Kickstarter is the home of ideas and innovation, a place where people go to find the next life-changing gadget or simply browse to see what kind of weird and wonderful things inventors are coming up with. But with so many original ideas all in one easily accessible place, what prevents the ideas from being stolen?
The simple answer is “not much.” Like a lot of ideas and creative works that are put out online, there’s not very much people can do to stop others from lifting them and tweaking them (or outright copying them) for their own benefit. Kickstarter seems especially vulnerable given that people with projects on there have to give as many details as possible to attract backing.
Kickstarter’s own (short) advice on the subject is:
“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 any information about your project online, you may want to seek legal counsel.”
The difficulties of legal action
Kickstarter is right to say that, ultimately, legal action is the only real recourse. But realistically, who actually goes through the hassle and expense of legal proceedings, especially if there is an international element involved. Unless you’re a huge company with a team of hot shot lawyers and money to burn, you’re not going to start an international legal battle because somebody copied your innovative pan set (for example).
There have been multiple reports of Kickstarter ideas being copied by Chinese manufacturers who make the products very efficiently and quickly and send them out even before the original. U.S. patents have no effect in international jurisdictions, and in any case patents have become so hard to obtain that a lot of indie inventors are not able to get them.
One example of an idea being copied is the Fidget Cube, a very successful Kickstarer project that was reproduced as the Stress Cube, making the producers of the copied tech very rich. And probably making the original inventors very stressed and fidgety.
The only real positive for Kickstarter entrepreneurs is that if their idea is being successfully ripped off, it’s probably because the idea is a good one and they will eventually get success of their own. Better to make a good product that gets copied than a bad one that gets no backing. Or…in rare cases…be so much of a genius that nobody can figure out how you did what you did.
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