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I'm creating an application based on Stack Overflow API, which is the combination of recent question links of all the sites that API supported and using its UI and icons.

But according to new policies, I feel like I am infringing Stack Overflow.

So, any opinions on how should I fix my UI?, and any other things to fix if there is?

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I'm having similar trouble with my aggregator as well, as I've copied the look almost verbatim... – Mark Henderson Jun 9 '10 at 2:39
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I'm torn.

You're allowed to use their logos, so that's not a problem:

Do feel free to use names or logos for the purpose of labeling our sites within your product, as long as use of such logos could not be confused with the branding or endorsement of the product itself.

But, then you use a very similar display mechanism for the questions:

Do not copy the look and feel of our products.

There's no reason why your UI should look so similar to their UI. It may cause a little confusion; but only to the newly initiated user. For the information you're displaying, you could keep it clean and still include everything they do.

As far as the timestamps used on the posts, Stack Overflow doesn't have a monopoly on how to display time, so I wouldn't worry about that, but I would change the question display interface itself.

To fix your UI, you could:

  • Get rid of the 'Views' count.
  • Don't use items that lack context. The green square around an answered question, or the blue number. Those lack context, I don't know what they mean. If I visited the relevant SO site a lot, I would know what they mean there, but for your site it doesn't fit.
  • Use a giant checkmark to indicate a question has been answered?
  • Remove the person who asked the question, it isn't necessary. When clicking on the question will take you to the page that has that information on it.
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I don't really think they have any legal basis for this.. The position of the elements in the page and how it works in general (what you may call "look and feel") is not copyrightable in the united states. And for good reason: if it wasn't then things like "application dropdown menus" would be copyrighted, and every time you use a new software you have to re-learn everything from scratch. – Andreas Bonini Jun 9 '10 at 2:42
beware our CRACK LEGAL TEAM!!… – Jeff Atwood Jun 9 '10 at 2:53
Thanks a lot George, I think I got some ideas now. – YOU Jun 9 '10 at 3:21
@Kop: Copyright is one thing; trademark is another. If you are deliberately making one site look like another with the intent of confusing the viewer, you're likely violating trademark law. See an actual lawyer for details. – David Thornley Jul 27 '10 at 14:20

This is exactly the type of issue I was afraid would happen:

It would be bad if developers felt obligated to go out of their way to avoid copying "look and feel", and thus make every app harder to use. All apps that display votes should present a somewhat consistent interface (e.g. colored right triangles).

Do you intend to pretend to be a SOInc product? Do you think a reasonable person would believe your site is a SOInc product?

I can't give you a concrete answer, but I do wish the guidelines didn't make you overly concerned.

However, I can suggest trying to apply your own branding. A masthead across the top of the page is relatively easy, for example. Clearly set yourself apart so it's obvious you're not a SOInc product.

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Thanks, but I lack knowledge on graphics and designs, so how should I understand the meaning of own branding ? Is that changing font, size, colors, positions? I still feel its same, but just hard to use it? No intention to pretend SOInc Product though. – YOU Jun 9 '10 at 3:00
@SMark: By "apply your own branding" I mean clearly differentiate yourself to minimize the chance anyone will confuse you with an official SOInc product. You can copy look and feel as long as you don't imitate – this is the trade dress issue Robert commented on in my linked post. – Gnome Jun 9 '10 at 3:05
Will that be ok?, If I mention This is NOT a SO Inc product in the page? – YOU Jun 9 '10 at 3:08
I know of no formula to determine the minimum change required, and my understanding is this is just an overall murky issue (legally). Disclaimers and fine print certainly help, but they aren't enough by themselves. I can't copy Coca-Cola's glass bottle design and then print "Not Coca-Cola" on the bottom, for example. – Gnome Jun 9 '10 at 3:08
:D that make sense, Thanks. – YOU Jun 9 '10 at 3:12
Every time I see "SOInc" my brain thinks "sonic" for a second. Rrgh. – Pops Jun 9 '10 at 14:42

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