There can be few things more disheartening than having someone completely steal your idea and try to find success off the back of your hard work. Imagine if you’d released a popular app that had had thousands of downloads and a ton of positive feedback; only to find that several imitators had proceeded to release carbon copies of what you’d made and begun damaging your sales and stealing your customers. They say that imitation is the best form of flattery, but in reality it tends to be far less flattering and much more frustrating.
The question is then, what do you do about these imitators and how do you ensure that they don’t steal all of your thunder? Should you tackle them head on, or should you be more subtle about it?
The Best Defense
The best defense here is definitely a good offense. That doesn’t mean you want to attack your copycats though, rather it means you want to move forward with your project in an ‘aggressive’ manner so as to effectively bulldoze your opponents. Just think about how many Angry Birds imitators there are out there: do you care about any of them? No: because Angry Birds was the first and the best and as such it got all of the attention. This is the way you need to be with your project: rather than worrying about protecting yourself legally or chasing down every last attempted copy, you should just focus on making your project the best and being the first to market.
Ideas Aren’t Everything
In fact when you think about it, the magic of Angry Birds wasn’t really in the idea at all, so much as it was down to the execution. It was the charm of Angry Birds and the physics that made it a hit, and this is the case with many creations. People can steal your idea, but they can’t steal your personality and your fingerprints which should be all over your creations and often that is far more valuable than the idea itself.
As tech-investor-and-author Tim Ferriss put it to the Huffington Post:
“Ideas are worth nothing, they’re not a dime a dozen, they’re just nothing. All the good founders I know – even the bad founders – can come up with ideas all day long. It doesn’t mean anything. You have to execute.”
Don’t Become the Bad Guy
Generally where we’re going with this then is to say: don’t fret if someone tries to muscle in on your territory. In fact it’s fairly normal for people to ‘borrow’ your ideas, just as Microsoft has borrowed from Apple and SEGA has borrowed from Nintendo. A little competition – even if it feels like an affront – will only lead to a better marketplace for your customers and more progress in your industry.
And if you take too aggressive a stance you can end up becoming the bad guy: just like ‘King’ did when they ridiculously copyrighted the term ‘Candy’ for use in computer games and merchandise.
Sure it’s annoying when someone tries to steal your intellectual property, but eventually it’s all but inevitable. Don’t waste your energy fighting them, instead focus on taking your own products to the next level. You’ve innovated once, you can do it again!
(About the Author: Greg Fisher, founder of Berkeley Sourcing Group, has a strong manufacturing and engineering background, and is proficient in Mandarin. After graduating from UC Berkeley with an engineering degree, Mr. Fisher worked in the medical device, hard drive storage, ice cream, and professional tools industries in various management, manufacturing, and quality control capacities.)
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