3 Tips for Dealing with eCommerce Copycats

by TaxJar November 1, 2020

This guest post is brought to you by our friends at MyCorporation

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so the saying goes. For eCommerce and small business owners, however, it isn’t always viewed that way. Watching another website suddenly pop up overnight with offerings and services incredibly similar to your own is frustrating to say the least. You put a lot of time and energy into your business and the competition is managing to one-up you by snatching your work for their own.

How can you continue to protect your original ideas? Here’s how you can best protect your company from eCommerce copycats.

Create an IP protection strategy

The best thing to do to ensure that no other business outright plagiarizes your ideas is to plan ahead and establish a strategy to protect your intellectual property. Here are a few basic areas that strategy needs to cover.

  • Register for trademarks and copyrights to keep from having your ideas compromised. Trademarks cover IP assets like logos, symbols, and phrases/taglines while copyrights protect creative works like literature, music, and art. You may also decide to file for a patent as well, if your eCommerce site is based around a new invention. Patents are available in two forms including utility (which protects useful inventions) and design (the unique appearance of a functional object). Perform a cursory search before filing to make sure your idea is unique and then begin filing your registration applications.
  • Draft a confidentiality agreement to be signed between both parties when discussing any information surrounding your IP or trade secrets.
  • If you’re using outside images or photos, credit said images (if obtained on stock image sites) or request permission to use before reproducing. For original images you create on your own, consider adding watermarks for a bit of added protection.

You might also find it’s helpful to meet with an IP attorney to further discuss, and prepare for, the possibility of infringement.

Don’t immediately assume the worst

Let’s say you find a site that has a similar look and feel to what yours is all about. Do you immediately hurry over to their social media accounts to call them out? Rather than jump to conclusions that they started a site to directly compete with you, avoid overreacting upfront. The Harvard Business Review makes a great point that copying is a reality of doing business, with the example given of women in African open markets switching from selling bananas to yams once they find out their fellow market neighbors are making more money with yams. Other businesses will inevitably pop up with similar offerings to your own — it’s up to you to determine exactly how similar these offerings are to what you have and if it’s truly worth getting into a battle with every single company.

Keep your eyes on the prize

Copycats gonna copy and imitators gonna imitate, but you need to keep your eyes on the prize. Focus on ways that you can continue to innovate the quality of your existing offerings and differentiate yourself from the crowd and with your customers. Keep working hard, experimenting with new strategies, and remember that behind your business is a truly great idea that only you could ever bring to life. No matter how hard the competition may try, nobody can take that away from you.

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.

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