1. Should You File a Provisional Patent Application Before Kickstarter?
2. What to Do Before Launching a Kickstarter Campaign
3. Part One - Protecting Your Patent Rights
4. Part Two - Losing Control of Your Idea
5. Part Three - Losing Your Brand
6. Protect Your Brand for Crowdfunding

Do you need a patent for Kickstarter? Crowdfunding platforms are great resources for start-ups seeking project funding, advertising, receiving community feedback, or determining a market base for their idea. The people backing, or funding, the campaign want to be able to clearly see the path of a project, especially;

  • What your project is, and how it works.
  • How the project will be completed, with as much detail as is possible.
  • The technology being used/created with the project.

This type of information cannot be shared with the public without some sort of patent, though. So where do crowd-funding campaigns fall? Do you need a patent for Kickstarter?

Should You File a Provisional Patent Application Before Kickstarter?

A provisional patent, or a legal document used to present to potential backers, is used to list the project as "patent pending." To file a provisional patent, and show a project's details on Kickstarter, a company can choose a fundraising goal that includes the expense of associated with patenting an idea with USPTO, but in the meantime, a provisional patent can be filed for $130.

What to Do Before Launching a Kickstarter Campaign

Read the terms and conditions for the crowd-funding source. Most often, your intellectual property will not be protected by them, and it's important to understand that there will be inevitable consequences that come with publicly disclosing a project. IP predators are always scouring these platforms, and keeping your idea protected from being stolen by these predators is not a task to be taken lightly.

Part One - Protecting Your Patent Rights

A patent application must be filed within 12 months of releasing your idea publicly in the United States, and it is important to note that starting a campaign on Kickstarter is the start of these 12 months. However, these 12 months shouldn't be considered guaranteed, as the United States is a "First To File" system, which allows the first person to file, rather than the original creator, to be awarded the patent rights. If a start-up lacks the funds to have a patent application created and filed, a temporary provisional patent can be awarded to make the project "patent pending" until the funds are available. Provisional patents are more informal than the full patent and can be utilized for up to one year.

Putting your campaign on Kickstarter should not be equated with disclosing enough that it can be recreated by others in the industry. At a minimum, a provisional patent should be acquired prior to any foreign crowd-funding efforts made. In several Asian and European countries, failure to do this can result in a start-up's inability to file for patent protection.

Worldwide marketing efforts and sales should also include filing for foreign patent protection to protect your idea from being re-created overseas.

Part Two - Losing Control of Your Idea

In traditional investing, non-disclosure agreements are generally used to protect a new business venture. In crowdfunding, however, these agreements are not usually possible. This can increase the risk involved with stolen ideas, which can be stolen by companies who have funding already if they remain unprotected.

In addition to not disclosing too much, it is also important to eliminate any "trade secrets" from your project information that is disclosed and to be aware that user suggestions may not be simply friendly advice.

Comments are usually considered "intellectual property" and therefore cannot be used without the possibility of the commenter owning a piece of the patent. Failure to provide everyone who has a claim to the project in the patent may cause it to be void. If a comment has a particularly good idea, it is considered best practice to consult with a lawyer.

Part Three - Losing Your Brand

While releasing project information on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter is considered launching into the public domain, a catch name or trademark can be a possible risk as well, as the law states that the first person to use a trademark or name owns the rights. However, it is left up to interpretation if this use includes crowdfunding. Because of the risk that someone could get the trademark protection first, it is considered best practice to get the registration for your trademark prior to launching a campaign. As with the patent process, a trademark must be registered in foreign markets as well.

Protect Your Brand for Crowdfunding

  • Be cautious in presenting your brand.
  • Avoid using trademarks.
  • File an ITU (intent to use) application first if necessary.
  • Consider registering your domain before publishing your campaign.

If you need help with filing your patent, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.