Planning, Startups, Stories


Tim Berry on business planning, starting and growing your business, and having a life in the meantime.

Did They Copy Your Idea? Deal With It. 3

This troubles me. App Developer Says Facebook Stole Idea for “Find Friends Nearby”.

I don’t know the app, haven’t used it, and I’m not a lawyer, but I hate it when people complain about some big company stealing their ideas. Ideas get copied all the time. Have you seen the web? Have you seen books, movies, or TV?

Good ideas get copied. I don’t mean software piracy or plagiarism, which I hate, isn’t legal, but is also inevitable. I do mean reverse engineering and just plain copying good idea. Like movie and fiction formulas that work.  Selling points, tag lines, icons, apps, functionality, features, packaging, design … copycats get around them easily without strictly violating the law.  It’s a fact of life.

Think of the history of high tech in the last generation or so. DOS copied and improved CP/M which copied something else. The original Mac copied and improved Xerox and Windows copied Mac. Lotus 1-2-3 copied and improved Visicalc and Microsoft Excel copied and improved Lotus 1-2-3.

As a writer, I hate it when people just copy my work and pretend they wrote it. But it does happen constantly.

As a software developer and publisher, I hate it when people copy my product’s tag lines and positioning but it happens all the time.

Ethical? You be the judge. Legal? I’m not an attorney, I can’t say. But I will say this: It happens all the time.

  • Rowan

    I totally agree with the whole idea of ‘copying’ not being malignant. Google things come from borrowing concepts which already exists (i.e. the wheel).

    Patents, especially software patents and especially software patents in the United States are a different story.

    Apple just had the GNEX banned because of its inclusion of a ‘unified search’. This Google Bar is a widget that lets you search everything from your home screen. Apple have a patent on ‘unified search?’. In response Google have had to cripple their phone in order to sell it….at least in the US for now….

    Ridiculous!

    • http://timberry.com Tim Berry

      Thanks Rowan, and on those crazy patents that should never have been issued, for things that everybody was doing, I totally agree with you.

  • tapuwa

    When someone copies your ideas once they are in public domain, there is little you can do about it, however, if you present a pitch or an idea to a client/investor/financial institution and they reject your idea, but go on to implement with variations (ie copy your ideas) that is so illegal on so many levels. 2. There are laws that govern Intellectual property, and the extent to which one can copy your ideas. Thats what the whole hoo haa was about with Simon Cowell and X-factor.