Is there something quirky about Quirky, Inc.?
CNN's program "The Next List", profiled a product development company called, Quirky, Inc. The CEO and Founder, Ben Kaufman, made a statement that his company does not take an inventor's idea – until Quirky, Inc. decides to commercialize the product. Certainly he could not mean that the company actually takes ownership of the idea. But a check of their websites confirms it - YES they actually take an assignment of all IP rights in the submitted idea. The text from their FAQ section states it plainly:
â–¼ What happens to intellectual property when I submit an idea to Quirky for consideration?
By submitting your idea to Quirky, you grant a license in all IP in the submission to Quirky and the Quirky community of users to consider and comment on your submission within the Quirky platform. If Quirky accepts your submission for further development and possibly eventual commercialization, you assign ownership in all IP in the submission to Quirky.
Later in the program, Ben Kaufman explained how under their process an idea is placed on their website where numerous individuals may comment upon the product and "influence" its development. If the product is commercialized, not only does the initial idea submitter participate in the revenues, but all members who influenced the idea. The program highlighted one individual who stated his name was on a patent. Again looking at their website, this product is featured, it identified the inventor and states over 800 others have influenced the product's development. While this is interesting, it poses a question of whether all 800+ individuals are named inventors on the patent. The USPTO's FAQ section on Patents states the following:
5. If two or more persons work together to make an invention, to whom will the patent be granted?
A. If each had a share in the ideas forming the invention as defined in the claims – even if only as to one claim, they are joint inventors and a patent will be issued to them jointly on the basis of a proper patent application. If, on the other hand, one of these persons has provided all of the ideas of the invention, and the other has only followed instructions in making it, the person who contributed the ideas is the sole inventor and the patent application and patent shall be in his/her name alone.
While it is true that developing a new product on your own can be difficult, it may be worthwhile to learn the details of the type of help that is being offered before accepting such help.