I have been working on a new kind of reference book for some years. The book is similar to existing reference books, but uses a unique way to present the information, which I previously had not seen in books, but imagined might be useful.

I recently found someone else has published a book, just this year which is identical in concept. The marketing of the book even specifically emphasizes the novelty of the new approach to presenting the information. Beyond the small details, such as specific wording of the data, the two books are really similar.

Could I run into copyright or similar problems if I attempt to publish my book, given the similarities in the concept?

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A concept or an idea cannot be copyrighted, so you wouldn't have to worry about running into any copyright issues unless you use some of the same content. However, there are other ways to protect intellectual property, such as trademarks or patents. You may want to closely examine the other material to ensure that they have not sought out their own protection using one of these types of devices.

Now then, having said all that, you may want to take into consideration the ramifications of being the second to market with a new concept or idea. There are going to be some, perhaps even the publisher of the other book, who may even call you out on that. Without having already filed for protection of your own intellectual property, you may have a pretty hard time convincing anyone in a court of public opinion that you really thought of it first. If you can't find a way to further differentiate your idea, then you may want to reconsider.

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