Crowdfunding, Copycat and Evolution
(First published on Alaxon)
About a year ago, I’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign named “Fonhandle”, it was about humoristic object which its main function was to hold and shoot with an iPhone device in a bit of baroquish gesture (that was before the notorious selfie stick). The campaign begun with good opening, with few dozen of thousand views of the product clip, over 100k mentions of it on google but it never reached its target goal, not even coming near it.
For me it was fascinating to see and understand the meta-system behind the crowdfunding campaign, from the required PR which determine the traffic which therefor determine the extent of funds been raised and up to the un-replaceable direct contact with the backers. Taking that perspective, crowdfunding platforms creates straightforward connection between creator and audience; no longer a product placed on a shelf but rather breaking the fourth wall. Thus I was able to argue with Saudi Arabian guy on the practical aspect of the product and to get other feedbacks from backers US to Hong Kong, not to mention media coverage…In that sense, crowdfunding platforms turns into cultural event where creators and backers take a shared part in a creation of a collaborative story.
But the story goes beyond the campaign timeline, where realty faces itself. Few weeks after the campaign’s deadline out of the compulsive habit of googling the project’s name and looking for new results, I saw unpredicted search results. Under the exact same name – Fonhandle, I’ve found the never manufactured product being marketed with match package and even same logo… Furthermore a quick search under the hashtag at Instagram resulted pictures with users of it from China to Panama. Of course first thing I’ve done was to order myself my product which I designed and never funded and second thing was to ask what’s next?
After further, deeper search yield there are several manufacturers in few variation of the products and that it being distributed over number of e-commerce platforms all connected to same origin (thank you How.is). I realized that all the marketing materials- texts (word by word and even printed hyperlinks…) pictures and the same logo. For me as the creator it was a compliment, failed project got to be copied and even sold over the web was a success, even though not financial or materialistic at least it made me smile and the pleasure of watching raw idea being realize. In parallel, I tried to act as well as responsible person, tried to understand what and how I can yet protect my creation, still I applied provisional patent application for it prior to any publication of it. After few meetings with patent attorneys, which promise you fortune as well as you pay a fortune I realized I better put my effort into creation of my next project instead of perusing justice.
Products and project gets to be copied constantly, sometimes the replicas hit to market even before the original gets to, such as Pressy the add-on button for android mobile and even cases wherein the crowdfunding platform itself being used to market replicas such as TangiBot 3D printer which is a cheap replica (which even they admit) of the makerbot.
I think that the platform itself and the connection it creates with the audience and backers is unreplaceable, and products replicas (for existing or not) will always be here, and they are part of the creation driving force and if you haven’t being copied you didn’t make it yet. Although, compromising approach toward copying can be from one point of view from lacking the abilities to pursue each infringement and copy and from other hand, understanding that every “invention” is just another development of previous idea. From James Watt steam engine and up to Kickstarter itself, which have local and international replicas, each idea configuration, is a result of a need real or fictional otherwise it wasn’t been existed and evolution need all ideas small as big in order to evolve, where to is another question…