6 famous copyright cases

Lawsuits often stem from copyright infringement, plagiarism, or inaccurate details surrounding true events. In some cases, a lawsuit is wrapped up quickly, but here are six copyright infringements that led to legal action.

5. Gucci vs Guess

In 2009 Gucci sued Guess for infringing on five Gucci trademarks, including the use of similar logos. This is perhaps unsurprising given that Guess has been subject to 12 copyright complaints over the last ten years. But they have successfully managed to resolve all previous situations almost immediately… until they messed with Gucci.

Guess used many of Gucci’s distinctive marks, including a green and red stripe used on handbags, the repeating, inverted GG pattern, and the company’s use of brown and beige colours, mostly used in conjunction with diamond shape patterns.

Of course, Gucci came out on top, but not in the way they had hoped for. Initially asking for $221m in damages, the judge told Gucci they were only entitled to an accounting of profits and limited the damages. In the end, Gucci only received $4.7m.

Guess was also barred from using most of their designs ever again, primarily the Quattro G patterns in brown and beige colours and the CRG stripe.

What went wrong? Gucci’s defence.

The judge concluded that “Over the years, Gucci has sent out hundreds of cease and desists letters to entities ranging from national companies such as Bebe, Juicy Couture, and Williams-Sonoma, all the way to small-time infringers, such as a counterfeiter working out of her Los Angeles apartment and a rabbi in New York, who they suspected might sell counterfeit Gucci products to benefit his synagogue.” When it came to Guess, they waited because the company was facing budgetary concerns due to counterfeiters.

Furthermore, the company had failed to bring non-speculative evidence to court.

6. A&M Records vs. Napster

For those who don’t remember, Napster was a popular peer-to-peer file sharing network that launched in 1999. It had an amazingly large fan-base of music lovers who shared .mp3s. 

However, two years later the company was involved in a joint lawsuit filed by various record companies.

They didn’t like the large-scale distribution of their music for free, and so sued the company for infringement on their intellectual property. This is what makes this case one of the most famous copyright infringement cases in history.

The court ruled against Napster and the company was forced to shut down the site after making a public apology and paying $26m in damages. It was their lack of effort to reduce infringement, mixed with the fact that the company financially benefitted from it that set the decision in stone.

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Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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