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4 famous intellectual property cases

When you create a billion dollar product and are ready to take it to market, you need to be prepared for the expensive intellectual property disputes that individuals, companies, and even macaque monkeys, can find themselves embroiled in! 

Here are four of the most famous and significant intellectual property disputes between world-renowned company brands, and, yes - even a macaque monkey.

A&M Record Inc. vs. Napster Inc.

1. A&M Record Inc. vs. Napster Inc.

If you’ve never heard of Napster Inc., that’s because the free peer-to-peer music file-sharing company no longer exists. In 2000, A&M Record Inc. and superstars including Dr. Dre and Metallica, won lawsuits against Napster. They claimed that Napster’s software - which allowed twenty million users to freely share MP3 files of their favourite music online - constituted copyright infringement. 

This case set a precedent in 21st century copyright law regarding the impact of peer-to-peer file sharing on the earnings of the creators and owners of original music. 

Louis Vuitton Malletier vs. Haute Diggity Dog

2. Louis Vuitton Malletier vs. Haute Diggity Dog

In 2007, the high-end signature hand-bag and luggage maker, Louis Vuitton Malletier, lost an outrageous copyright infringement case against Haute Diggity Dog, a fashion company known for its range of humorous products. 

The comedy designers had released a line of parody products named Chewy Vuitton, to go along with other memorable knock-offs such as Chewnel No.5 and Sniffany & Co. 

Remarkably, the U.S Court of Appeals ruled against the claim of copyright breach, stating that because of the element of parody, the products were adequately differentiated and unique, thereby negating any copyright or trademark infringement.

Mattel Inc. vs. MGA Entertainment Inc.

3. Mattel Inc. vs. MGA Entertainment Inc.

Mattel Inc., creators of the Barbie doll, won a huge case against rival toy doll maker, MGA Entertainment Inc. back in 2008. MGA’s claim posited that Mattel had copied the design of their latest range of Bratz dolls in order to steal back the significant market share MGA had succeeded in acquiring. The designs were simply too similar, featuring disproportionately large heads and slim bodies. 

However, lawyers working on Mattel’s behalf managed to turn the case around, proving that an ex-Mattel designer who had subsequently worked on the design team for MGA had used designs that he had created while employed at Mattel. In fact, those doll designs were still the legal property of Mattel. MGA was ordered to pay damages to the tune of $100,000,000 and temporarily remove their dolls from shelves. 

It just goes to show, instigating an intellectual property claim can end up being an expensive miscalculation. 

4. Naruto the Macaque vs. Slater

Due to the fact that this case has not been resolved, and to avoid any future intellectual property disputes, we’ve decided not to include a photo of Naruto the macaque until he gives us his explicit permission to do so. However, he is very famous, and you can find his amazing selfie online easily enough.

In 2011, nature photographer David Slater left his camera on the ground in a jungle in Indonesia. Naruto, a curious macaque monkey, then picked it up and took one of the most famous selfie photos of recent years. 

What was thought to be the unauthorised sharing of this selfie by millions of internet users was the subject of David Slater’s initial copyright infringement claim against those who had copied or downloaded the photo from his online posts. However, the court ruled that although Mr. Slater owned the camera, he was not the owner of the photo. 

This leads us to today. A copyright claim filed in 2015 on behalf of Naruto the macaque is currently seeking to claim copyright damages against Mr. Slater and others, and secure the intellectual property rights under Naruto’s name as the author of a work of art. The poignant argument in the case is whether it can be said that Naruto knew what he was doing. 

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