During a recent meeting a business owner was complaining about how one of their competitors had ripped off the design to one of their marketing flyers. Everything had been copied – the layout, colours, and text. The owner had put considerable time and effort into producing the flyer and they were angry at the transgression.

You might think, oh it’s just a flyer, a piece of paper with some ink on, it doesn’t matter. To the owner it mattered a lot. Intellectual property and copyright protection is a complex subject, and in the majority of cases a small business is unable to afford the legal costs to take action against a competitor, least of all for something like the artwork on a flyer.

Ripping off/copying/stealing is commonplace. Heck, it can even go as far as ripping off an entire business, its products, marketing and website copy. In the moment it can heighten emotions and waste time. With the benefit of a little distance calmer analysis may lead to the realisation that the impact is much less than first feared. In the case of the flyer, having a protective, possessive attitude about the flyer is restrictive. A key point to consider is what goodwill and financial harm has resulted from the action?

A way of diffusing the anger is to take it as a compliment that others deemed the work of sufficient high quality so as to be worthy of stealing. The scrotes were lazy, incapable of original ideas, and couldn’t be asked to attempt anything better, so they took the easy route and stole instead.

Seeing it as validation and approval that you are doing things right puts a whole different spin on things. That doesn’t make it acceptable of course, and you should definitely name and shame them, and consider taking legal action if appropriate.

Every successful product and business spawns competitors. Competition forces you to stay on top of your game. It forces you to continually create better products and services to stay ahead.

Time is short. Use it wisely and productively.

Better to focus on moving forward I think: learning, improving and innovating. You’ll leave the stealers in your wake.

Daniel Tenner has also written about this.