Time to Startup!

The BizFilings blog covering business tips and trends.

Are Copycats a Threat or Simply an Inconvenience?

Published on Nov 30, 2012


Read our article, 'Are Copycats a Threat or Simply an Inconvenience?' at 'Time to Start Up,' the small business blog by BizFilings.
By Matthew Toren When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. If only those words weren’t copied and pasted. Anyone recognize the author? Answer at the end of the article. Since childhood, we deal with copycats. In fact, everybody is vulnerable to the allure of copying. You never peaked at an answer to a test from the student next to you? Not once? But with maturity comes ethical conduct, and original ideas will rise to the top anyway. If you’re dealing with a copycat, try and calm down and react to the situation logically.

Imitation and Flattery

Successful ideas also show signs of emulation. And why wouldn’t they? Everyone has heroes that inspire their own behavior. Everyone has ideals they strive to live up to. But where to those ideals come from? Little moments of inspiration that make a lasting impression on the brain. Everyone is a composite of these little moments and their own guiding light.

Blatant Plagiarism

But of course there is a difference between imitation and plagiarism. It’s one thing to be inspired by artful logo design and combine that inspiration with a personal touch to create something unique. It’s something else entirely to paste a company name inside of it and call it one’s own. It can cause a cascade of emotions if you’re confronted with plagiarism. You’ll be angry at the perpetrator, scared that your business will suffer, and confused about how to react. Compose yourself and contact the person in question directly though email if possible. Write a polite but firm statement “reminding” them that your content is copyrighted and demand they remove it or compensate you accordingly. If you must, file a DMCA complaint and make sure you can demonstrate ownership of your site and content.


If you have a successful idea, others will imitate it. There is no alternative. But a strong brand is usually invulnerable from copying. Think of something like The Simpsons. Nearly everyone of the world knows what it is, regardless of age or location. Certainly such a popular brand has had countless imitators, but has this in any way lessened the appeal or recognition of Homer and Bart? Focus on your personal brand and your company will become a magnet, attracting customers and fans and repelling trivial impersonations.

Customer Interaction

Regardless of your field, the market you’re in is competitive. There are countless others attempting to attract the same customers as you. Separate yourself from the competition. Nobody can steal the personal interaction between you and your customer. Your business is not only your product or your service. Relationships with clients are just as important. Remember, you’re selling yourself as much as you are your product, so package yourself attractively. If you’ve been a victim of plagiarism, don’t take a victim’s attitude. Instead, try to resolve the issue, and focus on the development of your business. Did anyone say Henry David Thoreau? --------------------------------------------------------------------------- matthewPic-1Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of the award winning books, Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right. Their latest project is a free classified ads network called: iSell.com.