This post originally appeared on the JadoPado Blog and has been re-produced here to preserve the JadoPado historical record.

Let’s say you’re a little startup that takes inspiration from here and there and manages to put together an interesting product that starts to get traction. What would you do if a gargantuan firm came out of nowhere and decided that rather than putting together its own competing, innovative and unique product that it would copy your product wholesale, down to the text on your buttons?

Three weeks ago, Saloni our Customer Service Manager (she’s a real super star!) got a call from a firm called Danube. If you’re from the region the name should ring a bell. Danube were looking to hire a Customer Service Executive for a new e-commerce business that they are building. During the phone call with Saloni they tried to find out more about JadoPado, our team and how we were running things. Saloni decided that it was probably best to turn them down and that seemed to be the end of it.

Last Thursday, during one of our usual bantering sessions in the JP Customer Service room on HipChat, Humza (we love him too!) decided to mention a new e-commerce business from Danube Buildmart as a response to my quote from Cobone’s latest press release.

As we usually do, we all went off to check out the latest new entrant. I was initially amused, which quickly gave way to bemusement and soon after, anger and frustration.

Danube Direct has blatantly ripped of a number of our design elements, including our menus, our cart drop down, our order review and our delivery slots. Amongst other things, even the way we name our buttons has been copied.

Danube describes itself as the “№1 Building Materials Company” and “one of the largest building materials company [sic] in the region”. They go on to state that their 2011 revenues will touch AED 1.6 billion, which equates to USD 435 million. I’ve decided not to link to their website given the context of this post. Feel free to look it up.

It’s one thing for a competitor or another startup to be inspired by your work, and you in turn by the work of others, however a large business trying to muscle into your space with a blatant knock off is a whole other ball game.

The question is what do you do next?

I don’t think it makes sense for a startup to enter into a legal battle with an entity with far greater resources. Beyond the cost of taking the legal route is the loss of time and focus that could be spent on your product and growing your business. It is however important to call out those who decide to copy and ripoff, while taking comfort in the fact that while a design can be copied, the copier does not know why a particular design is the way it is and how it came to be.

Jason Fried of 37Signals fame has a great post that sums this up:

“The copier doesn’t know why it looks the way it looks or feels the way it feels or reads the way it reads. The copied interface is a faux finish.

This is why future iterations of a copied interface begin to break down quickly. The copiers don’t understand where to take it next because they don’t understand the original intention. They don’t know the original moves so they don’t understand the next move.”

In the words of another famous Jason (Goldberg of, “Do something original or don’t do anything at all”.

Head down and back to work.