A look at fun lawsuits


    The legal climate in the technology world seems to have slowed down a bit unfortunately, which makes me long for the glory days of the spring. Back then, we heard about a new lawsuit almost every day. Everyone was suing everyone, and it was fantastic. Some of the lawsuits were zany, some were incredibly Machiavellian, and some were just plain bold. In memory of those glory days of legal action, here are five of my favorite lawsuits of the last year:

    Creative sues Apple – Creative was struggling badly and their stock price was in the tank. The board was facing all kinds of pressure, so they did the logical thing: they sued Apple. They wanted the sales of all iPods halted because they claimed that Apple infringed on a patent they held pertaining to the design of the user interface. At the time, it was easy to be a cynic and suggest that the only reason they filed the lawsuit, which seemed like a hopeless cause, was to boost the stock price. That’s exactly what happened – the price went up by 37%. To the shock of many, and likely none more than Creative, they actually got a $100 million settlement in the deal, and they got licenses to create iPod accessories. Turns out David can beat Goliath.

    Apple sues Creative – As I mentioned above, Apple ultimately settled their dispute with Creative for $100 million, but not before they made an incredibly enjoyable move of their own. Before Creative filed suit on Apple, they traveled to Cupertino to try to come to an understanding. Apple sat, listened and obviously didn’t say what Creative wanted to hear, because Creative left and filed suit. The very same day as that suit was filed, Apple countersued Creative. Lawsuits can’t be written in a day, so Apple obviously had their lawsuit in their back pockets while talking to Creative, but they never mentioned it. It’s so fun to watch a bully in action.

    The world sues RIM – By the end, you had to feel bad for Research in Motion. After an agonizing and seemingly endless case against NTP that ultimately cost RIM $600 million, the company was sued by Visto. Visto claimed that RIM was infringing on four of their patents. RIM immediately countersued seeking to have three of the patents invalidated. As fun as all the legal action was, the most fun in this situation was watching all the Crackberry addicts breaking into cold sweats as they tried to figure out what they were going to do to feed their addiction if BlackBerry service was shut down.

    Record labels sue XM Radio – The issue was the new Pioneer Inno portable satellite radio player, which allowed users to record songs that they heard on XM and store them on the device’s hard drive. The labels claimed that XM paid licensing fees to play the music, but not to have their customers download the songs. The best part of the suit was the damages that the labels were seeking – they wanted $150,000 for each song recorded by an XM subscriber. XM plays 160,000 songs per month, so it doesn’t take much imagination to see how that could add up to literally billions in damages.

    Apple sues Iops – Iops is a tiny MP3 player maker in Korea that doesn’t export in any meaningful quantities. When they released the Iops Jock and the Iops Z3, Apple got upset because the two players looked suspiciously like an iPod mini. Apple did the logical thing and sued to protect their look. That was logical and not noteworthy. What did make this lawsuit fun, though, was what Apple was seeking: besides the obvious removal from the market and financial compensation, Apple also wanted a full page apology in South Korean daily newspapers.