A while back I wrote on using sites like Kickstarter to fund inventions. I weighed the pros and cons of depending on the kindness of strangers to fund an invention, and how such actions would affect an inventor’s ability to file for a patent. Today, I get to focus on Kickstarter once again, but with a completely different question: does Kickstarter infringe on a recently issued patent?
Brian Camelio (yes, that Brian Camelio) was recently issued U.S. Patent Number 7,885,887. As the founder of ArtistShare, a similar crowdfunding venture that began almost a decade before Kickstarter, Camelio obviously wanted his idea protected. And, as I’ve said before, it is, at its core, crowdfunding can be a very good idea (if handled properly!).
While Kickstarter doesn’t have a specific focus, ArtistShare looks to protect the rights of musicians. Unless you’ve been living under a music and news-free rock you’re aware that music piracy is a huge issue. ArtistShare looks to completely circumvent using the RIAA’s broken system by ensuring that artists get paid before the work is even produced, which allows the artist to produce even more work, resulting in a significantly healthier artist/fan relationship.
So does Kickstarter infringe? Well, as far as music ventures are concerned, yes. The patent is pretty explicit about that system, which matches Kickstarter’s pretty closely. Which is probably why Kickstarter is trying to get the patent invalidated.
Kickstarter is claiming the patent is directed to a business method. On their faces, Kickstarter and ArtistShare use the same business method, but, is the patent for a business method? Well… it really depends on how you look at it.
The first set of claims in the patent are directed to a computer program product. I could get into the controversy of the software patents, but I’d rather let the Supreme Court get to it eventually. As for the other sets, well, they’re all quite closely tied to servers and programs.
There’s really no way to predict how this will go down. There could be a court battle, there could be an “undisclosed settlement,” there could be an invalidation, maybe pigs will fly. No matter what happens, though, it will be interesting. Expect updates, because this is just too interesting to NOT cover.