It’s not hard to tell when a design is an exact copy of another design - the two look alike, after all. It’s far more difficult to judge when a design concept is copied. A "concept" is the idea behind a design. It is the designer’s approach to solving the design puzzle they’ve been presented.
Concept copying is a very important subject for all designers - online and off. After all, when you make a living from your ideas, it hurts your business when other people steal those ideas. While it's commonly accepted that designs may be influenced (broadly) by other design, copying another designer’s concept is not okay.
It should also be said that not everything we create is completely unique. All designers are influenced by their culture, history, and environment. Different designers may find themselves following a similar path when presented with the same design challenge (project brief). Still, there is a very clear difference between sharing influence and outright stealing.
We extend our intellectual property protections to cover the originality of ideas in a specific project, even if two designs aren't exact copies of one another. For example, if the client’s project brief and/or the name of their company or product doesn't naturally suggest certain design elements, we will protect any entries that introduce original elements into a specific project.
This means that we will not allow other creatives in the project to use those same elements (especially after a client reacts positively when seeing the ideas from the creative who first introduced them). We do this to be fair.
On the other hand, we do not prohibit designers from using ideas that logically follow from the details included in the design brief - even if they are submitted first in a project. For example, in a project for a sea shipping company, we won't prevent designers from using ships as graphics - the name itself suggests that such elements are appropriate.