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10/8/2016

TenFamousIntellectualPropertyDisputes|History|Smithsonian

Smithsonian.com
TenFamousIntellectualPropertyDisputes
FromBarbietocerealtoatattoo,acopyrightlawsuitcanget
contentioussomehaveevenreachedtheSupremeCourt

MikeTyson'stattooartistS.VictorWhitmillfiledalawsuitagainstWarnerBros.Entertainment
thisspring,claimingthattheuseofhisdesigninthemovieTheHangoverPartIIwascopyright
infringement.(CourtesyofWarnerBros.Pictures/EverettCollection)
ByMeganGambino
smithsonian.com
June21,2011
1.S.VictorWhitmillv.WarnerBros.EntertainmentInc.
IntherecentmovieTheHangoverPartII,StuPrice,astraitlaceddentistplayedbyactorEdHelms,wakes
upafteranightofdebaucheryinBangkoktofindatribaltattoowrappedaroundhislefteye,hisskinstill
painfullypink.PricestattooisidenticaltotheoneMikeTysonhas,anditalludestotheboxerscameointhe
original2009movieTheHangover.
TysonstattooartistS.VictorWhitmillfiledalawsuitagainstWarnerBros.EntertainmentonApril28,just
weeksbeforethemoviesMay26opening.Sinceheobtainedacopyrightfortheeightyearoldartworkon
3DonApril19,heclaimedthattheuseofhisdesigninthemovieandinadvertisementswithouthis
consentwascopyrightinfringement.WarnerBros.,ofcourse,sawitasaparodyfallingunderfairuse.
OnMay24,2011ChiefJudgeCatherineD.PerryoftheUnitedStatesDistrictCourtfortheEasternDistrict
ofMissourideniedaninjunctiononthemoviesrelease,butsaidWhitmillstillhadacase.Ifitmeant
avoidingalongtrial,WarnerBros.said,inearlyJune,thatitwouldbewillingtodigitallyalterthefilmto
substituteadifferenttattooonEdHelmssfacewhenthemovieisreleasedonhomevideo.Butthatending
wasavoidedonJune17,whenWarnerBros.andWhitmillhashedoutanagreementofundisclosedterms.
2.IsaacNewtonv.GottfriedWilhelmLeibniz
Bytheearly18thcentury,manycreditedtheGermanmathematicianandphilosopherGottfriedWilhelm
Leibnizwithinventingthestudyofcalculus.Leibnizhad,afterall,beenthefirsttopublishpapersonthe
topicin1684and1686.ButwhenEnglishmanIsaacNewtonpublishedabookcalledOpticksin1704,in
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whichheassertedhimselfasthefatherofcalculus,adebatearose.Eachofthethinkersrespectivecountries
wantedtostakeaclaiminwhatwasoneofthebiggestadvancesinmathematics.
Newtonclaimedtohavethoughtupthescienceoffluxions,ashecalledit,first.Heapparentlywroteabout
thebranchofmathematicsin1665and1666,butonlysharedhisworkwithafewcolleagues.Asthebattle
betweenthetwointellectualsheatedup,NewtonaccusedLeibnizofplagiarizingoneoftheseearly
circulatingdrafts.ButLeibnizdiedin1716beforeanythingwassettled.Today,however,historiansaccept
thatNewtonandLeibnizwerecoinventors,havingcometotheideaindependentlyofeachother.
3.KelloggCo.v.NationalBiscuitCo.
In1893,amannamedHenryPerkybeganmakingapillowshapedcerealhecalledShreddedWholeWheat.
JohnHarveyKelloggsaidthateatingthecerealwaslikeeatingawhiskbroom,andcriticsattheWorld
FairinChicagoin1893calleditshreddeddoormat.Buttheproductsurprisinglytookoff.AfterPerkydied
