Saturday, January 4, 2020


Companies have been suing each other for ages, especially over copyright infringement.  Some of the biggest brands in the world have taken each other to court.  The outcome of some of these lawsuits have altered entire industries some of which might look very different today if the outcome of the lawsuit had gone the other way.

10)  DYSON VS. HOOVER (2000)
Duration of lawsuit:  one year
Winner:  Dyson
Damages:  $4.9 million

Dyson claimed Hoover infringed on its patent for the bagless cleaner which uses a dynamic similar to a centrifuge to pull dust from the air.  The court found that Hoover used the same technology which did infringe on James Dyson's invention.  Hoover appealed twice and lost both times.  The court instructed Hoover to stop selling its Vortex model.

9)  ORACLE VS. SAP (2007)
Duration of lawsuit:  seven years
Winner:  Oracle
Damages:  $357 million

Center of the lawsuit was SAP's TomorrowNow unit which Oracle claimed had illegally downloaded copyrighted documents and programs from Oracle.  SAP admitted it had infringed on copyright and tried to settle out of court before a jury awarded Oracle $1.3 billion in damages, an amount later brought down to $357 million. Both sides accepted the lower amount.

Duration of lawsuit:  two years
Winner:  Universal Studios
Damages:  Unknown

After 20th Century Fox successfully released the first Star Wars movie in 1977, Universal Studios decided it needed a space epic of its own and launched Battlestar Galactica.  Fox accused Universal of copyright infringement, citing 34 specific things allegedly copied.  The case was settled out of court.  ABC television network, where Battlestar Galactica aired, canceled the show in 1979.  [I worked for 20th Century Fox during this time and the series I was working on used material from Star Wars.  The Fox legal department kept a very close eye on how we were using the film footage to make sure it didn't give any ammunition to Universal for the lawsuit.]

7)  GUCCI VS. GUESS (2009)
Duration of lawsuit:  four years
Winner:  Gucci…and Guess
Damages:  $4.6 million

In 2009 Gucci started a four-year-long legal battle, accusing Guess of copying Gucci's logo on a line of shoes.  They also accused Guess of counterfeiting, unfair competition, and trademark infringement.  They demanded $221 million in damages. Gucci filed two lawsuits, one in New York and the other one in Milan, Italy.  The New York case was closed in favor of Gucci and they were awarded $4.7 million in damages.  The Milan court ruled in favor of Guess, stating the use of the "G" was common in the fashion industry.

Duration of lawsuit:  six years
Winner:  Microsoft
Damages:  Unknown

Apple licensed parts of their Macintosh computer to Microsoft for its Windows 1.0 software.  When Microsoft released Windows 2.0, it added other features, including overlapping windows, which could also be found in the Macintosh's software.  Apple filed a lawsuit claiming copyright infringement and listed 189 parts of the interface that had been copied.  After six years, the court dismissed 179 of Apple's claims and said the remaining ten in dispute could not be copyrighted.

Duration of lawsuit:  five years
Winner:  A&M Records
Damages:  $26 million

Napster originally launched as a pirated music marketplace, allowing anybody to download music for free.  Music labels didn't wait long to sue.  Even though the plaintiff was referred to as A&M Records, it actually included all members of the Recording Industry Association of America.  After the case was concluded, Napster was forced to shut down.  The brand was later acquired by the software company Roxio and relaunched as a legal music store, but it eventually died.

Duration of lawsuit:  five years
Winner:  Microsoft
Damages:  $14.5 million

Microsoft accused Motorola of charging excessively to license its patented technologies.  Motorola was charging a 2.25% royalty amounting to $4 billion.  The court decided it wasn't fair and reasonable, fined Motorola, and ordered them to pay Microsoft $14.5 million for breach of contract.

Duration of lawsuit:  five years
Winner:  Settled out of court
Damages:  Unknown

After the Deepwater Horizon  oil spill that killed eleven workers and polluted the Gulf of Mexico with millions of barrels of oil, BP was levied with fines and clean-up costs running into $40 billion.  BP believed their partners at the time of the spill, Transocean Offshore and Halliburton, should share the costs of the fines and demanded $15 billion.  The companies settled in 2015 in a series of legal deals.

2)  APPLE VS. SAMSUNG (2011)
Duration of lawsuit:  Ongoing since 2012
Winner:  not yet determined
Damages:  not yet determined

This lawsuit is one of the biggest in the technology industry.  It goes back to the first iPhone which Apple accused Samsung of copying for its Galaxy 5 series.  A jury in 2012 decided that Samsung had infringed on Apple's patents.  Samsung originally faced $1 billion in damages, which was reduced to $548 million before dropping down to $399 million.  The current state of the lawsuit is a discussion about the basis for Samsung to pay the damages.  The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision of the $399 million in damages and returned the lawsuit to the federal court.  A number of similar lawsuits between the pair are ongoing in countries around the world.

Duration of lawsuit:  one year
Winner:  Ericsson
Damages:  Not disclosed

Apple filed a lawsuit against Ericsson claiming the patents it owns on wireless LTE connections are essential to the industry and the company was demanding excessive royalties.  Ericsson counter-sued and accused Apple of infringing on over 40 patents.  They settled out of court with Apple having to pay an undisclosed amount.  With Apple originally paying royalties as a percentage of total device cost, it's most likely a significant amount.  Apple wasn't the first smartphone maker to take legal action against Ericsson.  Samsung and Ericsson reached a confidential out of court settlement in 2014.

Out of the ten biggest brand lawsuits, two of them involved Microsoft and three of them involved Apple—biggest lawsuits/biggest companies.

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