At Traklight, we share a lot of intellectual property (IP) horror stories (my vote is to set up a campfire and roast marshmallows over it next time).
There are countless examples — these are just some of our most recent submissions. Hold on to your loved ones, and brace yourselves.
"We were hired by a financial brokerage firm to design a Boston office. We did a space plan (all of our dwgs are copyrighted), discussed materials, colors, lighting...but before they authorized us to complete the construction documents, they found out that all of their offices had to be designed by the home office (that means no payment).
Months later, I met the client walking in town. He stopped me with a happy look on his face..."Guess what?" he said, "We were able to implement your design in every detail. I thought that you you would be so happy to hear that. You should come see how great it looks!" Happy? I was horrified! That same story has happened a couple of other times... We even had a client duplicate one floor to do another floor without letting us know...and we still haven't figured out how they got a building permit without an architecture stamp.
Intellectual property gets no respect. Copying is a sincere form of flattery...but where is the money?"- Leslie Saul
"Issue with competitor reverse engineering our tools: I run an online startup called Planning Pod that provides Web-based event management software tools to event professionals and venues. About 4 years ago when we had a precursor product to our current product, we discovered that a developer in South Africa tried to reverse engineer our software product and was selling it online as a competitive product.
The copycat's product was a very paired down version of ours, but his user interface was similar in some cases (and almost identical in many others) and the functionality of his tools mimicked the function of our own tools.
We consulted our attorney regarding this, but since we did not file a copyright for the look-and-feel of our user interface, he basically said we could send him a letter asking the individual to stop copying our product and even send a cease-and-desist, but that we were looking at a difficult-to-win case that may cost thousands of dollars to pursue.
Fortunately for us, the copycat did not have the resources to keep up with us. This is where a lean software development approach and releasing constant iterations of your software can prove to be an advantage because you create a moving target for such copycats.
For future iterations of our user interface, we have been filing copyrights regularly to deter other companies from copying the look-and-feel of our interface and how our tools are laid out." - Jeff Kear
"I'm an inventor with a product called swiggies, wrist water bottles. They were a NASDAQ product of the year and are sold in 24 countries. Several years ago I decided to Google wrist water bottle to see which retailers and distributors were carrying my product. I was shocked to see pages of Chinese websites with my product and pictures of me wearing my product.. (violating my copyrights, trademarks, and patent).
When I called them they tried to sell me the product until I told them it was my patent protected item. Then suddenly they didn't speak English. After sending them my patent info, some of them took it down. Some weren't aware that it was patented. The rest were what I call the bottom feeder counterfeits. They knew they were counterfeiting and didn't care.
That's when I created www.infringerblacklist.com. It was just my way of documenting who the good guys and bad guys were, and it was just for my own product. Infringer Blacklist is only a fraction of what I went through. To this day I spend about an hour a day hunting down counterfeiters. The ones that were left were reported to the search engines and given a warning. Many times they would just pop up somewhere else as another company or website. I've also developed my own tricks to cut off their money supply. That's all counterfeiters care about is: money. So when you take that away, there's no incentive for them. They simply move on to easier targets." - Julie Austin
Thank you to everyone who submitted their IP Horror Stories. Traklight hopes to prevent these kinds of stories for all businesses (despite the fact that they are good thrillers for IP geeks on Halloween).
Do you ever feel like your business is the main character in a horror story?
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