater range of allowed products.

Amendments House Bills 15-085 and 15-1102 improved the original Act to increase items permitted and when a few steps further into defining the products by use of tiers. Those tiers are broken down into the following configurations:

–Tier One Foods: Spices, teas, dehydrated produce, nuts, seeds, honey, jams, jellies, preserves, fruit butter, flour, and baked goods, which include candies, tortillas, and fruit emapanadas.

–Tier Two Foods: Pickled vegetables which have an equilibrium PH value of 4.6 or lower, and other non-hazardous foods. For example, sales are permitted of eggs to a level of 250 per month, so backyard chicken owners might be able to sell a bit of their overflow.

These provisions expand the diversity of available cottage food items for consumers, as well as extend the opportunities for people producing them. Along with these provisions, House Bill 15-1102 addresses the labeling of such products, so consumers are aware of the production classification and its production source, so consumers can easily identify they are purchasing items produced in a home kitchen, versus an industrial site.

While it might seem like the cottage food industry is “small potatoes”, one need only look at a company like Boulder County-based Celestial Seasonings to get the inspiration they need to take their product from their kitchen to a large-scale facility. Starting back in 1969, founder Mo Siegel was hand-picking wild herbs in our local mountains and creating their very first tea, and today, their product line has expanded dramatically to more than 105 varieties of tea, with ingredients being sourced from over 35 countries.

If starting a cottage food industry is something you are considering, keep in mind there are some trainings the state offers in order to make sure you are adhering to strict purity and production standards, as well as making sure you’re compliant as possible with state regulations surrounding your product(s).

If you need legal help, don’t hesitate to contact me at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com.

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney
3773 Cherry Creek North Drive, Suite 575
Denver, CO 80209
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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Denver’s Housing Crunch and The Impact on Small Business

News of Denver’s housing crunch isn’t really anything new, as reports of the housing shortage have been in the spotlight for the last few years. What is new is the toll it’s taking on small businesses and the employees that work for them. Current figures estimate Colorado grew by as much as 101,000 residents during the previous 12 months, and with growth like that, jobs and the competition to get them is fierce.

Live, Work, but Where?
With such explosive population numbers, housing becomes a greater concern, as most people prefer to work close to where they live, but as people try to find a place to live, low inventory of properties both for rent and purchase, there are often more people than places to house them. Home-seekers are pushed further and further from the metro in order to locate the housing they need, and this can sometimes drive those same people to chose work that is closer to their new residence. For small businesses, this can spell trouble because the talent they need might now reside too far away to make the drive worth it. This can breed some competition for the employee, and create a type of “wage bidding war”, but not all small businesses are ready for the fight and have to stick close to their compensation budgets to maintain steady footing themselves.

Talent Gap
And speaking of talent, a recent CU-Boulder survey indicated that Colorado businesses overall are concerned about a talent shortage, meaning there appears to be a lack of skilled employees for small businesses to choose from, even though there are a great deal of people entering the state. This means companies will be challenged to do more things than usual to both acquire and keep the best hires for their needs.

The talent shortage cuts across many industries, including tech, as well as construction and medical. However, it’s not all bleak; economic forecasts point to another strong year of job growth, which will continue to help Colorado enjoy unemployment rates and decreased consumer inflation.

A Different Kind of Competition
Despite the pressing issues of housing and a talent gap, small businesses in the Denver area are also presented with a unique opportunity; they can leverage to get the people they want, while at the same time out-witting their competition. Because people aren’t always motivated by just money, employers have a chance to offer other things that could attract the ideal hire. People cite the “Work/Life Balance” as something that drives them towards certain opportunities, as well as versatile framework in which to get the work done. Employers can offer work-from-home or flextime schedules, on-site daycare, and a host of other perks that might help them secure just the perfect next hire. Small businesses that can tap into some of the intrinsic needs of their employees will inevitably be the ones that entice the right people to work for them, even if they have to live out in the suburbs.

If you need legal help, don’t hesitate to contact me at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com.

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney
3773 Cherry Creek North Drive, Suite 575
Denver, CO 80209
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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