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  • Writer's pictureNikita Sultania

Famous Cases of Intellectual Property Rights

Each and every person uses something or the other intellectual property whose inventor or creator is somebody else. With the commencement of various Laws and Penalties for violation of such laws, infringement of intellectual property has decreased a lot. The original inventors should always be given the acknowledgement for their inventions. Daily we come across various objects for living, we enjoy various kinds of entertainment such as movies and songs which are created by an individuals, we follow end number of celebrities who have their name or something on their behalf protected as an intellectual property, we eat various kinds of packaged foods which are created by various companies and they have their sole rights on such production, we wear various kings and brand of clothing which are trademarked, ride fantastic modes of transportation which are also coming under certain famous brands under the sky of protection, study various formulas for mathematics which are invented by a particular persons, etc. Intellectual Property exists in all these spheres of life and all of them are protected under Intellectual Property Rights.

But in some way or the other, may it with intention or without, these rights get infringed. And cases are filed against those violators. Similarly in this blog we will find some celebrities, food brands, mathematicians, and artists etc. who got into such cases of infringement of intellectual property rights. It happens that there are always some cases and judgements which some of us know and some does not, but in this blog I can assure you that you will find these cases interesting, because you might be unaware of the cases but you surely know the parties of these cases.

Here are some famous cases of Intellectual Property Rights:

1. S. Victor Whitmill v. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Remember the famous tri-series of the famous movie named ‘Hangover’. There were three characters in that movie, one of them is Stu Price, who is a dentist by occupation, and the character was played by Ed Helms. In the movie, there was a scene where Stu wakes up in Bangkok after having some drugs unknowingly, and shockingly found that there is a tattoo around his left eye and his skin seems to be red, which implies that the tattoo has been done recently, but he doesn’t remember anything. The tattoo is identical to that of Mike Tyson, who has a cameo in the movies.

The design of the tattoo belonged to S. Victor Whitmill, who filed a case against Warner Bros. Entertainment before the movie’s release i.e., on 28th April. He had a copyright for the eight year old “artwork on 3-D” on 19th April. Whitmill claimed that the use of the design in the movie is infringement of copyright, on the part of the Warner Bros.

Whitmill also claimed for injunction on the release of the movie, but on 24th May, 2011 Chief judge Catherine D Perry of the United States district Court denied such injunction. Warner Bros. stated that they are willing to “digitally alter the film to substitute a different tattoo on Ed Helm’s face. Later on they mutually carried out an agreement and settled it.

2. Isaac Newton v. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

We all had a huge problem with the subject Mathematics, especially the part of Calculus. To memorize the formulas as well as doing the sums correctly was a huge responsibility for us at that stage. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was, a German mathematician and a philosopher, the first person to publish papers on Calculus in 1684 and 1686, he was acknowledged a lot for inventing the study of Calculus.

The problem arose when Isaac Newton in his book Opticks, in the year 1704, mentioned that he is the father of Calculus. Newton claimed that he was the person whom brought the concept of “Science of Fluxions”. He wrote books on various parts of mathematics in 1665 and 1666, but he let only few of his colleagues to go through his work. Later Gottfried was accused of plagiarism by Newton for copying his works. In the year 1716 Gottfried died, and nothing was settled. Nowadays people accept Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz as the co-inventors, as the historians stated that they discovered it independently.

3. Kellogg Co. v National Biscuit Co.

Each and every morning we have cereals in breakfast, especially with milk, we all are well aware of this food, we know by the name “Kellogg’s Cornflakes”, which most of us have in breakfast. Even there was a case related to this brand Kellogg. In the year 1893, Henry Perky started producing a cereal whose shape was of pillow, which he named as Shredded Whole Wheat. The critics didn’t like the shape and type of the food, and criticized it a lot. But shockingly, it made a huge market.

In the year 1908, Henry Perky died and in the year 1912, the patents that were registered on the machine and the biscuits, both expired. Kellogg Company, suddenly started selling the same cereal. National Biscuit Company, the successor of the Henry Perky’s Company, filed a case against Kellogg’s Company. NBC claimed that Kellogg carried out unfair trade practice and violated the trademark of Shredded Wheat. Kellogg counter claimed it by saying that NBC wanted to monopolize market of Shredded Wheat.

In the year 1938, the Supreme Court held in favor of the Kellogg Company, by stating that Shredded Wheat is not trademarkable and shape of pillow of the cereal can be copied after the patent on the shape expires.

4. Adidas America Inc. v. Payless Shoescource Inc.

Many of us use clothing of a very famous brand Adidas, even this company was also into a case of Intellectual Property Right Infringement.

Since the year 1952, Adidas is using a ‘three-stripe’ mark as a logo, and also acquired Trade Mark on it. Payless, on the other side was using similar kind of mark like two or four parallel stripes on athletic shoes. So in the year, 1994 Adidas and Payless had a cold- war over stripes. In the year 2001, both the companies entered into a settlement. But Payless started selling similar kind of striped shoes again. Adidas America filed a case against Payless, in the fear that Payless will mislead buyers and will hamper Adidas’s growth. For seven years at a stretch, the case continued and shoes manufactured by Payless were reviewed. According to the Wall Street Journal’s law Blog, Adidas was indemnified with 305 Million Dollars.

These were the famous cases of Intellectual Property Rights, where the parties were famous, and which resulted in their cases being famous.


[i] Ten Famous Intellectual Property Disputes, Megan Gambino, Jun 21, 2011, accessed on 3 pm, 7th July, 2019.

[ii] Law relating to Intellectual Property, by Dr. B.L. Wadhera, Universal Law Publising

Co., New Delhi, India

Prepared by:

Bhaskar Mukherjee (B. A., LL. B, Sem 9, ALSK)
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