How to best prevent product copycatting?

Our client has come up with a product that is truly unique for its industry. They are new to the product development & marketing game and have a significant fear that someone in the industry with deeper pockets is going to copy their product.

Understanding that patents are one way of protection, they are particularly expensive.

I go through this with a lot of clients. Especially ones that haven’t done product development before. There is an inordinate amount of fear that their product is going to get ripped off and their business is going to be stripped away.

I tend to follow the belief that if you do your best not to become a commodity product, you’re chances of success are quite high, even when the inevitable copycat comes along. They might be able to copy your product, but they won’t be able to keep up with your innovation.

I am looking for any other thoughts on strategies to prevent product copycatting.

One technique is use manufacturing processes outside the competency or capabilities of the competition. This is what Apple has done since the translucent plastic iMacs. It doesn’t protect the core technology, but it does prevent the kind of low-hanging fruit copy cats from doing a cut & paste.

Continuing to innovate is certainly another strategy. If you can create the scenario of how long it will take for your competition to develop their copy and use that to plan your next generation, it will help.

I visited a furniture manufacturer that did just that 914. They produce a lot of contract cafe type tables and chairs, and as an Italian brand, where constantly getting knocked off. So they would design in especially complicated bends that they had to design new machines to replicate just to discourage total knock offs. It worked. It was cheaper to knock off someone else.