Transparency in the development stage for a new startup

I’m working to bring a product idea to life through a Kickstarter campaign some time in the latter half of 2019, with initial development beginning in January. One idea I have, partially because I’ve never seen things done quite like this and partially because it could be a good way to build pre-campaign brand awareness, is to publicly document the development process through my new brand’s Instagram. While I wouldn’t give everything away from the start (e.g. the product itself would probably be kept largely under wraps until the campaign) I think it could be interesting for the average person to see behind the curtain a bit to help understand what it takes to bring an idea to fruition.

My main concern, though, is that I might be opening myself up to some unknown liability down the road. The product itself doesn’t use any proprietary technology or patent-worthy innovations, but could a high level of transparency in development hinder my ability to protect my intellectual property in the future from something like knock-offs? Could it open me fraud allegations if I make a claim or statement early in the process that isn’t true by the time development is finished?

I really love the potential upside, but is the downside too risky?

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I don’t see any. Who is interested in the process? A handful of designers who won’t buy your product out of spite?

The downside is any hope of IP, you never know what you may think of in the process, but make it public, it is gone forever. As a small shop, you cannot compete against a company with any sort of sales network, you will be crushed with the first knockoff. I would have absolutely no concern about liability unless you are making a health claim. But even in that case it is amazing the legal latitude given for snake oil.

I’ve thought of exactly this same thing for several start-ups I’ve worked with. I never been able to fully execute but I think there’s a huge positive upside in getting people into the story and behind the process.

IP is not everything, depending on the product and category.

There’s a reason that Kickstarter projects with videos about the founder and story do better. People are as much invested in the idea as the thing.

For a start up brand, the transparency is a good way to get people into the story, value the challenges and manage expectations. They can see the work that goes into it, so they see where the time and money is going…

I’d think you’d just have to time everything out well so there is an appropriate lag to market. Maybe you are not showing development real time, but 3 month’s lag, so you have time to edit the story, build the arc and manage expectations. You wouldn’t want to play it live and then have a 3 months gap while the thing was being produced or you hit a roadblock (or maybe you would?).

IP is a non issue any more than it is in any marketing scenario. Is the IP even of value for a startup that may not have the cash to file a patent or protect one? The idea is the free thing. The execution is the hard part. Don’t be worried like even design student that someone will knock them off, when in reality, there are so many ideas around the chance that someone will tool up, develop a brand, market and sell your idea just because it’s awesome is pretty slim…


PS. Challenges and cost of Kickstarter is a whole different subject. I’ve done some research on it and i’m not convinced the cost and money needed is anywhere close to the value you get from it. For a successful campaign I’ve figured to raise $300,000 you typically need to have about half that in cash to spend (on ads, lists, agencies, CC fees, etc.)…

I appreciate the words of warning. Negotiating that minefield is something I’m still trying to figure out in these early stages. It’s a small-ish project where I have the means to complete the design/development stages mostly independently, but when it comes down to actually getting eyeballs on the campaign I definitely won’t have a ton of cash on hand for the giant marketing push you see from campaigns these days.

The product is targeted to a pretty specific, endemic market, which I’m hoping will make word-of-mouth and social media shares easier to come by. I can say with certainty, though, that if I wait around for $100k to land in my lap I’ll be waiting forever.

Although IP is not everything, and although you might deem your innovation in its current state not “patent-worthy,” many inventors choose to file a provisional patent because it gives them one year of protection and opens the door to safe disclosure because they have obtained “patent-pending” status.

If you don’t file for protection before disclosure, you prohibit yourself from claiming intellectual property later.
Most people file provisional patents for that reason, and because it is less expensive and much quicker than the nonprovisional (regular) patent-application process. It protects your innovation in its current, unperfected state for one year. If you choose to perfect it, you get a year of protected status to do so.

You mentioned that you have “never seen things done quite like this.” You may assert this with a provisional patent, which allows you to operate having no intent to infringe, because, to your knowledge, you’re the first to invent this.

Filing a provisional costs around $1800+. We offer a “review and file” for $570 (including the patent-office fee) in which the inventor writes the provisional with our guidance. We review it, give feedback, and file it with the USPTO.

I’ll definitely keep that in mind for the future. I filed a provisional patent on my own a few years ago, but the project ended up stalling out without moving forward to the full application. I just kinda winged it with the claims, etc., and your “review and file” service would have probably been a good alternative.