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Avoid accidental intellectual property infringement

As an entrepreneur, you are full of good ideas -- but it's important to do some research before you move ahead with those ideas. That's the only way to avoid accidentally infringing on someone else's good idea.

Accidental infringement of intellectual property happens all the time. Unfortunately, it can end up costing your budding company a lot of lost time, effort and money if it ends up in litigation -- or you get a cease and desist letter and have to start over with a whole new logo, slogan or product. Here's how to avoid the issue:

Research everything

Whether you're designing a logo, starting a slogan or trying to crowdfund a wonderful invention, spend some time researching copyrights and patents in the same field and related fields. You need to make certain that your idea isn't already out there as another person's intellectual property.

Make good use of contracts

There's a tremendous amount of labor being done by freelancers in just about any industry. Make sure that you carefully contract for the work of any freelancers you use for creative purposes -- whether it involves graphics, coding or written content. Ownership of their work won't transfer to you or your company unless you specifically contract for it.

Get help understanding the rules

Intellectual property rules can be difficult to follow and confusing. While you always want to read through a license or contract yourself, it's often wisest to hire an attorney who handles intellectual property law to make sure that you understand exactly what your rights are. This is particularly true if you're being threatened with litigation over intellectual property right infringement by another company or individual.

Protecting intellectual property rights is everyone's responsibility. You contribute to a culture of respect and intellectual property safety by making sure that you don't violate someone else's rights -- even by accident.

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