When it comes to business, one of the most important components of getting it right is in having a USP – a unique selling point. Most often, your USP will come from your mind, something that you alone have been able to corner and build a business around. That USP is what separates you from the pack and makes you recognizable.
So when it’s stolen – as is the case alarmingly often – the threat to your small business is a real and present danger. There are various ways that companies can have their intellectual property stolen. You could have someone use the same name as your business; a similar logo; or if you’re a blogger then you could have posts stolen and replicated. Not only does this devalue your brand, but it also means that customers might mistake the copycat for you, which costs you money and clients in the long run.
If you’re like many business owners, your first thought when you find a copycat is to contact the likes of IRB Law to legally force the copycat to change their ways. While this may work, it’s akin to trying to crack a nut with a sledgehammer. There are a few steps you need to take before going down that route; it might well be necessary, but it’s best to save it as a last resort. So what can you do beforehand?
1 – Contact The Copycat
Sometimes, intellectual theft happens completely accidentally. There are factors that influence our thinking and can lead two people who have never met, and have nothing in common, to the exact same idea. A great example of this is found in the movies; Armageddon and Deep Impact were released in the same year and dealt with the same subject matter. They’re far from the only example of this phenomenon, too.
So it can happen accidentally. Your first step would be to contact the suspected copycat and ascertain if that’s the case. If it is, then you should be able to come to some agreement between you that can help settle the matter.
If you have been deliberately copied, you will often find that your contact will simply be ignored. If that’s the case, then you need to move on…
2 – Who Thought Of It First?
If the process does escalate to the point of involving legal proceedings, then you need to establish who actually came first. When did they begin using the item in question, and was it before or after you? This may lead you to discover that you have been an unwitting copycat, but if you find they were the ones at fault, you have a stronger case.
If they have a website that you can prove is copying from you, then contacting the hosts can get the site shut down – intellectual theft and copyright violations usually go against the terms of service of most host sites.
3 – Complain In Writing
The final steps: put your complaint in writing and send it by recorded post. Include a ‘cease and desist’ notice demanding they remove the offending item within 28 days, or you will start legal proceedings. Hopefully this will be enough to jolt them into doing as you say, but if not, be prepared to go through with your threat. Your creativity is your greatest asset; do whatever you have to to protect it.