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Crowdfunding and the Copycat Crisis

Crowdfunding online is a fantastic way to bring a product to market.

It offers a fast path to finances with minimal upfront costs. In addition, having your product on sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo acts as an advertising tool which can reduce the amount of marketing you need to do elsewhere (saving you a healthy chunk of cash in the process).

Many projects that may struggle to attract more traditional investors, have also thrived on crowdfunding sites. Not only that but crowdfunding investors often become consumers, establishing funding and a loyal customer base all at once.

Whether you are a start-up bringing your first project to life or an established brand that wants to bring a new product to market, crowdfunding can be a great way to go.

What is the risk?

However, the method is not without its pitfalls. Whilst many assume anyone can get onto a crowdfunding site, not all projects are accepted. If you don’t hit your target in the time limit, all funding you attract will be withdrawn, Whilst crowdfunding does offer a great way of marketing and advertising in itself, there is still a need to do a lot of legwork to attract funders to your product online. As with any funding, there is still a risk you will end up giving away too much of your business. This is especially true, if you haven’t set your rewards and returns wisely.

These risks are all worth it though, and can be overcome by a proper advertising strategy, smart reward setting, hard work and, vitally, a great product.

There is one other risk to crowdfunding that is too often neglected. Success on these high-profile sites comes with a serious pain, copycats! At SnapDragon, we see imitations of successful crowdfunded products every day. They are a gift to copycats as the sites show which products have lots of backers and are likely to be in hot demand. Fakers can sign up to receive these products and then reverse engineer the item once they have it in hand.

With our unrelenting commitment to fighting back against fakes, here is SnapDragon’s quick guide on how to prepare for copycats before launching a product on a crowdfunding site.

How to protect your product/brand?

Make Sure You Have All the Necessary IP Registered

Registering your Intellectual Property (IP) is an essential step before going to market, be it on a crowdfunding site or anywhere else. When it comes to new products, inventors are often aware of the need to patent their idea. There is real value in attaining a patent. It ensures that, if malicious actors are to copy you, they can’t sell their product legally.  It also allows you to control and increase your revenue streams in relation to your invention. If it is possible, both design and utility patents should be registered against any novel invention.

Trademarks also play a vital role in defending your product online.  Attaining your brand/product name wordmark in all the classes and territories you need is  essential. When registering, remember to think about both where you want to sell and what you want to sell, not just now but also in the future.

Trademarks are relatively cheap and offer a great tool to protect your brand/products if they are copied. Neglecting them, just to reduce short term costs or speed up bringing a product to market is not an option. It allows copycats to make money off your reputation unimpeded in the future. You will regret it, trust us. We have seen the consequences of failing to register.

Be it a simple trademark, design right or a utility patent, IP is an investment that future proofs your brand and acts as the first pillar of protection from counterfeiters and copycats. The money spent can save you tenfold in the long term!

Keep Sight of Your Funders

Most funders on sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are legitimate, interested in your product, impressed by what you are doing and keen to support a great idea (and earn the rewards you offer in return).

However, there is a minority of malicious actors who sign up for early access to products that they see are going to do well. This is to gain access to the physical product and then reverse engineer it and start selling fakes.

Identifying suspicious behaviour and characteristics allows you to keep sight of these potentially malicious actors. Lookout for funders with a history of small value contributions to many consumer products (you can see this information on most funding sites).

Whilst there is little to be done in the first instance, knowing where these actors are based and any other information on them can be useful should they turn out to be a copycat. If you already have the information, you will be far better prepared to initiate legal action or online enforcement, as necessary.

Monitor for Fakes

This is the bit where we can help the most. However, before seeking support there are some steps you can take to identify if you are being copied.

Almost without fail, copycats start by stealing your images. Lifting these copyrighted materials is a favourite strategy as it allows them to make use of your professional materials to sell their fake products as though they were real.

To see if this is happening, you can start by reverse image searching your pictures. Most search engines offer this functionality and will be able to identify if others are using your images online. Failing that, our powerful software can help with image monitoring too.

If you do find that you are being copied, SnapDragon can help! Our software led solution monitors the worlds busiest marketplaces, social media platforms and independent domains. Through proactive scraping we can quickly identify fakes wherever they appear and then we enforce against them on your behalf.

Crowdfunding is a brilliant way to make a success of a new product and if you follow the above advice, and combine it with an effective funding campaign you will be well on your way to bringing your idea to life and turning your new product into a success!

If you would like to know more about how SnapDragon can help you, or if you have any other question regarding online brand protection, please get in touch.


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