Competitor's lack morality!

I found out last week that a competitor had copied the proposal that I provide to each and every customer that I give a quote for a new swimming pool.I am not saying that they copied the way that I quote I am saying that they copied it word for word with only about 5% of it changed to suit them.I have been using this method of quoting since 1992 and now they have copied it.This proposal is a very thorough scope letter which details the construction and plainly states and defines the construction as well as defining what is or is not included.I have been complemented may times on this proposal because of the way it dictates what the customners expectations can be.I spent a lot of time developing it and can't believe that someone who is quoting the same people as I do would provide the same customers with a proposal exactly like mine.It obviously takes someone without any form of morality to do something like this.I bet they even tell people that I copied them.I kow its a complement that they want to be like us but this is rediculous.Anyone have any good ideas on how to overcome this short of completely changing my proposal as I don't see any way to make it better than it is now?
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  • One of the most frustrating things about working in the pool business, is that some of our competitors are building pools because it's the only industry that will tolerate their antics. If they are using your materials to get work, they are desperate, and likely cutting corners elsewhere, leading to end-user dissatisfaction.

    In the mean time, you can be focusing on getting better and better at what you do, while they try and copy you with dollar signs on their eyeballs...Their implosion is inevitable, while your success is equally inevitable. Not to get too Yoda on you...
  • Ben, I had a lawyer obtain a copyright for my book and I have a formal document that is my copyright. It cost a couple of thousand dollars or so, but you can use the copyright symbol and protect things without actually filing one until you are ready and it may be all you need. For anything you truly want to keep proprietary going the lawyer route is the best, though, and do the whole thing.

    I can't tell you how many situations we have encountered like this over the years. It is very upsetting but in the big scheme of things, it just diminishes them and not you. I would resist the urge to "bad-mouth" them by name to your clients, but perhaps put some generic statement on your proposal form and start using the copyright symbol on it. It is annoying and tempting to criticize them to your customers, but makes you look less professional if you acknowledge them. Ignore them.

    We once had a competitor use a PICTURE of our showcase of homes pool which had won design awards in THEIR brochure for a home show! They also had a huge color photo of it hanging in their office!! We got a lawyer to send a cease and desist letter and destroy the brochures and send us the picture, and I made a little visit to their showroom where they attempted to had me a brochure even after they were supposed to quit using them! That was how I found out they had the pic in their office!

    We also have seen a competitor make fake design award plaques for his office which looked like the real deal unless you looked really closely. We have also caught a competitor using pictures of our pools on their website! Obviously we notified them to take them off, and you have to defend yourself. We've seen them do all kinds of things- be above it. Because, you ARE! You will come out on top in the long run.
  • Complement or not it still does not change the fact that they stole your ideas. The best way to protect yourself is to at least put a copyright and date on all your documents and pool plans to discourage our competitors and pool buyers from stealing your plans and ideas and duplicating them.
    You don"t really have to go thru the process on registering your copyright until you need to enforce your copyright action against the party that copied your document.
    It is unfortunate that some folks in our industry and buyers lack integrity and respect.
    It is a shame that pool buyers, our customers have to view the image of our industry thru our sales and design staffs which in a lot of cases have had very little training, creativity and therefore have to copy the works of those who have worked very hard to develop their skills in their trade. I feel your frustration. Mark Richter
  • How difficult is it to copyright it and what is the process?
    I mostly e-mail the proposals anyway so e-mailing quote back should be simple.
    I called them and they said that they have been using it for a year or so and yes it probably was pretty similar to mine and seemed totally OK with that.
    I just added a paragraph to mine stating that my competitor had copied my proposal in an effort to appear to be equal to,which we take as a complement,please don't expect them to be able to copy our way of doing business or our quality.
    Hopefully this statement alone will make them look pretty bad in the eyes of the consumer.
  • Ben, copyright all your original materials and be sure to display the make on all reproductions. A "common law" copyright is a legal protection of your work. You must realize that a copyright is basically the right to sue. So to enforce it you will need evidence of when you originated the work and that it was correctly labeled. Time stamps on a computer screen shot, a copy emailed to yourself with the time indicated are ways of establishing the date.

    Absent these labels and evidence there is little you can do other than contact them and see if there is any remains of a conscience you can reach. Good luck!
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