HOW TO DEAL WITH BITERS
Getting ripped off is an occupational hazard for all of us who do creative work. Having recently had to deal with a fair amount of biters myself, I thought I'd share some of the best strategies you can adopt when dealing with annoying copycats.
CHECK IN WITH YOURSELF FIRST
Take a deep breath and try to maintain perspective on the situation. As a creative person, staying rational in these circumstances can be hard - your work is a personal expression of your self, ergo it's tricky not to take the biting personally. As with any aggravating situation, you can only control your own reaction. Remember that allowing a biter to rile you means they win twice. Don't rise to it.
USE IMITATION AS A POSITIVE INDICATOR OF SUCCESS
So, someone has ripped you off. Congratulations! You're officially on the right tracks. You've produced an idea, concept, or design that has affected another human being in a real and impactful way. That's really why we work, isn't it? If you create anything and put it out into the world, there will be repercussions, both good and bad. The good bit is the 'reaching people' part; the bad bit is the 'getting ripped off' part. Remember that you can't reap the benefits of one without risking the other.
There are, of course, exceptions to taking a zen approach to copycats. If someone has directly reproduced your work without your permission then you are well within your rights to take action. Prevention is obviously better than cure: Read up on the steps you should be taking to protect your creative work; register patents and trademarks where relevant; and consider adding a clause to any pitch documents or decks, outlining your ownership of the ideas expressed within. If you discover someone has really, truly, and unlawfully ripped you off, consider legal action.
DON'T BE BITTER; BE BETTER
My best friend Sharmadean Reid is the founder of WAH Nails - a nail art salon and product line that has been ripped off so widely that she actually named one of her nail polishes Biters Beware as a nod to all the imitators. When I asked her advice on dealing with biters, she simply said: "Use it as fuel." Of course, she's right. Competition can be an extremely healthy motivator to work harder and move faster. The next time someone nicks it, use the anger as the kick up the butt you need to make your project bigger, better, and more impactful than before.
REMEMBER: WE ARE ALL BITERS
"Good artists copy, great artists steal." Picasso
"We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas." Steve Jobs
Consciously or not: All artists steal ideas. Your great idea - the one that you're angry someone copied - is almost certainly a confluence of a million influences and references that you've absorbed from somewhere else. Great ideas do not develop in isolation; not even yours! Remembering that we are all idea thieves in one form or another is probably the best way to deal with imitators. So make peace with all your biters, and then challenge yourself to bite better than the rest.