We’ve all heard the crowdfunding success stories from Pozible, Kickstarter and a plethora of other platforms. But with reward comes risk.

Budding business owners must take steps to protect their intellectual property (IP) before pushing the button on a crowd funding campaign. Failure to do so may result in a loss of IP rights or worse, litigation.

For those who might be considering raising funds via a crowdfunding campaign, here are five things to consider before you launch:

  1. Determine the type of IP associated with your project. Does your project involve music or film, drawings or photographs? Are you launching a new product name or brand? Have you invented a new device or product? Or a new secret recipe for baking bread? Have you come up with a unique design for a household product? 
  2. Undertake your due diligence. Is your project infringing a third party’s IP rights? For example, are you using a brand name that is the same as or similar to someone else’s? Are you using or have you copied a third party’s pictures, drawings or copy? Does your new device or unique product design take some features from existing products?
  3. Don’t disclose. If your project involves an invention or a design do not disclose it to the public before obtaining professional advice about IP rights, such as patents and designs. Public disclosure at the wrong time may destroy your ability to secure IP rights.
  4. Formulate a long-term IP strategy. What type of IP protection do you need? In what jurisdictions? How do you obtain this protection and at what stage of your project’s development? Early planning will prevent issues arising down the track.
  5. Protect your brand. If you have chosen a new product name or brand, file a trade mark application to secure rights to that mark. Failure to do so may result in a loss of rights and mean you need to change your name.

These five steps apply not only to those seeking investment through crowdfunding, but to any entrepreneur or business owner seeking to launch a new product or business.