They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery – but it doesn’t tend to feel this way when it happens to you. You may have spent months or even years meticulously putting together your business plan, and just as much time to launch it. So to have someone crop up at the last minute and copy your idea almost in its entirety can be annoying at best and rage-inciting at worst. The law varies on what constitutes a legal breach of copyright and what is merely an ethical one, but suffering either can be pretty devastating. Sometimes, of course, a business idea is so generic that a lot of different companies end up offering virtually the same service, and in this case, it can’t be called ‘copying.’ If someone has blatantly ripped you off, however, you will probably be able to see it clear as the day. You may be tempted to jump straight into action to crush their business and get the integrity of yours back, but adhering to this knee-jerk reaction isn’t always the best thing to do. Instead, stay calm, and read the following steps for an action plan on how you can react if your idea has been copied.
1. Double Check
Before you start accusing anyone or calling up your lawyer, stop and think for a moment. Has the person or business in question REALLY copied your idea? You may have just seen a strapline or a logo that looks a bit like your’s and jumped to conclusions. Getting into an unnecessary legal battle, or causing unnecessary aggravation is the last thing you want. So, go through their business with a fine tooth comb to work out just how many similarities there are between them and you.
2. Have Legal Backup
If you think you DO have a copyright case on your hands, it is vital that you seek professional help as soon as you can. Contacting the other party before you have a legal representative can be a dangerous business, as tempting as it might be to do so. Get a trusted lawyer on your side, and, if the case does go to court, make sure you make use of certified court reporting too. You will need to gather all the evidence you can to fight your corner, so having court documents to look back on can help you consolidate your case.
3. Stay Calm and Wait It Out
If the case is more ethical rather than legal, it can be frustrating to hear that there may not be a great deal you can do about it regarding the law. But typically, if someone has maliciously copied your idea, there is a high likelihood that they will not last anyway. Use the anger you feel at the offending party to channel positive energy into your own business, developing it and making it better than ever. It also often becomes apparent after a while when a business has copied someone else’s idea, as they have minimal backbone once the PR façade is stripped back. Be patient and wait it out. If you’re doing everything you can for your company, it will soon overtake any rivals regardless.