Concerns about copycats abound in the creative business world. These concerns and the motivation to protect oneself from this sort of thing are valid. Copying of indie business designs does happen. It also… doesn’t happen.
There are also plenty of makers who carry on for years, without incident.
It has happened where a big business or brand ‘takes inspiration’ a little too directly from a small maker based business.
When I first started getting a lot of traction around my product, copycats popped up regularly.
It bothered me so, so deeply. These weren’t just lookalikes. They were complete, indistinguishable copies, complete with copy-paste jobs on descriptions. None of them ever amounted to much. No one wants to do someone else’s work long term, not really.
Of course, there is a difference between being copied by another small business and being copied by Urban Outfitters.
The solution here is to pursue legal channels to protect yourself when you can, not hide yourself away, and never list anything. If you are concerned about copycats of any size or type and want to do what you can to protect yourself from them, you should explore copyright and trademark protections.
Copyright and trademark protection for your creative work is a process, but it equips you with the ability to fight certain legitimate infractions. It also gives you the authority to assert your copyright or trademark protection. Some protections are inherent at the time of creation. The filing provides more benefits to the creator, though.
The truth is plain: listing an item on a marketplace like Amazon or Etsy does not necessarily make it more likely you’ll be copied. Listing something on the internet at all makes you susceptible to copycats and other unpleasantries. Copycat issues are not a side effect of being on a marketplace. They are a side effect of producing creative work and sharing it. Another side effect of making creative work and sharing it is creating a community of customers, building your business, and living your ideal lifestyle.
We always encourage our Council Members to make decisions based on FACT, not on fear. It is a FEAR that people will copy you if you put your items up on a marketplace, not a fact. It’s also an irrational fear… people can copy you from anywhere, so to be afraid of it happening only on one avenue is nonsensical.
It’s a lot easier to make fact-based decisions when you feel confident in your position and skills as a business owner, not just a maker. Confidence comes from education, practice, and support. Do you have the infrastructure in your business that will allow you to obtain those things? If not, we are inviting you to watch our free webinar, The 4 Must-Have Assets to Build a Thriving Handmade Business on Your Terms (without time guilt, or overwhelm.)
You cannot fully protect yourself from copycats anywhere and still also share your work. You can only get legally legit with your work, and you should. Contact a copyright and trademark attorney to learn more.