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Note: I checked All of the SE sites, and this seemed to be the only right place to ask this question.

I am a website/webapp developer. Sometimes I simply see a beautiful web template, and I can make it in less than a day using my own technology stack.

I don't use its code. I simply see it and recreate it.

They usually do not have new stuff in them. They are typical website layouts. They include a menu and a slider at the top, a couple of sections in the middle, and a footer at the bottom.

Do I have the right to do that?

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  • I’m sorry but this is a copyright question, not a patent question. You can try posting it at the Law SE site.
    – Eric S
    Feb 16, 2022 at 17:01
  • @EricS, the question can be directed toward copying or bypassing claims of a prior patent, hence bypassing a copyright-only interpretation of the question. I would word your comment instead as: Saeed, please edit your question to focus on a design that has a utility patent or a design patent applied for or granted, so that we don't focus (and thus close) on copyright issues. Feb 16, 2022 at 17:25
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    @AndreasZUERCHER I think it is pretty clear the OP isn't asking about a specific patent, but copying (or being inspired by) the look and feel of a website. I haven't closed it yet, but I'm considering it... Either way, I believe it is a better fit for LawSE.
    – Eric S
    Feb 16, 2022 at 17:39
  • @EricS, I read it differently. Saeed is clearly not saying that he copies source code that comprises the prior-art webpage. He clearly says that he mimics the prior art's capability and/or look & feel via “my own technology stack”, which evokes more of a clean-room approach (if he goes along that path to the proper degree). He never uses the word ‘copy’. He mentions the word “right”, but there exist patent rights in addition to copyright rights, so legal intellectual-property “right” per se isn't synonymous with solely copyright. “REcreate” & “MY OWN tech…stack” trends toward patents, not ©. Feb 16, 2022 at 19:19
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    @AndreasZUERCHER When I see "Sometimes I simply see a beautiful web template, and I can make it in less than a day..." I take that to mean the OP is reproducing the look and feel of a website. Doing so is very likely to violate copyrights. The OP hasn't suggested, in any way, that they are aware of an existing patent.
    – Eric S
    Feb 16, 2022 at 19:55

2 Answers 2

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Icons on a screen can be the subject of design patents but overall “Look and feel” can’t be patented.

An Apple patented icon design.

enter image description here

Other than that it is a copyright or possibly trademark question and those are on-topic at law SE but not here.

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  • I really think this question is off topic here.
    – Eric S
    Feb 16, 2022 at 17:02
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You may freely borrow ideas from prior art as long as you don't copy anything to such a degree that:

  1. you don't encroach on any independent claim in a utility patent that covers that prior art; (Think of the metes & bounds of the claims much the same as a prior-century description of the perimeter of land whose ownership is claimed by textual description in the land-patent claim, so don't build on the land that falls within the claimed perimeter of the land-patent claim—likewise for the content of utility-patent claims.)
  2. you don't encroach on any design patent, which is usually focusing on characteristic identifiable shapes, so copying icon design too much, for example, might run you afoul of a design patent on prior art—likewise for design-patented visual branding of a webpage (to speak to your field).
  3. you don't copy so intimately that you create a derivative work of a copyrighted artifact, but copyright is out of scope here on AskPatents; and
  4. you don't act on (or have any awareness of) any trade secrets that you might possess in your mind from prior nonpublic access to the keeper of the trade secret regarding their private not-publicly-released prior art, but a trade secret is out of scope here on AskPatents.

If the prior art that you seek to mimic is not covered by the claims of an unexpired utility patent and is not covered by the claims of an unexpired design patent (and you don't steal anyone's private trade secrets that were not publicly released and you don't do things that run afoul of copyright), then you can generally (although there can be a variety of corner-case exceptions) freely mimic whatever was publicly disclosed in publicly-released prior art. In all of these legal matters, know precisely where the “fence” is that someone erected at the perimeter of the prior art (e.g., the claim language in a utility patent; the distinctive shapes in a design patent; a copyright, either overt or implied; an attempt to keep certain knowledge private as a trade secret; and so forth). If you find no “fence”, then it is “public land” so to speak, free for certain limited use. But if you find such a “fence” and that “fence” is unexpired, then someone is claiming ownership of that “private land” and you must stay off from that “land” or negotiate (e.g., pay) the owner to “walk” on the ”land” (e.g., license a utility patent for use in your product, then pay royalties as per the terms of the agreement with the owner).

TL;DR: It is best to think of utility patents and design patents in the context of their history as deriving from land patents where the perimeter of ownership of land centuries ago is likewise described in claims text—hence why both a utility patent and a land patent are called a letters patent, due to ownership being described in words.

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    Where you state: "If the prior art that you seek to mimic is not covered by the claims of an expired utility patent...", I think you mean unexpired utility patent. If the patent is expired you don't need to worry about infringement. Otherwise a good answer.
    – Eric S
    Feb 16, 2022 at 19:53
  • @EricS, yes, thank you. Corrected. Feb 16, 2022 at 20:14

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