Copyright breach – how close can I go?



Hello UX Masters :slight_smile:
Recently I was working on usability for a web applicatioin (which I’m not allowed to share :frowning:) and the UI ended up looking just like the Gmail.
Would there be any copyrights issue if I churn out something similar to Google gmail?
Also how do I convince or reason it out with the management?



hi Roland

I don’t know anything about copyrights for user interfaces.
Gmail is one of the most used web mail client.
Let’s say that the UI and UX of this product is becoming more and more a standard (for instance how Gmail works for each breakpoint) so my point is:
*Is your UI a copy/paste of Gmail?
*How much your UI design was released according best practices (some of them are introduced by Gmail)?

In terms of convincing stakeholders to a specific approach/strategy, IMO, it’s another topic, it’s not question of look&feel it’s matter of UX consistency, tech feasibility and design process.


I am not a lawyer, and UX/UI can absolutely be subject to copyright. This is a law question, and should be treated as such. From a legal perspective, the decision whether or not to move forward with a particular design that may infringe on copyright should be made by your legal team. If nothing changes, your goal should be to ensure that the design is run by your legal team before getting the go-ahead to proceed. Do this early in the process if possible. The later your legal team has objections, the more expensive it’ll be to get them fixed.

That said, I think there’s a discussion to be had here about a deeper, more philosophical approach to building new UX/UI.

Pablo Picasso once said “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

I’m not saying that you should steal Gmail’s interface-- far from it. Picasso’s quote makes the point that great art has some universal aspects to it, and many artists are just building on the work of each other to create something new and powerful.

UX isn’t very different in this respect. One of the reasons GMail is so popular is because of its very good usability. Additionally, due to it ubiquity, many of its patterns are now embedded in our collective conscious as the standard in their relative areas.

Furthermore, if your app has anything to do with messaging, the chances are that the layout and functionality look very similar to other messaging apps, GMail included. had a great article a couple of years ago describing how various email competitors were trying to differentiate themselves frome one another-- a difficult task, given that they are all asking their users to perform the same function.

So while it’s OK to come close to a Gmail-type layout, the real question to ask here may not be “Am I too close?” but rather “How can I make this design better to fit the needs of my user?” If you feel this design is the A1 standard, then I think your best approach is to explore how your company might be able to put its own shiny finish on the product. If it’s not, maybe you need to re-visit your drawing board.


Thanks for reaching out mate!
However I have uploaded 2 snapshots so you can have a look.
Standards are meant to be used otherwise what’s the point?


@dougcollins: Thanks for the sharing this. I have also uploaded a few snapshots of the design that I’m coming up with. Let me know if you have any other suggestions.

That was cool :slight_smile:


maybe is not related with your question, can I ask you why:
*there’s the refresh button?
*what’s the difference between the big red CTA and the pen button?


Depending on functionality, the buttons would show/hide or will be enabled/disabled. These buttons are are in relation to the list view. Whereas the red CTA is used only to CREATE onclick will open in a modal window.


I wouldn’t say that that looks much like gmail, it just looks like a bootstrap site TBH.