in1908andhistwopatents,onthebiscuitsandthemachinerythatmadethem,expiredin1912,theKellogg
Company,thenwhistlingadifferenttune,begansellingasimilarcereal.In1930,theNationalBiscuit
Company,asuccessorofPerkyscompany,filedalawsuitagainsttheKelloggCompany,arguingthatthe
newshreddedwheatwasatrademarkviolationandunfaircompetition.Kellogg,inturn,viewedthesuitasan
attemptonNationalBiscuitCompanysparttomonopolizetheshreddedwheatmarket.In1938,thecasewas
broughttotheSupremeCourt,whichruledinfavoroftheKelloggCompanyonthegroundsthattheterm
shreddedwheatwasnottrademarkable,anditspillowshapewasfunctionalandthereforeabletobecopied
afterthepatenthadexpired.
4.MarcantonioRaimondiv.AlbrechtDrer
ArtistAlbrechtDrerdiscoveredintheearly1500sthatafellowengraverbythenameofMarcantonio
Raimondiwascopyingoneofhismostfamousworks,awoodcutseriesofengravingscalledtheLifeofthe
Virgin.Tomakehisprints,RaimondicarveddetailedreplicasofDrerswoodblocks.Theprints,with
DrersAaboveDsignature,couldpassasDreroriginals,andRaimondimadeconsiderableprofitsoff
ofthem.DrertookissueandbroughthiscasetothecourtofVenice.Ultimately,thecourtruledthat
Raimondicouldcontinuemakingcopies,aslongasheomittedthemonogram.
5.MattelInc.v.MGAEntertainmentInc.
Barbiewas42yearsoldwhentheexotic,puffylippedBratzdollsCloe,Jade,SashaandYasminstrolledonto
thescenein2001.TensionsescalatedastheBratzseizedabout40percentofBarbiesturfinjustfiveyears.
TheBratzstruckfirst.InApril2005,theirmakerMGAEntertainmentfiledalawsuitagainsttoypowerhouse
Mattel,claimingthatthelineofMySceneBarbiescopiedthebigheadedandslimbodiedphysiqueof
Bratzdolls.Mattelthenswattedback,accusingBratzdesignerCarterBryantforhavingdesignedthedoll
whileonMattelspayroll.BryantworkedforMattelfromSeptember1995toApril1998andthenagainfrom
January1999toOctober2000,underacontractthatstipulatedthathisdesignswerethepropertyofMattel.
InJuly2008,ajuryruledinfavorofMattel,forcingMGAtopayMattel$100millionandtoremoveBratz
dollsfromshelves(aninjunctionthatlastedaboutayear).Butthetwotoycompaniescontinuedtodukeit
out.ThisApril,inyetanothercourtcase,underdogMGAprevailed,provingthatMattelwasactuallytheone
tostealtradesecrets.
6.Campbellv.AcuffRoseMusic,Inc.
WeirdAlYankovichasapolicyofwritingaparodyofasongonlyifhegetspermissionfromtheartist.In
thelate1980s,therapgroup2LiveCrewattemptedtoplaybythesamerules.LutherCampbell,oneofthe
groupmembers,changedtherefrainofRoyOrbisonshitOh,PrettyWomanfromprettywomantobig
hairywoman,baldheadedwomanandtwotiminwoman.2LiveCrewsmanagersentthebawdylyrics
andarecordingofthesongtoAcuffRoseMusicInc.,whichownedtherightstoOrbisonsmusic,andnoted
thatthegroupwouldcredittheoriginalsongandpayafeefortheabilitytoriffoffofit.AcuffRose
objected,but2LiveCrewincludedtheparody,titledPrettyWoman,onits1989albumAsCleanasThey
WannaBeanyway.
AcuffRoseMusicInc.criedcopyrightinfringement.ThecasewenttotheSupremeCourt,which,insomany
words,said,lightenup.Parody,orinanyeventitscomment,necessarilyspringsfromrecognizableallusion

