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I would like to create a similar icon to one used in another software (e.g. the "Share" icon on iOS, or the "Crop" tool in Photoshop).

My icons are not going to be pixel-wise identical to the reference icons, but they may appear very similar to users.

Is it legal to do so?

Please note that there is no intention to copy the general look of another software, and there is even no intention make the entire icon set in my software similar to a reference software.

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  • is there a reason you do not want to use CC licenced or public domain icons that already exist?
    – Chad
    Aug 31, 2015 at 20:27
  • My opinion on your two examples is that the iOS share icon is different from most competitors but the crop icon is fairly ubiquitous. If you use a very unique icon that's when you get into danger.
    – jqning
    Sep 1, 2015 at 0:41
  • @Chad, Yes, want to keep my own unique and consistent look across the app.
    – Ben-Uri
    Sep 1, 2015 at 7:09
  • Not the look, just the metaphor on which some icons of another software are based. Familiar metaphor will help my users to learn my app faster, and I can still keep my app with a distinguishable look (colors, icon drawing style, fonts, etc.).
    – Ben-Uri
    Sep 1, 2015 at 15:00
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    To weigh in further. If all you are taking is the "idea" it is almost certainly NOT copyright violation. The term "idea" and the term "metaphor" seem like they are probably synonyms in this case. Sep 1, 2015 at 18:19

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If the similarity could create confusion as to whether the original product has endorsed the new product, there may be trademark infringement.

If the similarity suggests that the new product is "derivative" of the older product, this may suggest copyright infringement.

Without knowing the setting, the level of originality and the general complexity of the icons it is not possible to know. But generally, those are the two areas of law that the creation of new icons would be rubbing up against.

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  • Computer icons can also be the subject matter for design patents, in the U.S. as well. Sep 14, 2021 at 6:32

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