One of the common themes we see over and over again is people filing lawsuits just because they're upset about something
(to a lesser extent, this also applies to DMCA takedowns). We just wrote about Judge Posner's shredding
of Apple's patent litigation strategy, noting that just because you're "really annoyed," it doesn't mean you get to sue. Famed venture capitalist Fred Wilson has riffed on this idea, talking about how he loves investing in innovators rather than copycats, and he feels a visceral emotional anger when he sees an innovator copied
, but that's no reason for a lawsuit:
I have often felt that "palpable sense of injustice" when our firm is an investor in the innovator and a copycat competitor shows up. But there is a difference between being pissed and having a legal claim.
Indeed, as we've written before, we recognize the emotional
response that comes about when this happens. It's natural to get angry when someone copies you. But is it a reason to go legal? That's much more difficult to justify. In fact, as Wilson notes, often someone copying you can be a good thing
Knockoffs create competition for the innovator and keep them honest. And they provide an opportunity for those that cannot, for some reason, work with the innovator.
And, as he notes, if the original company is a true innovator, they'll keep innovating
and stay ahead of the competition anyway:
If the innovator keeps innovating, as Apple and [YCombinator] have, they will do fine and will enjoy the spoils that come from creating the category and leading it.
And that's really the key in all of this. Competition is not a static snapshot. Time doesn't stand still. Innovation is an ongoing process. Copycats are often a bit behind the leader, but as long as the leader truly understands its market, it's in a much better position to continue innovating and leading. The copycats act as incentive to increase that innovation
, and that seems like a pretty good thing, if we believe that greater innovation is a good thing. People have a natural reaction where they think that "copying" is bad -- but if you look at the overall impact, and the fact that it results in greater innovation from the leader as well, it turns out the opposite is true.