The life of the inventor is a rough one. Not only do inventors have to create products that are both compelling and safe, but they have to do so within a patent system that is, at best, inconvenient and, at worst a total bureaucratic nightmare.
Helping them along, however, is inventor-friendly Kickstarter alternative Christie Street, which is launching its own in-house patent filing system to help inventors protect their products both easily and cheaply
“When we launched Christie Street, we wanted to help protect inventors and create credibility. Patents are one area where inventors need help, so this fits nicely with what we’re doing,” Christie Street founder and lead inventor Jamie Siminoff told me.
The timing of the announcement is no accident. The United State’s new First-to-File legislation goes into effect tomorrow. With the new system, if two inventors both file a patent for the same product, the first one to file the patent will be granted the claim — regardless of which of them invented the product first.
The change will have some major effects on the way inventors approach patents. For one, they’re going to have to work a lot faster. “There’s definitely an increased sense of urgency now. It’s going to be a lot easier for other parties to come along and scoop up patent rights from the original inventors,” said patent attorney Frank Bruno, who is working with Christie Street on the new initiative.
“It’s more important now than ever to file fast and early,” Bruno said.
But that new focus on speed is going to run into a big obstacle The price of patent applications. Filing a patent can cost inventors anywhere from $5,000 to upwards of $25,000, which is often a deal-breaking amount for a first-time inventor selling her first product.
As a result, inventors have traditionally held off on patenting products until they were sufficiently convinced that was a market for what they were creating. Plus, any funds they raised from that initial interest could be used for filing the eventual patent.
That model, however, flies out the window with the new first-to-file system, which is likely to create big headaches for broke inventors who have good ideas.
“With first-to-file, the lack of big investment off the bat can stop you from doing a product. What we’re doing allows a lower barrier for entry,” Jamie Siminoff said, noting that inventors can expect to spend sufficiently less money through Christie Street’s service.
But Siminoff is also quick to note that, just because an inventor files a patent with Christie Street, that doesn’t mean they have to fund their product through the platform. “We’re not tying the two systems together. If inventors want to work with us on the patent and then crowdfund on other platforms [like Kickstarter], that’s fine,” he said.
For inventors, what Christie Street is doing is both unique and necessary. While Kickstarter has risen as the go-to place for crowdfunding your favorite gadget, the site was never built with physical products in mind. This gives Christie Street a huge chance to draw hopeful inventors away from Kickstarter with a platform that is looking at more than just funding a product, but protecting it as well.