Crowdfunding is an option to fund projects through an online platform. While crowdfunding is becoming an increasingly popular platform to pitch ideas, raise money and create buzz around your new idea, it also exposes your idea to a large public audience. This article covers three reasons why you should consider patenting your idea to protect your intellectual property before you seek to crowdfund.
1. Curiosity Killed the (Copy)cat
The success of a crowdfunding campaign depends on a variety of factors, one of which is how much publicity your idea generates. The more publicity, the likelihood of more funding and campaign backers. However, this is a double-edged sword – you also risk imitators copying your idea and launching the product to market sooner. It’s imperative that you consider your future IP needs and make an informed decision before seeking funds in a public forum.
It’s understandable that the costs of patents and designs can be significant. Many inventors would rather wait for the crowdfunding campaign’s success before lodging an application. Unfortunately, applications for patents and designs cannot be filed as your disclosure on a crowdfunding website can prevent you from obtaining intellectual property rights. The consequence of this means that if you raise funds through a crowdfunding platform, without any patent protection, you will lose the possibility of having a patent application accepted later on.
2. It’s a Small World
Patenting is worth it if your idea is unique and novel, and you have taken some innovative or inventive step in creating it. The Patents Act 1990 (Cth) sets out in Section 7 what is a novel, inventive or innovative step. To receive patent protection for an innovation patent, it must involve novelty (be new) and involve an innovative step. You can file a provisional application first, followed by an innovation patent, standard patent or an international patent application.
The online nature of crowdfunding platforms means your idea is in the public domain as soon as it is launched. Competitors from overseas can steal your idea without you knowing it. You can lodge an international patent under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) process. This process grants an application automatic effect in 148 countries. You will need to lodge individual patent applications in the countries in which you wish to enforce your patent. If you are lodging a standard or innovation patent, consider a PCT application if you plan to market your product to an overseas market.
3. Because You’re Worth It
A patent not only protects innovative ideas and prevents others from using them, but it is also an intangible asset that has value in a company’s books. It is important not to disregard a patent’s value, particularly in transactions involving a business sale or purchase. Valuing your intellectual property, such as patents, will make your business venture more attractive to potential investors and buyers.
Before launching any crowdfunding campaign, talk to a patent attorney about lodging a provisional patent application to IP Australia. IP Australia is the primary government agency that administers IP rights, including patents. A patent attorney should ideally specialise in your industry (for example, biotechnology). Having a specialised patent attorney will save you costs in the long-run as lodging patents require technical knowledge and understanding of the process. If you don’t wish to patent, an inexpensive design application can also be lodged – this is for products with new and distinctive looks. In the context of crowdfunding, it is important to remember that an invention is not considered new if the applicant disclosed it to the public before applying for a patent. Don’t wait before it’s too late.
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