How Do I Prevent Someone From Stealing My Idea On KickStarter


7

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.

Ideas Startup Costs Patent Intellectual Property Kickstarter

asked Jan 31 '13 at 07:27
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Annonomus Person
204 points

6 Answers


10

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:

  1. You may have a great idea that can set a market on fire, but that's your opinion.
  2. Objectively validating that idea within market segment(s) makes your idea more valuable.
  3. Determining which market segment (or collection of segments) will actively use (pay) for your idea turns it into a product.
  4. Product demand that generates revenue to sustain operations (or attract funding until such venture becomes profitable) makes your idea a business.

I tend to believe that ideas are just a multiplier of execution.

This is best described by Derek Sivers.. who created the following diagram.

answered Jan 31 '13 at 09:23
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Jim Galley
9,952 points
  • Yea, and that's how VCs you also get a) Brilliant execution and b) Awful idea and end up building pets.com or many other bad businesses. You need both: the idea AND the execution. But I think the idea is more important than the execution because brilliant visionaries are rare but great great executioners are a dime a dozen. – Frenchie 7 years ago
  • :) could argue either way. Would love to own a so-so idea with brilliant execution. Not everything has to be an earth shattering brilliant idea to make good returns to those involved.. if they execute properly. – Jim Galley 7 years ago
  • @frenchie that is a totally ridiculous statement. I see a few great ideas pitched every week. I think you misunderstand what the term execution is if you believe that just about everybody executes. There are a handful of brilliant ideas, and there are a handful of brilliant executioners. Typically, these two fall under the category of highly experienced entrepreneurs. But I'll bet you any day that I could take a so-so idea, and turn it into a $5 mil company, whereas if I gave you a brilliant idea, it would just maybe make it to prototype stage... Hopefully. – Jsksma2 7 years ago
  • I absolutely agree with the diagram posted by @jimg. So let's analyze: A brilliant idea with no execution equals $20, while an awful idea with brilliant execution equals $1mil. I'll go ahead and take my skills at executing, and you can have your 20 bucks... – Jsksma2 7 years ago
  • Well VCs always say that they look for great team so it's safe to say that most VC-backed start-ups have great to brilliant execution skills. And VCs also say that most of these start-ups go nowhere. So I stand by my statement: brilliant visionaries are rare but great great executioners are a dime a dozen. So if the OP has a great to brilliant idea, it's more valuable than an ivy-league MBA with lots of experience. – Frenchie 7 years ago
  • @frenchie sorry to say, but having VC backing doesn't guarantee brilliant execution skills... just like having the best technical solution doesn't guarantee market success. Execution is much more than just coding, just like a breakthrough product is much more than an idea. Both require - many times significant - research, validation, and modification to survive (and hopefully thrive). – Jim Galley 7 years ago
  • Loving that multiplication diagram. – Steve Jones 7 years ago
  • There should be a *big* dumb luck factor in there, too. Companies that get acquired for ridiculous sums simply are not meriting that money in any way other than due to a wildly capricious marketplace; it's a very bizarre time in history that we live in. – Chelonian 7 years ago

8

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.

answered Feb 1 '13 at 03:11
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Gary E
12,510 points
  • +1 excellent point on the prior art. – Jim Galley 7 years ago
  • I never realized this would be a problem. Thanks for the answer. – Annonomus Person 7 years ago
  • AFAIU, Not entirely true, Gary E; For U.S. patents, a patent is barred if "the invention was patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country or in public use or on sale in this country, more than one year prior to the date of the application for patent in the United States." So this means if you "Kickstart" today, you have 364 days before filing your patent. – Chelonian 7 years ago
  • @Chelonian Thanks for that note. But the problem is if my idea doesn't get enough backers I cannot go to an investor in a couple of years and file a patent. This makes me think of a couple of more questions about provisional patents- **To StackExchange "Ask Patents"!!!!!** – Annonomus Person 7 years ago
  • @AnnonomusPerson Just a clarification on what you said: whether you get enough backers on Kickstarter or not, in "a *couple* of years" you technically can't get a patent on it if you described it on Kickstarter; that's Gary E's point. It's become "prior art". My point is there is *one* year's grace period on this. You can look into filing a cheap provisional patent application (currently $150) that will "hold your place" for a year, but you'd need to Kickstart enough the first part of that year to pay for the attorney's fees + nonprovisional patent fees to apply for the real thing later. – Chelonian 7 years ago
  • @AnnonomusPerson Btw, I wonder how eager people will be to be contributing mostly to pay for a patent? At least in the software patent world, the vox populi is not very happy about 'em. I know your idea is not software, though. – Chelonian 7 years ago
  • @Chelonian That was my point. I have to get enough backers. I never thought that people would not back because a portion was for patents; that makes the project manager seem reliable. After looking up costs, I realized the maintenance fees are incredibly higher than the actual filing fee and never realized this. I could see if I had a $300,000 project to have a small percent for filing but I never thought that half of my expenses would be patents, trademarks, and copyrights. I thought it would be $1000 tops for the whole thing. What to do, what to do. – Annonomus Person 7 years ago

