Should I Patent My Idea Before Kickstarter?

Rich Goldstein

Founder & Principal Patent Attorney
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Discovering innovative ideas worldwide, some life-changing, others forgotten, presents challenges in bringing them to fruition. Having used crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter.com myself, I have found they provide marketing and financing opportunities. However, pre-patent protection leaves ideas vulnerable. 

This guide offers expert insights on patenting before Kickstarter to safeguard intellectual property rights.

Should I Patent My Idea Before Kickstarter?

It depends. Patenting your idea can help protect it from theft and imitation, but it can also make your project less appealing to backers. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to patent your idea before Kickstarter is a complex one that you should make on a case-by-case basis.

Here are some additional points to consider when making your decision:

  • The type of invention you are developing. Some inventions are more likely to be patented than others. For example, novel, non-obvious, and practical inventions are more likely to be patentable.
  • The competition in your field. If there are already a lot of similar products on the market, patenting your invention may not be as important.
  • Your budget. Patenting an invention can be expensive, so you must ensure you can afford it.
  • Your risk tolerance. If you are concerned about stealing or imitating your invention, patenting may be a good option.

Determining whether you should patent an idea before launching on Kickstarter is essential. By applying for patent protection, you can safeguard your invention from imitation and theft. This can, in turn, provide a strong foundation for the crowdfunding campaign and gives a better chance of future market success. 

When applying for patent protection, I advise you seek professional help from a patent attorney. They can then work with you through the patent process to make an informed decision based on your specific situation.

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Is a Patent Necessary for Launching a Kickstarter Campaign?

Before you launch a Kickstarter campaign, it is highly recommended to obtain a patent for your idea. Doing so can help you avoid theft and unlawful imitations. To achieve a patent, you will first need to file a provisional patent application with the aid of a patent attorney. Do so before any public disclosure of the idea.

Building relationships with project collaborators can further safeguard your concept. This can involve agreements with companies to work alongside you and help market and sell your invention. It also helps protect your brand from being copied. 

It is recommended you include intellectual property and trade secrets in your Kickstarter campaign to protect your intellectual property in case of a patent application rejection. 

Can Ideas Be Stolen From Kickstarter?

Ideas on Kickstarter can potentially be stolen, as the platform exposes projects to a wide audience. Patenting and protecting your idea before launching on Kickstarter can help safeguard it from theft or imitation. Building relationships with collaborators can also offer additional protection against idea theft.

According to Kickstarter

“Transparency is an essential part of Kickstarter. Being open about your project’s status, and sharing ideas with your backers, is a powerful community-building tool for project creators.”

If you have any concerns about sharing your ideas on Kickstarter, the platform advises you to seek professional legal help in the form of a patent attorney.

Kickstarter Copyright and Trademark Policy

Kickstarter’s copyright policy covers reporting infringement and DMCA takedown notices. If someone infringes these rights, they can face consequences and legal action. There is also a report stating how Kickstarter manages legal matters.

Although rare, some claims have been made on certain projects under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, affecting some Kickstarter campaigns. Using copyright-clear and licensed material in promotional videos is crucial for a Kickstarter success. All in all, the Kickstarter Copyright Policy ensures inventors have a robust defense in the face of any legal action. 

You also need to ensure your brand is legally protected before advertising on Kickstarter. Uniqueness is critical when it comes to Kickstarter’s Trademark Policy. This ensures brands are legally protected. Therefore, you should:

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Preparation Steps Before Launching Your Crowdfunding Project

Certain details surrounding your product or project need to be divulged when publishing a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. However, if too many details are shared, this could be regarded as public disclosure of the invention.

In some regions, you must file for a patent application at a patent office before disclosing any information in relation to your invention. After all, Kickstarter audiences are generally very large, so ideas can be exposed to millions. This is why it is vital you file a patent protection application. In turn, this can help safeguard your invention across foreign markets, too. 

Overseeing Your Kickstarter Project Carefully

There are steps you should take to ensure you maintain complete control over your product or project when starting a crowdfunding campaign. Let’s explore the main steps here:

  • Avoid disclosing too many details or trade secrets about your project on crowdfunding platforms.
  • Be cautious with using suggestions or comments from backers, as ownership rights may be unclear.
  • Ensure all inventors are named in the provisional patent application to avoid disputes over ownership.
  • Check the terms of your crowdfunding platform to understand how ideas and suggestions from backers are treated.
  • Register your brand name as a trademark before launching your crowdfunding campaign to establish ownership.
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Patents and Kickstarter Campaigns – Important Stats 

Here are some interesting statistics about patenting and Kickstarter campaigns:

  • Funding works in an all-or-nothing manner. Around 9% of projects end without receiving any pledges. However, 79% of projects that raise over 20% of their goal succeed in getting fully funded.
  • Of the projects that do reach their funding goals, only about 10% of them have patents. While this means that patents are not essential for success on Kickstarter, they can help to increase your chances of success.
  • There is a “patent paradox in crowdfunding. This means that projects that disclose that they have patents are actually less likely to be successful than projects that do not disclose their patent status. This is because backers may perceive patents as a sign that the project is too risky or that the inventor is not willing to share their technology.

Here are some possible explanations for the patent paradox:

  • Backers may perceive patents as a sign that the project is too risky. This is because patents can be expensive to enforce, and they can also be challenged in court. Backers may be hesitant to invest in a project that they feel is too risky.
  • Backers may perceive patents as a sign that the inventor is not willing to share their technology. This is because patents give the inventor the exclusive right to make, use, sell, and import their invention. Backers may be hesitant to invest in a project if they feel that the inventor is not willing to share their technology with the community.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to patent a product before launching a Kickstarter campaign is a complex one. There are both pros and cons to consider, and the best decision for you will depend on your specific circumstances.

Launching a Kickstarter Campaign Without a Patent – What to Do

It is possible to file a provisional patent application after a Kickstarter campaign has been launched. In some circumstances, a grace period of one year is granted by the America Invents Act. Nevertheless, this is not always applicable for everyone.

If you have not yet filed a patent application yet and have already gone public or started selling your invention, I recommend you try and submit a provisional patent application within a year. 

Additional Questions 

How Can You Protect Ideas on Kickstarter?

To protect ideas on Kickstarter, you need to:

  • Avoid revealing sensitive details or trade secrets regarding the invention/idea.
  • Be cautious when you are using suggestions from backers, as ownership rights may be unclear. 
  • Consider filing for provisional patents or trademarks before launching the funding campaign. Therefore, you stand the best chance of establishing ownership and protecting your intellectual property.

What Happens if You Do Not Patent an Idea Before a Kickstarter Campaign? 

If you do not patent an idea before a Kickstarter campaign, you will miss out on being the official owner of the invention. You won’t be able to charge a license fee to anyone who wishes to use your technology. Also, licensing, as well as selling the product, may become almost impossible. In addition, your idea becomes vulnerable to theft and imitation from others without a patent.

Can I Go to Kickstarter With Just an Idea?

You can not go to Kickstarter with just an idea. If you wish to use Kickstarter to raise funds for a new product, you will require a prototype, so potential backers can see it. Currently, Kickstarter only permits projects for devices and new products with an existing prototype.

Conclusion

Patenting your idea before launching a Kickstarter campaign can help protect it from theft and imitation. However, there is a “patent paradox” in crowdfunding, where projects that disclose that they have patents are actually less likely to be successful. Ultimately, the decision of whether to patent your product before launching a Kickstarter campaign is a complex one.

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