Intellectual property cases can be very complex, costly, and time-consuming. This type of case is brought due to a violation of an intellectual property right. Such rights consist of copyright, patent, and trademark rights. Therefore, if a legal suit arises, it will be for one of the following types of violations:

  1. Copyright infringement
  2. Patent infringement
  3. Trademark infringement

Before creating something or using a design or name for your own invention, you should first check to see if it has some sort of intellectual property protection, since using it without prior consent can result in an intellectual property case, which could be very costly for you and your business.

There have been several well-known historical intellectual property cases litigated in the past. While some might be more popular, others could be cases that you might have never heard about. Below are some historical intellectual property cases that you might not have ever learned about.

S. Victor Whitmill v. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

If you’ve ever seen The Hangover Part II, you might remember the part where Ed Helms character wakes up one morning with a tribal tattoo around his eye. The tattoo itself is very similar to a tattoo that Mike Tyson also has. Immediately before the movie came out, Mike Tyson’s tattoo artist, S. Victor Whitmill, brought a legal suit against Warner Bros alleging copyright infringement. Whitmill had previously obtained copyright protection for Tyson’s tattoo, which he did 8 years before. Therefore, he brought a suit alleging that using his tattoo design without his prior consent constituted infringement.

Whitmill requested an injunction on the release of the movie, which was denied by the judge. However, it didn’t get to that point since both parties agreed to settle on an undisclosed amount.

Isaac Newton v. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

In the late 1600s, mathematician and theorist Gottfried W. Leibniz invented calculus. However, in 1704, Isaac Newton issued a book indicating that he was the creator of calculus. Thereafter, a battle ensued between both men. While Leibniz might have created calculus, he didn’t share his creation with many people, rather only sharing with some colleagues. Newton then claimed that Leibniz plagiarized a previous document that Newton had circulated to the public. However, before the case could be settled, Leibniz passed away in 1716. Note that today, many people believe that both men were the inventors of calculus.

Kellogg Co. v. National Biscuit Co.

In the late 1800s, Henry Perky created Shredded Whole Wheat cereal, which is popular today for its pillow-type shape. While John H. Kellogg spoke negatively about the cereal, indicating that it tasted horribly, the cereal itself became quite popular. But Perky passed away in 1908; his 2 patents (the machine that made the cereal and helped create its shape) had already expired. The Kellogg Company then began making the same cereal.

Thereafter, the National Biscuit Company, which was one of Perky’s companies, brought a legal suit against the Kellogg Company, alleging that Kellogg Co’s “shredded wheat” was an infringement. Kellogg however, argued that the legal suit brought against him was simply an attempt to dominate this specific market. The Judge ultimately sided with Kellogg stating that “shredded wheat” cannot be trademarked and the shape of the cereal can be copied since the patent expired. Therefore, Kellogg could continue making the cereal under the same name, using the same popular pillow shape.

Mattel Inc. v. MGA Entertainment Inc.

The Bratz dolls were created in 2001. During that time, the sale of Bratz dolls was 40% greater than the sale of Barbies, which had been around for decades by that time. But by 2005, the maker of Bratz dolls, MGA Entertainment Inc., brought a legal suit against toymaker Mattel Inc. alleging that one of the types of the defendant’s Barbies was an identical copy of the look of the Bratz dolls. Mattel then counter-sued claiming that Bratz creator, Carter Bryant, designed the Bratz doll while working for Mattel. Bryant worked at Mattel around 1995 to 1998 and again from 1999 to 2000. His Mattel employment contract specifically noted that any of the designs he came up with during his employment at Mattel would belong to his employer. The judge sided with Mattel, ruling that MGA must pay toymaker Mattel $100M and remove Bratz from all stores, which lasted for approximately one year.

If you need help learning about intellectual property cases, or if you believe that you are the victim of trademark or copyright infringement, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5-percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law, and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.