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toitsobjectthroughdistortedimitation,wroteJusticeDavidSouter.Itsartliesinthetensionbetweena
knownoriginalanditsparodictwin.
7.MichaelBaigentandRichardLeighv.TheRandomHouseGroupLimited
AuthorsMichaelBaigentandRichardLeighsurfacedin2004withclaimsthatDanBrownhadcribbedthe
centralthemeandarchitectureoftheir1982bookTheHolyBloodandtheHolyGrail.ThoughBaigent
andLeighsbookwasnonfictionandBrownsTheDaVinciCodewasfiction,theybothboldlyinterpretthe
HolyGrailasbeingnotachalicebutthebloodlineofJesusandMaryMagdalene,whotheyallegedhada
childtogether.
BaigentandLeighaccusedRandomHouseironically,theirownpublisher,aswellasBrownsfor
copyrightinfringement.ALondoncourtruled,in2006,thathistoricalresearch(orhistoricalconjecture,as
wasthecasewithTheHolyBloodandtheHolyGrail)isfairgamefornoveliststoexploreinfiction.It
wouldbequitewrongiffictionalwritersweretohavetheirwritingsporedoverinthewayTheDaVinci
Codehasbeenporedoverinthiscasebyauthorsofpretendhistoricalbookstomakeanallegationof
infringementofcopyright,wroteJusticePeterSmithinhisdecision.
8.LucasfilmLtd.v.HighFrontierandLucasfilmv.CommitteeforaStrong,PeacefulAmerica
Whenpoliticians,journalistsandscientists,inthemid1980s,nicknamedtheReaganadministrations
StrategicDefensiveInitiative(SDI),thestarwarsprogram,GeorgeLucassproductioncompanywas
miffed.Itdidnotwantthepublicspositiveassociationswiththetermtobemarredbythecontroversialplan
toplaceantimissileweaponsinspace.
In1985,LucasfilmLtd.filedalawsuitagainstHighFrontierandtheCommitteeforaStrong,Peaceful
AmericatwopublicinterestgroupsthatreferredtoSDIasstarwarsintelevisionmessagesandliterature.
ThoughLucasfilmLtd.hadatrademarkforStarWars,thefederaldistrictcourtruledinfavoroftheinterest
groupsandtheirlegalrighttothephrasingsolongastheydidntattachittoaproductorserviceforsale.
SinceJonathanSwiftstime,creatorsoffictionalworldshaveseentheirvocabularyforfantasyappropriated
todescribereality,readthecourtdecision.
9.A&MRecords,Inc.v.NapsterInc.
In1999,tothedismayofmusiciansaroundtheworldlookingtosellalbums,ShawnFanning,an18yearold
whizkidstudyingcomputerscienceatNortheasternUniversity,createdNapster,apeertopeermusicsharing
servicethatalloweduserstodownloadMP3sforfree.A&MRecords,partofUniversalMusicGroup,a
heavyhitterinthemusicindustry,aswellasseveralotherrecordcompaniesaffiliatedwiththeRecording
IndustryAssociationofAmericaslappedNapsterwithalawsuit.TheplaintiffsaccusedNapsterof
contributoryandvicariouscopyrightinfringement.ThecasewentfromtheUnitedStatesDistrictCourtfor
theNorthernDistrictofCaliforniatotheUnitedStatesCourtofAppealsfortheNinthCircuit,whereNapster
wasfoundguiltyonbothcounts.In2002,Napsterwasshutdown.Grokster,anothermusicsharingsite,
surgedonforafewmoreyears,butittoostoppedoperatingwhentheSupremeCourtruledagainstitin
MGMv.Groksterin2005.
10.AdidasAmericaInc.v.PaylessShoesourceInc.
In1994,AdidasandPaylessgotintoascuffleoverstripes.Adidashaduseditsthreestripemarkasalogoof
sortssince1952,andhadrecentlyregistereditasatrademark.ButPaylesswassellingconfusinglysimilar
athleticshoeswithtwoandfourparallelstripes.Thetwocompanieshashedoutasettlement,butby2001,
Paylesswasagainsellingthelookalikes.Fearingthatthesneakerswoulddupebuyersandtarnishitsname,
AdidasAmericaInc.demandedajurytrial.Thetriallastedsevenyears,duringwhich268pairsofPayless
shoeswerereviewed.Intheend,Adidaswasawarded$305million$100millionforeachstripe,as
theWallStreetJournalsLawBlogcalculated.
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AboutMeganGambino

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TenFamousIntellectualPropertyDisputes|History|Smithsonian

MeganGambinoisaneditorandwriterforSmithsonian.comandfoundedDocumentDeepDive.
Previously,sheworkedforOutsidemagazineinNewMexico.
|

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