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What To Do When Someone Takes Your Product Idea

Having somebody emulate your idea can be frustrating, but what can you do?

3Dec

Charles Holland Duell's 'Everything that can be invented has been invented' soundbite is a reminder that however advanced everything around us feels, in a century's time, our grandchildren will wonder how we didn't die of boredom with just laptops and smartphones at our disposal.

While genuinely original ideas are few and far between - new products tend to build on an existing idea, adding new features, and improving usability - seeing someone copy your product is frustrating.

Here are three ways you can deal with this.

You can still be different

A company has competitors because they aren't the only people offering that particular service. Spotify and Pandora dominate the music streaming industry, while the original service, Rhapsody, is considered an also-ran.

Google and Apple have also entered the space, making Rhapsody's user-base even more vulnerable. While it struggles to hold on to its 2.5 million subscribers, Spotify can call on almost ten times that amount - with an additional 55 million using the service for free.

Even though Rhapsody had the original idea, it's Spotify that's now the household name. It goes to show that differentiation and increasing usability is key, and that even if your idea is snatched away, you can still make a name for yourself.

What's an idea without execution?

Following on from the point above, even if someone has launched your product idea, it doesn't mean they have done it well.

In 2001, Microsoft released the first tablet. At the product launch Bill Gates said: 'within five years I predict it will be the most popular form of PC sold in America.'

He was right to an extent. Unfortunately, however, it would be Apple's iPad 14 years later that would take the world by storm, with 2015 the first year that tablets have outsold PCs. Microsoft's tablet was expensive, around $2,000, and for that money the device wasn't capable of replacing a PC. The iPad rectified these issues, proving that even though Microsoft had the original idea, they needed another company to really bring it to life.

Move on

The points above show that it's not always the first-mover who takes all the glory. If your idea has been stolen, see it as a blessing in disguise. The other company risks losing capital if the launch goes badly, while you can bide your time and find ways to develop your idea or even come up with a new and better one.

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