I am being copied
Let us assume that you see a product at an exhibition which is very similar to the one you make or offer. Or you come across a Chinese manufacturer online who is offering your product at a much lower price. These are just some of the ways in which manufacturers find out that their product is being copied.
It is a frustrating and difficult problem. It will make your product less attractive, temporarily at least. On top of that it takes time, money and energy to tackle your copycat, if indeed you can.
Your gut feeling might be to take immediate steps against the copycat. It is very tempting to do so, but it might end up costing you dearly. A better and more fruitful approach is to analyse the problem carefully using the questions and steps below.
If you want to tackle a copycat the following is relevant:
- What exactly has been copied? Does it involve an exact copy or are there any differences? How big or small are these differences?
- What kind of rights and protection do you have? Have you protected your product? With which rights and scope of protection?
- In which country is the product being copied?
- Who is the copycat, why is he copying and why is this possibly allowed?
- What possibilities do you have to tackle the copycat?
Analyse the fake product
First of all try to get hold of the fake product and examine it. Does it use the same technology or solution? Are the products similar in terms of design? Look for the ten differences! These questions are important to determine how we can tackle the copycat.
Establish your rights
It is not always forbidden to copy a product. If you want to stop the copycat, you will need to have solid legal grounds for doing so. It is very valuable to have a patent or design registration in that case. However, in some cases you can also tackle the copycat without formalised rights.
Investigate the copycat
A copycat is not always aware of the fact that he is copying your product. Sometimes people invent the same thing at the same time in different parts of the world. In that case they will market their product in good faith.
There are nevertheless also plenty of parties that deliberately copy a product or service. These deliberate copycats can be broken down into two categories:
- Copycats that make an exact copy of your product. This is then generally made with cheaper materials, sold at a lower price and is of a poorer quality.
- Copycats that are very much aware of your rights. They often conduct research into your intellectual property rights and feel that they can get around these. For example, by making a minor change.
Look into your options
Once you have developed a good picture of your competitor and his product, you should contact a patent attorney. Do not try to solve the problem yourself. If someone wrongfully accuses you of an infringement, this can have financial consequences for you. On top of that you will weaken your position if you provide unnecessary information to your competitor.
A patent attorney will examine the facts one by one. He or she will look at the product, your Intellectual Property rights and the copycat. Based on this analysis the attorney will give you advice. This can come down to issuing an injunction against the copycat, starting legal proceedings, or looking into a possible collaboration. This way you will jointly arrive at the best possible solution for this annoying compliment for your product.