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I'm a Software Developer in Australia being hired to develop an e-commerce website from scratch that (quoting my employer) "Does the same thing as the other website". The website belongs to a business that allows customers to select/upload art to be printed, framed and shipped.

I want to know what legal situation I could be walking into considering the case where the look of the website is the same/similar and where they are not (while being functionally the same).

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"Doing the same thing" is very common. We even have names for certain categories of websites, such as "web shop" and "blog". Such concepts are not protected in general. Obviously, you can't copy the name of existing webshop, or their logo, but things like a "rectangular layout of products for sale" aren't original.

There is of course a grey area here, because there's a continuum of similarity. In general, similarities that follow from technical justifications are acceptable (having an upload button is sort of the point for your website), similarities that are cosmetic only (same color choice) might be interpreted as intentional attempts to cause confusion.

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  • I've talked to a number of peers and support staff. My morals are somewhat on high alert and has ultimately resulted in terminating my involvement with the work. I appreciate your answer. Thank you. – Anonymous Chook Apr 20 '18 at 3:04

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