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Imitation and How to Deal with Copycats

Kara from ACakeToRemember has some sound advice for dealing with a copycat.

Imitation isn’t the sincerest form of flattery. It’s annoying, and makes you really mad that your ideas are being hijacked.

Having a copycat is something that many people will have to deal with at some point. If this happens to you, you should step back and calm down before deciding how to proceed.

On the legal side, you can read about DMCA takedown notices and intellectual property in Etsy’s Seller’s handbook. I’m not going to get into that here…What I’m talking about are the sneaky people who show a pattern of copying you in subtle ways that aren’t necessarily illegal. Like the person who imitates one of your designs and stages it in a photo that looks like yours. Or the one who “coincidentally” lists things that are like yours two or three days after you list each new item.

If it’s more annoying than illegal, you’ll have to decide whether to do anything at all. In a way, it comes down to whether the copying is hurting your business or not. If it’s just a nuisance, the time it takes to deal with it might not be worth the effort. If it’s a major retailer that’s taken your design, though, that’s a different situation!

Next, do a hard reality check with yourself. Is your item really so original that nobody else is making anything similar? Is the person repeatedly copying you, or is it a one-time thing? Is the item part of a trend that a lot of people are doing? If it’s possible that the copying is a coincidence, let it go, but keep an eye on the copycat to see if other patterns do emerge.

If your design is totally original, or you see a pattern of someone repeatedly copying you, you may have to confront the copycat to make them stop.

An email including screenshots of the copied designs telling the copycat that they need to be removed and the duplication needs to stop might get results. Be prepared to be ignored, though, or to have them respond with a “you’re crazy” email in return. If that happens you’ll need to decide whether to pursue it, but that can get into the legal arena, and you’ll often need to have a registered copyright on your design to get anywhere. However, putting a copycat on notice can often make them leave you alone since they’ll know they’ve been caught!

You can also decide to do nothing and just concentrate on your own ideas. Ultimately, that can be the healthiest thing for your stress level and for your business. By taking the energy that you’d use worrying about the copycat and putting it into improving your own products, customer service and packaging, you can set your business apart in ways that the design thief can’t copy. And you can always add “the original…accept no imitations” to your listings! Taking the frustration and turning it into energy that you put into making your own business better can be the most productive way of dealing with the occasional lack-of-originality copycat.

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