Kickstarter has made a name for itself by giving all manner of artists a chance to afford to fulfill their ambitions through the wonders of crowdsourcing, but now the start-up is facing an unexpected legal battle over whether or not it can do so without infringing on a patent owned by a former member of Journey and Phish, of all people.
To make matters more strange, Kickstarter is the one behind the legal action. The company is suing musician Brian Camelio who, according to the lawsuit, claims that the company is infringing on his patent for a method to allow fans to financially contribute towards musicians’ recording costs. The lawsuit seeks for the patent to be declared invalid, and for the company to be recognized as not liable for any infringement claims.
The filed suit only adds to the oddness of the situation, including multiple episodes where Camelio claims patent infringement but won’t go into any detail when asked, the formation of a second company by Camelio three days after Kickstarter was threatened with legal action by his first, or Camelio’s repeated suggestions that Kickstarter license his patent with an additional annual royalty payment or else face legal action.
For his part, Camelio claims that the legal action is “shocking” because Kickstarter had attempted to outright buy the patent from him. And anyway, Kickstarter is bad for artists, says Camelio:
“As an artist myself, I feel that KickStarter may be hurting artists by focusing on ‘donating money’ rather than celebrating the artist for what they do. Their model does not build fan relationships but just continually asks for hand outs.”
If nothing else, this could make for an interesting trial, should it get that far.
Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.