How should I treat a business competitor who keeps copying my unique ideas?
Imitation is a form of flattery. If your business is successful, other entrepreneurs are going to want to grab a piece of the pie. Accept this as a rule of business. If the idea is easy to copy and makes a lot of money then enjoy the short amount of head start time you get on your competitors and think of the next idea. You will always need to be developing new ideas.
Ways to protect your ideas:
1. Execution. A lot of people have a range of ideas from average to great. Executing on the idea is the key. Good execution of an average idea will likely be better than bad execution of a great idea. You need to execute on your idea better than your competitors. Invest in ideas where you know you will be better in execution.
Starbucks the coffee shop is a good example of execution of an average idea. It is a public company, their finances and strategy are posted on the internet. Hundreds of thousands of employees work for Starbucks and know how the operations work, their marketing playbook, and where they get supplies from. Thousands of entrepreneurs have opened coffee shops, but none have executed well enough to make a Starbucks rival.
2. Be hard to copy. Build and invest in ideas that are harder to copy because they require unique skills, investment or technology. A good example would be Apple. The iPhone requires top engineering talent, a large investment in manufacturing and key patent technologies. That is why copying the iPhone is a non trivial task. What ideas can you develop which have some of these attributes?