I have a great idea for a new product and I am thinking about launching it on Kickstarter, but I have one major problem. I am afraid that someone will steal my product and/or accuse me of stealing "their" product (which I did not do and I would never do). You can't just put up a vague description; you need prototypes, features, specifications, etc. to attract Backers, although I don't need a huge amount of money. ($5,000 at the very most; I doubt I'll need half of that money, but you never know.) I am afraid that if my product gains too much popularity (which is always good except for one thing) that a larger company can see my timeline, etc. and launch a cheaper product faster than I can roll it out and I would loose all of my popularity and efforts in the market. I couldn't sue them because they "had it in the works longer than I did" and I have no proof really. On some posts about speaking with investors, they mentioned an idea is nothing without great execution, but someone may have great execution browsing the web. You open a new door to millions of people and the chances that one of them will try to do something similar is pretty high. I do not have enough money for a patent; that's why I need financial backing for something under $5,000, although some of the money would be for patents and trademarks.
I just thought of this: should I be worrying about someone copying my name? It isn't like Kickstarter takes it down instantly, it could be up for a couple of years, not to mention if anyone posts anything about it on another site. (I'm not saying anybody would but I am paranoid I admit.) I didn't want to post another question that's why I threw this in.
This is still in the works, but I am just thinking theoretically would this be possible to try to do this? Thanks in advance.
Guess I disagree with Frenchie. Or I may agree. Not quite sure.
If the idea lives only in your head, without validation or execution, I would say that its "value" approaches zero.
Consider the following:
I tend to believe that ideas are just a multiplier of execution.
This is best described by Derek Sivers.. who created the following diagram.
Let's summarize: Your question asks How do I prevent someone from stealing my idea on Kickstarter? and then imposes the condition I have no money for a patent.
So you want to go public with your unpatented idea to crowd source funds for a patent application and development. You will probably want to read the Wikipedia entry on Prior Art before you use Kickstarter, and then consult a patent attorney (try a free consult). Basically, if you describe your idea well enough on Kickstarter to get funding, you are creating published prior art on the idea- which rules out obtaining a patent.
So the basic answer to your question, How do I prevent someone from stealing my idea on Kickstarter? is pretty simple. Without first obtaining a patent you can not protect your idea. Anyone can copy it.
I'm going to tell you something that a lot of people who are new to entrepreneurship don't like to hear: Ideas are cheap. Yes, someone could steal your idea, but the truth is that it's not the idea that's valuable. It's about your execution.
When Facebook was first created, it was not the first social media site; it was not even the first anything really. But Zuckerburg & Parker (more Sean Parker) understood exactly how to execute their product so it could be big.
Besides, chances are that out of 6 billion other minds, someone has likely thought of your idea. I think the real answer your looking for out of this question is actually a common piece of advise in the startup world. If you have an idea, it's only going to be an "idea" until you actually do something to create a real value out of it.
Biz dev from Yelp actually talks about this in the iPad and iPhone Development iTunesU course. I think the title is: "Building apps that people want". There he talks about exactly what I just told you.
Best of luck with your idea. And seriously, get off your ass and do something about it! :)
One thing that nobody has touched on yet: You're ability to network and create useful connections. I have been in the startup game long enough to know that your success is not going to be won by yourself. Donald Trump didn't go from rich-broke-rich again because he's smart (because we all know that's a laugh). He did it because he still had the connections.
People will tell you "ideas are a dime a dozen" : I totally disagree. Ideas are a dime a dozen, good ideas are rare and GREAT ideas are far and few between. So if you have a good idea, or even a great idea (the market will actually determine that later), you will not be respected for it because people focus on the execution capabilities. But in reality, at the beginning of it all, there's the idea of the visionary. What does it matter if the execution is great but the initial idea is bad? Those who succeed on that path simply achieve failure.
People focus primarily on the execution, on the know-how; I disagree: what matters more is the know-what, knowing WHAT to do. For instance, knowing how to program is hard but knowing WHAT to program is even harder. And people who poo-poo ideas are usually a) bad visionaries and b) looking for great ideas.
So, if you are a visionary that's awesome, but it will not be enough. You must also be able to build the business out of your ideas. Don't get me wrong, execution is critical: you need to put a business together and then make it scale. Provided that you start out with a great idea, great execution IS what will make or break your business. For instance, at the moment you need resources, and you need to execute on getting them. But I think that if you go on KickStarter and share your great ideas you will not get anything because people will not respect you just for your ideas. And if people think your idea is actually good, some will take it and there's nothing you can do to prevent that. So at the stage you're in, I recommend you figure out another way to get the resources you need because there's just no way to prevent intellectual property theft. And I'm sure that happens...
I just finished a case study of counterfeits of successful Kickstarter projects.
Here are the key findings.
I'm in the processs of publishing my findings. f you would like a copy of the study when it's published, contact me through my profile.
All of these people talking about how patents are the answer, I'm sorry, but for most people, a patent absolutely worthless unless they've got the money to litigate it. To make matters worse, patent lawsuits are THE most expensive lawsuits to litigate. Additionally, a patent is not going to stop China from copying your idea unless you think you've got enough pull to motivate the federal government to levy sanctions on China. Finally, unless you're a Ph.D. working at the atomic level, chances are, you don't really have a patentable idea. In fact, you're actually taking ideas from others. Take the selfie stick debacle. They were putting two obvious existing ideas together. ANYONE can get a patent, but that does NOT mean that it's valid. Not many people know this, but getting a patent opens you up to liability. You could get hit with "patent invalidity" suit that put YOU in the hot-seat coughing up millions with nothing to gain.
The bottom line is, anyone can copy you, with or without a patent. Ideas are hard. Execution is hard. The whole thing is very challenging, but you don't have to sell your idea to billions, only a few hundred thousand is enough to retire on. Focus on your brand. You are in control of it, build it from the ground up. Anyone can buy a copycat, but what is it about your brand that makes it unique? You are in complete control of that image. If you believe in it, so will your customers. Here's an example. I can buy a $.05 cheap pencil, however, I chose to buy the much more expensive Staedtler pencils. I like the quality, the color, the smoothness of the point, the awesome eraser, heck, even the name looks cool. Those value-added features and core values are built into their brand and I stand by their products 100%. No amount discounting is going to convince me otherwise. THAT is the brand I will always look for, even if it costs 10x more.
People want the story, the background, they want to believe in your product too. Building your brand can be a simple concept, yet at the same time, the most powerful tool you have.