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The lawsuit alleges that Shopline Commerce Pte. Ltd. and Shopline US Inc. created a copycat version of Dawn, a Shopify application that enables the creation of customizable storefront templates.

Two large, public, and prominent ecommerce technology companies will soon square off in court over software copycat and infringement issues. Shopify Inc. has filed a lawsuit against a U.S. subsidiary of JOYY Inc.

Shopify is an ecommerce platform developer and service provider. Joyy is a video-based social media platform that trades on NASDAQ.

The suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York alleges that Shopline Commerce Pte. Ltd. and Shopline US Inc. created a copycat version of Dawn, Shopify’s computer program that enables the creation of customizable storefront templates.

“Shopify merchants can use Dawn to quickly launch a compelling online presence or to design their unique store,” Shopify says in its lawsuit. “It is the product of many thousands of hours of creative effort by Shopify employees and the investment of many millions of dollars and Dawn is protected by copyrights registered in the United States.”

In North America, 117 of the Top 1000 online retailers use Shopify as their ecommerce platform. The Top 1000 is Digital Commerce 360’s database of the largest online retailers in the region by annual web sales. In 2023, those 117 online retailers combined for more than $9.72 billion in web sales.


Shopify sues Shopline

Shopify alleges that Shopline copied Dawn and is now distributing what it calls “a thinly disguised knockoff” called Seed.

“Shopline’s derivative of Dawn still carries damning evidence of Shopline’s wholesale copying,” Shopify says in its suit. “The file structure and layout, file names, function names, lines of code and even icon codes from Shopify’s original can still be found in Seed. The ‘Shopify’ name still appears in the code of various versions of Seed that Shopline is distributing. And Shopify has found a Chinese webpage hosted by Joyy bearing the title: “Seed Theme” that still carries headers reading ‘dawn-test.’”

Digital Commerce 360 reached out for comment to JOYY but has yet to receive a response.

“We’ve taken aggressive legal action against Shopline to uphold the integrity of Shopify’s products,” a Shopify spokesperson said in a statement. “We will continue to fiercely defend our intellectual property from bad faith actors.”


The Shopify lawsuit contends that Shopline violated Shopify’s copyright both in the U.S. and globally.

“To create Seed, Shopline started by making an unauthorized copy of Dawn, translated that unauthorized copy into a different programming language, and then made cosmetic changes to the Dawn code,” the lawsuit says. “From the highest level of overarching organization to the smallest level of individual lines of code, the evidence of Shopline’s copying is overwhelming. The organization of Seed’s directory layout matches Dawn’s layout, using the same names and same labels, and has identical contents for the code. That would not be if the programs were independently developed.”

In its action, Shopify is asking the court for a cease decision and unspecified statutory damages and legal fees. The district court has not scheduled preliminary dates for a hearing.

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