Whoever said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery clearly did not have a startup.
The sad reality is that when you have a good idea the copycats will come out of the woodwork to steal it.
To keep competitors on their toes and your startup from becoming one of too many, here are five ways to protect your startup from pirates and avoid costly legal battles:
With great ideas, it is a race to bring the product to market. In your planning, I suggest prioritizing how you are going to grab market share. Whether you use PR, advertisements, or social media, it is important for your new business to make a memorable splash in your market. Once your company is established as the industry leader, copycats are less likely to take your idea, and if they do, they should make less of a negative impact on your business.
Consumers love to know the entrepreneur and backstory behind a company and become much more connected to your brand when they feel like they know you. In any copycat situation, your best customers are also your best defenders. If a customer is emotionally engaged with your brand they are much more likely to stay loyal to your brand when copycats appear and may also defend you via social media and word of mouth.
Determine what the most valuable assets of your company are and then find ways to protect them. This can be as simple as adding a copycat scanning software like CopyScape to your website or as complicated as writing code to detect suspicious use of your product. Whatever you choose to do to protect your startup, being proactive instead of reactive will save you stress, money, and possible litigation.
If there are key companies in the industry your company is entering, consider partnering with them. The partnership will help boost awareness of your brand and also locks any copycat companies out of relationships with these partners. Strategic partnerships are also beneficial if you are afraid that a large company will take your idea. A partnership or private label will allow the larger company to benefit from your startup without stealing from you.
If your idea or product is unique, money spent on filing a patent is a wise investment. While the process is lengthy and expensive, the protection a patent offers your startup is unparalleled. Even before your patent is approved, the words “patent pending” will deter potential copycats.
These five tips should help your startup stay safe and allow you to focus on building your business instead of fighting off copycats. Creating a company from an idea is an amazing feat. Good luck.
—Danielle Tate is founder and CEO of MissNowMrs.com, an online service to help women change their name after marriage.