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You Decide: 11 Game-Changing Copyright Cases


Examine the evidence and judge for yourself where the boundaries of intellectual property lie.


What belongs to you, and what doesn't? In the murky waters of copyright, trademark, and patent law, the complexities can foil the savviest of entrepreneurs, and the ramifications of being wrong can cost billions of dollars.

Just ask YouTube. They thought they proved when it comes to copyright theft, ignorance is bliss, until this April when the federal courts overturned the infamous 2010 ruling. Or Apple (AAPL); the company thought it owned the iPad name, but Proview International has another idea. And sometimes the simplest aesthetic decision, as Urban Outfitters (URBN) recently discovered, can promote not only lawsuits, but a hailstorm of criticism. But whether or not their actions were morally sound is not the point. Under the law, the only question that matters is: Who will make the better case?

In other words, it's a matter of opinion, and I want to know yours. Here are the top 10 cases of the past few years. You're the judge; examine the evidence and give your verdict.

1. Yahoo v. Facebook

The Plaintiff: Yahoo! Inc.

The Defendant: Facebook (FB).

The Charges: That under U.S.C 35, Facebook infringed upon 10 Yahoo registered patents on advertising optimization, privacy, customization, networking, and messaging innovations. An example of infringement is the Facebook Wall and NewsFeed, which Yahoo claims uses patented Dynamic Page Generator technology (US Patent No. 5,983,227). Yahoo successfully sued Google Inc. (GOOG) for patent infringement in 2004, also for 10 patent infringements and also with law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, and earned $201 million in the patent suit settlement. (Click here to view filed complaint.)

The Defense: The case has yet to come to trial, but Facebook may attempt to prove that under the Supreme Court "Benson-Flook-Diehr Trilogy" decisions, the broad nature of the Yahoo patents renders them void. Facebook will need to prove that the object of each patent is either a basic tool of technological work, based on conventional knowledge rather than invention, or an abstract idea.

Next Case: Proview v. Apple

No positions in stocks mentioned.
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