As first reported by PaidContent, Kickstarter is embroiled in a legal battle with musician and entrepreneur named Brian Camelio, who’s notable achievements include playing on a Journey record. In their claim, Kickstarter says Mr. Camelio has shown up multiple times to demand they pay to license his technology. He currently runs the site ArtistShare, where users can contribute to musicians and participate in the creative process. He obtained a patent for this process earlier this year.
Mr. Camelio’s claim seems absurd on several levels. First and foremost, Kickstarter can clearly show that they were in business before his patent was approved. Second, there is very little complex technology at work here. The concept of crowdsourcing funds predates both this patent and Kickstarter by many years, even on the web. The fact that both focus on creative projects seems completely irrelevant to the software or business method.
But in the absurdist universe of our current patent system, this kind of thing can become a serious legal problem. The terrifying truth, as we have reported at length earlier this year, is that any company which gets too visible in the press or raises too much money is more than likely going to be hit with a patent infringement claim. And it’s often cheaper to settle than to fight, so it’s admirable Kickstarter is choosing not to roll over.
Here is the abstract of Mr. Camelio’s patent:
The present invention is directed to a system and method for raising financing and/or revenue by artist for a project, where the project may be a creative work of the artist. The method including registering, by at least one artist, with a centralized database, at least one or more projects, offering, by the at least one artist, an entitlement related to the artist in exchange for capital for the project of the artist. The method and system may also include searching, by an interested party, the centralized database, for the least one artist, registering, by the interested party, with the centralized database and accepting the offer by the interested party for the entitlement related to the project. The capital may then be forwarded to the artist and the entitlement provided to the interested party.
The only reason such an obvious and non-technical claim can become a patent is because our current system allow for business method patents on almost anything, so long as the claim somehow involves the exchange of money and the use of a computer.
We’ve reached out to Mr. Camelio and Kickstarter and will update with comment.