I know very similar questions have been asked but couldn't find insight on a situation as similar to mine. A (very good) client that I don't want to drop wants me to mimic another website's layout and effects. It's a very specific and high end interface so if they saw it there would definitely be a connection. The fonts/colors/styling/content are all different and I'll be coding it from scratch (I won't even look at their code) so I'm not worried about the obvious copyright violations with those. I guess I'm wondering if website layouts/effects are vulnerable?

Trust me, I don't like doing it and have been constantly trying to steer them in another direction but they keep going back.

I'm also asking lawyers but I thought I'd also get insight from this community just for more different perspectives.

  • 2
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this too broad, highly subjective and is primarily a legal question. Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 20:38
  • You can pretty much claim copyright on the smallest of things if they are truly originally designed. This depends on how aggressive the site's legal team is, how close your design is, and so many other variables. Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 20:40
  • 1
    A good approach might be to combine a few different-but-similar sites' "styles" into a "new" style of your own (this is essentially the creative process) Commented Jul 12, 2018 at 2:58
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    You should probably have their requirements stated in writing and that you will not be held responsible for any legal action related to these requirements. Both parties should sign the agreement.
    – curious
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 16:17
  • Possible duplicate of Where does inspiration end, where does illegitimate copying start? Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 15:33

2 Answers 2


Copying "Look and feel" is not a copyright infringement, if the content is different.

Example: If you have made painting of a slightly smiling woman and maybe an open water faucet somewhere in the background, but the woman is totally different than Mona Lisa, nobody can legally judge you have copied Mona Lisa altough it is possible to see some similarity.

It's possible to trademark the "trade dressing". It's a color combination and a well defined principle how to insert decorative elements.

It's possible to patent the look and feel - for example Samsung was forced to pay to Apple for unauthorized copying iPhone's screen. The basis was the existing patent of functional layout. Apple tried the same against Microsoft (Windows) but failed because the idea of graphical user interface was well known before Apple's Mac and Lisa.

As long as the trade dressing nor the functional layout principle are not protected, there's no basis for claims in a court of law, but are they protected? Maybe you know.

Your situation in case of theft depends on are you independent contractor or a worker. A worker can be forced (prove it by having a given order and your own recommendations in unchallengable form), but independent contractor at least has helped to complete the theft and with no other evidence he has done it alone.

Warning: I'm not a proper lawyer, do not consider this a legal advice.


Definitely the wrong thing to do, as you can easily create a good design without copying one. However if it must be done, i'll say:

  1. different content (text and pictures) plus different branding could eventually make these not that similar
  2. save every written conversation (email) where you are saying 'no' and they are saying 'yes' to this. if anything happens, they should take the fall for requesting this

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