Patent Agent, engineer and Internet entrepreneur Kevin Prince is attempting to raise money on Kickstarter. His project? A book that celebrates the art contained in published U.S. patent applications and granted U.S. patents.
Before going any further it will probably be beneficial to discuss what Kickstarter is, and what it is not. Kickstarter is a funding platform focused on a broad spectrum of creative projects, and is fast becoming a popular way to raise small but meaningful amounts of capital to kick-start a project, even an invention or company. It is different than raising money for an equity position, which is specifically prohibited by Kickstarter. The Kickstarter funding model instead is based on the offering of rewards – copies of the work, limited editions, fun experiences, etc.
Kickstarter is becoming more popular given the press it has received from the New York Times, CNN and NPR, but are they successful at raising money for people? According to Kickstarter just over 10,000 projects have been started and a little less than half have been fully funded and have gone forward. Of particular interest to those seeking funding is that Kickstarter takes no ownership interest in the projects, it is free to post a project, and the fees collected if a project is successful is under 10% (i.e., Kickstarter collects a 5% fee from the project’s funding total if and only if a project is successfully funded and credit card processing fees generally take up another 3-5%).
New inventions are described in patent documents, which usually have a dry written description and a number of black-and-white line-art drawings. Just about everyone involved with a patent is listed on the front cover–with one exception: the artist who created the patent drawings. In the US alone we now have over 200 years of patents—more than 8 million documents–illustrating everything from the cotton gin to the iPod. Yet the artist is not mentioned anywhere in the patent record. They remain anonymous.
As a patent agent helping inventors by conducting patent searches and writing patents, I’ve seen a lot of boring patents. But I’ve also seen some patents with breathtaking artwork, where the patent draftsman has gone way beyond the call of duty and really let their artistry shine through. Whenever I’ve spotted one of these gems, I’ve tried to tuck it away for a future coffee table book… and now is the time! I’ve collected some of the best US patent drawings and currently have enough to fill over 200 pages.
In fact, Prince has told me that he has room for about 20 more patent illustrations, so if anyone is particularly proud of drawings from a published application or granted patent he will consider including them in his book. So if you have a suggestion let him know. The best way to connect with him is via his contact page.
What does Prince plan on doing with the money? Prince’s Kickstarter project page explains:
With the end of the project in sight, I need to get enough capital to do a first run of 1,000 books (both hard and soft cover), as well as create a great website where the book may be previewed and ordered. I plan on distributing it through Amazon & Ingram Books, and do some direct selling to patent attorneys, engineers, and inventors.
With your support I’ll send you an autographed copy of the book as detailed at right. For the more serious partners I’ll throw in some patent-related services… everyone knows an inventor who could be helped with an honest evaluation and advice!
While the Kickstarter model is likely rather clear and easy to understand, one thing to keep in mind is that each project sets a target amount to raise. If the project does not raise the minimum target amount then it does not move forward, which means that no pledges are taken from “backers,” which is what Kickstarter refers to those who pledge funds. For example, Prince set a minimum target at $10,000. As of the publication of this article he is at just over 42% of that goal with 83 backers, me being one and Mark Nowotarski, a patent agent and frequent IPWatchdog.com contributor being another. If $10,000 is not pledged on or before September 23, 2011, then none of the pledged money is collected from backers. So Prince has 16 days left to go.
The Kickstarter model is much like an NPR fund drive in that for different amounts of money pledged by backers they receive different rewards. For example, those who pledge $45 to Prince will receive an autographed, hard-cover copy of his book. Those pledging $75 will receive an autographed, hard-cover copy of the book as well as mention in the acknowledgments section of the book as a “cherished Kickstarter backer.” At the $350 level Prince will throw in an autographed hard-cover copy of his book, a 30 minute patent agent consultation and a patentability search.
Win, lose or draw, Prince says he will let us know how things turned out and give us a first hand inside look at Kickstarter from the perspective of someone attempting to raise money. Kickstarter seems like an excellent way to get early stage funding for projects, including inventions and the like. So check back for an insider’s perspective on raising money through Kickstarter in the coming weeks.
Of course, if you are so inclined, please feel free to support Prince’s project on Kickstarter. I wholeheartedly agree with him that there are some truly wonderful examples of patent art found in published applications and issued patents. It would be nice to see such a book get published.