Every now and then I’ll receive an email from a customer alerting me to a competing product that looks a lot like my own, but I’m rarely concerned by these reports. After all, my software borrows plenty of UI ideas from other programs, so how could I raise a stink when someone borrows from me? And quite frankly, it benefits all of us when innovation relies on borrowing – and building upon – existing ideas. That’s how good ideas get refined.
However, once in a while I’ll see a competitor who goes too far. Right now I’m aware of a CSS editor that not only looks similar to TopStyle, but also blatantly uses TopStyle’s data files.
If you look in TopStyle’s \CSSDefs and \HTMLDefs subfolders you’ll find several files containing information about the various flavors of HTML and CSS, which are used by features such as the inspector and style checker. The data isn’t simply a regurgitation of information from the W3C – it also contains details of cross-browser compatibility issues and the like, which represents a significant investment of my time.
This unnamed competitor also has a folder containing CSS and HTML data files – which are the same ones included with TopStyle! This isn’t just coincidence, since they contain the exact same bugs that TopStyle’s data files do (or did, at least, until I corrected them in TopStyle Pro 3.11).
Now, after trying out this product, I can see that it’s far less powerful than TopStyle (it offers no CSS or HTML validation, for example, and has nothing remotely like TopStyle’s site reports). But even so, it’s obviously trying to compete with TopStyle, and I’m not wild about a competitor passing off my work as their own.
I’ve privately contacted the company that makes this editor, but have yet to receive a reply. Short of taking legal action (something I really don’t want to do, since it takes far too much time and money), what are my options here?