How to deal with copycats in business

  • Article by

    Amie Whale

Copycats in business will happily steal your brand identity and creative work. Learn how to protect your company with intellectual property, copyright, and trademark protection.

While we can run from the truth, identity and originality always find a way of returning to claim their rightful owner. As the old sayings go, whether you’re a tiger or a leopard, you can’t change your stripes or spots.  

And the same works for businesses. It’s something we like to call the Don Draper effect.

Copycats in business - eighty3creative

Well don't you look familiar???

Business copycats will happily steal your brand identity and creative work. Learn how to protect your company with IP, copyright, and trademark protection.

Donald Draper: The Executive Creative Fraudster

Idealised for his creative genius and reckless lifestyle within the flashy advertising industry of 1960s New York, Don Draper from Mad Men is a name associated with searing handsomeness, sharp suits and Cadilac Coupe DeVilles.

But behind his chain-smoking Lucky Strike and Rye whiskey addiction lies a truth even the most captivating of his advertising lines could not keep down.

Despite winning multiple awards and receiving continual acclaim for his work as an Executive Creative Director for a successful advertising agency in Manhattan, throughout all seven series of the hit US drama, Don Draper had one consistent and perpetual problem.


What made Don so good at his job was the weakness that ultimately left his life in ruins. While he could sell the American dream to his clients in board room pitches, ironically, he never could achieve the equivalent satisfaction in the reality of his own life.

Because his own life, like his identity, was a sham. A fateful decision to steal the name Don Draper from its rightful owner tore him down and, in part, destroyed his company.

If we can learn anything from Don is that businesses can run the same risks. Whether it’s taking a creative idea and displaying it as their own or even stealing another business name, it can lead to costly trademark disputes and IP infringement.

The case of Colin/Cuthbert the Caterpillar

Worryingly, the Don Draper effect is more common than you may think. Just recently, the iconic UK retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) settled a lawsuit with German-owned supermarket chain Aldi over the design of a classic chocolate cake.

After accusing Aldi of copying the design of their Colin the Caterpillar cake, both parties agreed for Aldi to remove its Cuthbert cake from sale and agree not to sell anything that resembles Colin in the future.

“The objective of the claim was to protect the IP in our Colin the Caterpillar cake, and we are very pleased with the outcome.”

With Colin accumulating over 15 million cake sales, it shows the power of effective and distinctive design and branding. However, it also serves as a stark reminder to be wary of others who try and piggyback on that success with identical replicas.   

Copycats in business

Copycrocs: Crocs wins multiple lawsuits against various “copyclogs”

From cake to clogs. Whatever next. After filing 21 separate lawsuits against companies such as Walmart, Loeffler Randall, and Hobby Lobby Stores, the casual footwear giant Crocs has since received monetary compensation for intellectual property violations.

“These actions underscore our determination to take forceful steps to protect our trademarks and other intellectual property. It is essential that we protect Crocs’ iconic DNA, and we will not tolerate the infringement of our rights or those who try to freeride on the investments we have made in our brand.”

Crocs have taken multiple big brands to court and received millions in compensation. Not only can stealing intellectual property result in costly financial payouts and legal fees but also severely damage the reputation of a business.   

How to protect your business from copycats

To ensure you cover yourself legally, here are four ways to protect your business from copycats:

Registering for a trademark will protect your business from copycats trying to steal your idea or business name.  

Successfully registering for a trademark will award you with the following symbol – ®. If someone attempts to use your trademark without your permission, they are committing intellectual property infringement. If this happens to you, seek advice from a solicitor or an Intellectual Property Officer.  

Copyright protection will protect any of your published and unpublished works, including the following types of content:

  • Digital content
  • Literature
  • Visual design
  • Photography
  • Video footage

If another company attempts to steal ownership of your work, you can show your verified possession through copyright protection as proof of ownership.

If your company has created a unique invention, product, or process, you can legally protect it by filing for a patent.

As a legal document establishing executive ownership, patents can give you the right to a new idea that will restrict any other person or business from using it without your permission.

Whenever discussing intellectual property or potential trade secrets, it’s crucial to try and enforce confidentiality agreements such as non-disclosure agreements (NDA) whenever possible.

This can include when hiring new employees or freelancers to sign NDAs to avoid any trade secrets making their way to your competitors.

Speak to a marketing specialist to establish your brand presence and avoid copycats in business

Taking the necessary legal steps is vital to protect your business and avoid any Don Draper instances. However, another way to deal with business copycats is to establish a strong brand presence with marketing.

From focusing on your USP to building a strong online presence and memorable brand identity, marketing is the best way to force your competitors out of the equation.

At eighty3 creative, we provide flexible and dynamic digital marketing packages for our clients covering website design and development, design for print, SEO, email marketing, branding and more!

Get in touch today to find out how our industry expertise can secure your identity and enhance your business.   

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