If you’re an Instagram user, then you probably noticed the recent rollout of a new feature called “stories,” which is quite similar to Snapchat’s own feature. So, did Instagram infringe on Snapchat’s intellectual property?
Techworld explored this possibility, quoting a Wired UK interview with Instagram’s head of product, Kevin Weil:
“Facebook was the first to introduce the Feed, now tons of apps have feeds and you don’t think anything of it when another app uses a feed — it’s the same thing with hashtags. We think the story is going to become a common format.”
While Instagram gave Facebook props, there’s still the matter of intellectual property. Instagram probably felt comfortable with “their blatant copying” because of the “idea-expression dichotomy” in intellectual property law. Generally, an idea isn’t protectable but the expression of that idea is.
Techworld quoted IP and Technology Disputes Partner, Jeremy Harris, at UK-based firm Kemp Little LLP on the matter.
“Unless they are copying the underlying source code, or perhaps the exact way it looks, it’s unlikely that they have a case under copyright law.”
According to Harris, most likely Snapchat doesn’t have much of a case for the “stories” name, either, because it’s “descriptive,” which can be difficult to trademark.
Techworld makes a final note that it’s possible that with this feature addition, Instagram with its 300 million users may no longer need to use Snapchat, which claims 150 million users. And yet, Snapchat, which reigns supreme among younger users with its “dynamic filters and face-swapping capabilities,” may still be king.