Intellectual property is a legal term of art that describes creations of the human mind. It encompasses anything that has a copyright, patent or trademark, and also includes trade secrets. Individuals and companies can file lawsuits when they believe that somebody has infringed upon their ownership rights or use of intellectual property, and doing so has become more and more common – especially as the internet has become more popular. Here are some of the most famous intellectual property claims to be litigated in recent years.
- The Napster Case – At the same time that people began buying iPods and MP3 players, a file-sharing site called Napster began making music files available for people to download at no cost. The company was successfully sued by the Recording Industry Association of America based on the fact that Napster did not own the rights to the music. Napster shuttered that aspect of its business and now operates as it should, paying licensing fees for the music that its users download for a fee.
- Amazon One-Click — One of the earliest conveniences offered by Amazon was the ability for users to pre-load their billing and shipping information and then place their orders with a single click. Several companies followed suit with similar technology and faced patent infringement lawsuits.
- Google Keywords — Google’s keyword search technology is one of the most valuable marketing tools around, and the company charges money for the use of specific keywords. It has gotten into intellectual property trouble, however, for allowing companies to purchase their competitors’ brand names as keywords. Among the companies that have sued Google overselling their trademarked name as a keyword are Rescuecom, American Airlines, and Geico.
- Bratz vs. Barbie – This notable intellectual property dispute made clear that employers are the owners of their employees’ creations. The case revolved around a Mattel employee, Carter Bryant, who simultaneously worked as a consultant for a company called MGA Entertainment. During that time he designed the Bratz Doll and named it, but did not make it available to Mattel, the maker of Barbie. Rather, it was sold by MGA. Mattel sued both Bryant and MGA, claiming the doll and its name were trade secrets because he had designed them while being paid by Mattel. Mattel won the suit and $100 million in compensation.
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