A True Crowdfunder's Nightmare: The Importance of Safe CrowdfundingTo say that entrepreneurs work hard on their business is an understatement. They pour untold hours into their work, whether it's getting their venture off the ground or reaching for that next rung on the ladder of success. It would be fair to say that for most, it is their life's passion. Given that level of commitment, there are likely no more frightening, wake-up-in-a-cold-sweat scenarios about the theft of your idea. Unfortunately for one entrepreneur, she was forced to live that nightmare.

Dawn Sole had put in considerable time crafting her invention, spending four years on the Pluck N' File, a device that includes tweezers, eyebrow comb, nail file, and buffer. She had procured a patent and trademark on her creation, developed a prototype, and even reached an agreement with a manufacturer to produce the Pluck N' File. Needing to raise money to begin production, she did what many entrepreneurs do and created an Indiegogo campaign to raise the funds.

But to her dismay one day, Sole noticed that someone had stolen her campaign. While her page was still up and running, scammers had created an exact replica of her campaign, copying her name, product images, and descriptions word for word. Sole and her attorney took immediate action, sending Kickstarter a cease-and-desist letter regarding the fraudulent campaign. Kickstarter immediately listed the fake page as "suspended," though the page had raised £17,000 in yet-uncollected funds to that point.

While the copycat page has been suspended, it is still up at Kickstarter which is worrying for Sole. "When people see it on Kickstarter, they're going to see Pluck N' File and assume it's me," she told the South Florida Business Journal. "They're going to think, 'OK, why was it suspended? What did Pluck N' File do wrong?'" While such a blatant ripoff would seem to be a clear violation of Sole's intellectual property, the lack of regulation for non-equity crowdfunding makes it unclear what punitive measures Sole might take. Kickstarter policy states they are not responsible for projects on their site beyond those that are misrepresenting themselves, leaving inventors to determine whether a campaign can actually deliver what it promises. Kickstarter has also hedged on providing information on the individual who created the fake Pluck N' File account, according to Sole's attorney.

Until then, Sole is continuing on with her campaign until it closes on January 2. "I know this has definitely happened to other people because I could see the loopholes. If I could make a difference with my story, I have no problem being the example of what could happen if you're not careful and you're not doing your homework," she said.

Take great care when crowdfunding any project. Practicing safe crowdfunding (i.e., protecting your idea before you disclose it in any public forum), whether it be with the necessary patents, trademarks, or NDAs, could be the difference between your success, and the success of your competitors. For more information on crowdfunding, check out our resources page


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