Intellectual property is the intangible creation of a person or an organisation which no one can replicate without the owner’s approval. It can be a slogan, design, name, or any art form. You’ll face severe legal consequences and expensive penalties if you use someone’s intellectual property without approval.
Many law students decide to specialise in this field. However, they have to write essays and dissertations on this topic to pass with flying colours and land a shining law career. What makes writing about a topic easier? Reading about it! So, in this post, we discuss 6 of the most bizarre intellectual property lawsuits of all time to expand your knowledge about them.
6 Weird Intellectual Property Lawsuits of All Time
1. Dr Dre v/s Dr Drae
Dr Draion M. Burch, the author of the not-so-famous book “20 Things You May Not Know About the Vagina” and a gynaecologist, came up with a dope nickname one day – Dr Drai. He liked the name so much that he wanted no one to copy it. So, he trademarked it. But doesn’t this nickname sound familiar to you? Andre Romelle Young, popularly known as Dr Dre, had problems with this trademark. Both nicknames sounded very similar, and he tried his best to prevent this trademark. So, Dr Dre and Dr Drae decided to solve this conflict at the US trademark office.
However, the jury decided to rule in favour of the gynaecologist. They believed the public would never confuse a gynaecologist with a rapper. However, I might disagree with this judgement. I always thought Dr Dre was a real doctor.
2. Barbie v/s Bratz
Barbie was one of the most iconic dolls of all time. Many girls (and my brother) still have it among their toys. The first Barbie was produced back in 1959, and since then, Mattel, who happens to be the manufacturer of Barbie, have sold more than a billion dolls. However, in 2011, MGA decided to compete with Mattel and brought a doll of their own into the market, i.e., Bratz. Moreover, MGA decided to file a lawsuit against Mattel, claiming a new line of Barbie dolls with large heads and thin bodies replicated the design of Bratz dolls.
Mattel countered the allegations by claiming the designer of the Bratz dolls was their employee when he came up with the design. Therefore, they own the intellectual property of the concerned design. Mattel won the case, and the allegations backfired because MGA had to pay $100 million in damages and remove all of their Bratz dolls from sale for a year.
3. Naruto v/s Slater
To make things clear, the Naruto we’re talking about here is not the anime character we all know; it’s the name of a macaque. So the dispute began when David Slater, a wildlife photographer, accidentally left his camera unattended. Naruto, a macaque, found the camera and instantly understood how to use it. He took multiple self-portraits from Slater’s camera. When Slater found these cute pictures on his camera roll, he decided to publish them in a book. However, the world’s largest animal rights organisation, PETA, decided to file a copyright infringement against David Slater, Blurb Inc, and Wildlife Personalities Ltd.
After a few proceedings, the jury concluded that PETA lacks any statutory standing to file a lawsuit against David Slater, Personalities Ltd, and Blurb Inc. Still, Slater decided to donate 25% of the money he’ll earn from Naruto’s selfies to charities that protect the habitats of crested macaques.
4. Michael Jordan v/s Qiaodan Sports Co
Michael Jordan is not only one of the best basketball players of all time, but his Jordan Brand is worth $3 billion. Jordan makes some of the most popular sneakers in the world. However, another sportswear company in China used the name Jordan for its brand – and Michael Jordan took it personally. The name was pronounced as ‘Qiaodan’ in Chinese.
Michael Jordan did not want this company to use the name of his brand because his brand has no affiliation with them. So, he decided to take this matter to the court of law to find a legal solution to this trademark dispute and protect his name from being used in an unauthorised manner.
The court ruled in favour of Jordan. The jury agreed any other company shouldn’t use the Jordan name. They ordered the Chinese company to change the name of their brand. However, they just changed the spelling and romanised the name. Now, it’s pronounced as ‘Chee-ow-dahn’
5. Be Boss, Be Kind
Whenever you market a product or a service, make sure your slogan is 100% original. Otherwise, you will face serious legal consequences. An artist from Merseyside named John Charles was launching his online art classes. The launch was quite successful as people worldwide attended the classes during the initial COVID-19 lockdowns. He would end the classes with the slogan, “Be Boss, Be Kind”. For those who don’t know, ‘Boss’ is a slang in Liverpool which means ‘great’. His classes became so popular he started receiving merchandise requests.
Everything was going well. But, there was trouble in paradise. When John decided to trademark his slogan, he was opposed by the lawyers of the fashion giant Hugo Boss. Fortunately, Charles and Hugo Boss reached an out-of-the-court settlement because by conducting these classes and selling merchandise, Charles would be able to raise money for his daughter’s trust fund. Turns out Hugo Boss was kind enough to help John out and let this trademark issue pass.
6. Louis Vuitton v/s Haute Diggity Dog
Now, you might be thinking,
“What does a premium fashion brand like Louis Vuitton has to do with a company that sells dog toys?”
In 2006, Louis Vuitton and Haute Diggity Dog were involved in a trademark dispute. Louis Vuitton filed a lawsuit against the dog toy company for trade dress, copyright, and trademark infringement. Haute Diggity Dog can now be considered the Louis Vuitton for dogs, as it makes designer plush dog toys. However, they also made a parody dog toy named “Chewy Vuitton”. It’s quite obvious which brand were they targeting. While Haute Diggity Dog’s marketing team considered the name quite funny, the executives at Louise Vuitton weren’t laughing.
In the court, Louis Vuitton claimed the name of Haute Diggity Dog’s parody chewy toy could create a lot of confusion and distract their potential customers. Surprisingly, the court’s verdict was not in the French fashion giant’s favour. The court ruled that the “Chewy Vuitton” name was just a parody and nothing else.
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