6

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.

answered Jan 31 '13 at 07:43
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Jsksma2
189 points
  • I have found that it is much more counter-productive to hide my idea from the world than it is to share it prior to building it. Talk about market validation... There is no formula to creating a successful startup, you can forget about that. As far as differentiating yourself from competitors or not, it depends. My friend walked up to a famous investor at a convention and said I want to build an app that competes with Airbnb, and the investor ended up investing $1mil in his idea. The truth was he had no idea whatsoever, he just knew that competition is good. – Jsksma2 7 years ago
  • Well take a look at this question http://www.brightjourney.com/q/post-hackathon-hack-theft that was asked just today. People say "ideas are cheap" just because that's what everybody says. – Frenchie 7 years ago

2

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...

answered Jan 31 '13 at 08:26
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Frenchie
4,166 points
  • An interesting perceptive... So you are saying I should skip Kickstarter in general and go to one investor? I picked Kickstarter *because* I didn't have any connections besides family/friends and it isn't a good idea to work with family or friends. Also, an investor would want royalties or shares of the product. – Annonomus Person 7 years ago
  • What I'm saying is that for now, you're only at the idea stage and you're most likely NOT going to find an investor. Look at all the other responses you got: "ideas are worthless", "ideas are a dime a dozen". That's what most people think (I don't BTW). So if you want to get funding from Kickstarted or AngelList or some other kind of investor marketplace, you need to have more than an idea. And if an idea is all you have, and it's a good to brilliant idea, then it will be taken, which is what you wanted to avoid in the first place. So I recommend you find another way to get started. – Frenchie 7 years ago
  • I never meant that I would've have a prototype and diagrams and timelines and schematics and so and so- I am deciding whether it would even be a good idea to make a prototype that would cost a fair amount of money. If I cannot protect my idea, why would I start making it? – Annonomus Person 7 years ago
  • Because if you start building a prototype, then you'll have more than an idea and that's when you'll be in a better position to raise money on Kickstarter for instance. Why would it cost money? Is it a manufactured product or a software? If it's software, can't you start building it on your own time? – Frenchie 7 years ago
  • No, it isn't software. [Unfortionatly] Thanks for your time. I learned a lot from everybody. – Annonomus Person 7 years ago

1

I just finished a case study of counterfeits of successful Kickstarter projects.

Here are the key findings.

  • If you are successful on Kickstarter, you will be copied.
  • Counterfeits will show up on sites like Amazon, eBay and Aliexpress in just a few months.
  • The counterfeiters will copy your name, the images from your Kickstarter campaign, your design and your packaging.
  • To get counterfeit listings taken down from Amazon and the other sites, you need a registered trademark and you need to to show the counterfeiters are copying your name.
  • If the counterfeiters change the name, you need a patent and you have to sue the counterfeiters directly.

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.

answered Sep 16 '13 at 11:31
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Mark Nowotarski
11 points
  • While your answer provides valid information, you should disclose that you are a patent attorney and the link is to your patent attorney web site. – Gary E 6 years ago

1

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.

answered Feb 16 '17 at 04:17
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Zane Hovey
11 points

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