Learn From These Famous Intellectual Property Disputes

Intellectual property has become a hot-button issue for many businesses. Intellectual property is usually associated with the tech industry, but it is actually a crucial tool for companies in many fields. The fact that intellectual property rights are so important makes them a lightning rod for litigation.

If you are involved in an intellectual copyright dispute, you are certainly not the first. There is a long history of complex and contentious disputes involving intellectual property, from Barbie dolls to Sir Isaac Newton. Here, we will examine ten of them.

1. Tyson tattoos

In the popular flick The Hangover II, one character wakes up with a facial tattoo identical to that of boxer Mike Tyson. The tattoo artist who created the tattoo, S. Victor Whitmill, sued Warner Bros. Entertainment for copyright infringement for using the design without his permission. The case was settled out of court in 2011.

2. Intellectuals’ intellectual property

Sure, maybe you are involved in a dispute over who invented a certain product. But can you claim to be in a dispute over who invented an entire field of mathematics? The brilliant mathematicians Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz can. In the 1700's, the two were locked in a bitter debate over who invented the study of calculus. Ultimately, the two are now generally credited as the field's co-inventors.

3. Barbies, Bratz and business

Good thing one of Barbie’s many jobs was as a lawyer: In 2001, she was involved in a whiplash-inducing lawsuit. The iconic toy faced some competition from a line of dolls called Bratz. The Bratz’ dolls owner, MGA Entertainment Inc., sued Mattel when the company developed a similar-looking line of toys. Mattel then countersued the Bratz dolls’ inventor for allegedly inventing the dolls while still employed by Mattel. A court initially ruled in favor of Mattel, but court of appeals later ruled in favor of MGA.

4. Star Wars and actual wars

In the 1980’s, President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defensive Initiative, or SDI, was given the moniker “Star Wars” after the popular film franchise. LucasFilm Ltd., the production company of Star Wars inventor George Lucas, sued two public interest groups that had publicly referred to SDI as “Star Wars” in the media. A federal district court ultimately ruled against Lucasfilm.