Although intellectual property disputes represent some of the oldest forms of business litigation, they have seen a spike in recent years across the United States, largely because of the rise of the Internet and the extraordinary proliferation of web-only businesses.
These intellectual property lawsuits are especially prevalent in the technology industry, where a single company could have hundreds or thousands of patents that other businesses infringe upon—perhaps even unknowingly. Apple’s iPhone alone likely involves the use of more than 200 patents, as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides for ownership of general concepts as well as tangible inventions.
A 2013 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office demonstrated that such cases were reaching record levels in the years leading up to 2011, with no signs of slowing down. There was a 31 percent increase from 2010 to 2011 alone, with nearly 3,500 patent infringement lawsuits filed that year. Additionally, a 2014 paper from the Harvard Business School revealed that a growing percentage of these cases are being brought by non-practicing entities as opposed to operating businesses and organizations.
High-profile examples of intellectual property suits
The following are just a few of the most famous intellectual property claims from the last decade. These cases continue to impact the decisions made in the ever-increasing numbers of such cases courts are seeing today.
- Amazon’s one-click patent: The USPTO granted Amazon a patent for one-click technology in September 1999. This feature allows customers to make a purchase with just one click rather than having to type in all of their billing and shipping information each time. This technology has been the subject of several disputes over the years, most notably with Barnes & Noble.
- Google keywords being trademarks: In 2006, Google was sued by Rescuecom, which alleged that the search engine was selling the company’s trademarked name as a keyword to some of Rescuecom’s competitors. Similar claims have been filed by Geico and American Airlines.
- Napster: The first “huge” internet IP case—and one that set the tone for intellectual property rights online—involved the Recording Industry Association of America’s victory in a suit against the file-sharing service Napster. In the lawsuit, the RIAA alleged Napster did not own the rights to music its users were uploading to be shared with others. Napster ultimately had to shut down and reorganize.
- The Da Vinci Code: This novel was the talk of the world in the mid-2000s, both for its popularity and for its legal issues. Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh alleged Dan Brown, the author of the book, infringed the copyright of their own book, titled “Holy Blood, Holy Grail.”
If you believe someone has infringed on one of your brand’s trademarks or patents, it is important to take action immediately to prevent further losses. Speak with a skilled USVI intellectual property attorney to determine your best steps moving forward.
BoltNagi is a highly respected and well-established civil litigation law firm based in the U.S. Virgin Islands.