Patent Infringement Cases - The Recent & The Most Famous

Written by Barry Meskin on 30 March 2023

While trade mark infringement cases between companies are often heavily publicised such as Kylie vs Kylie (Jenner vs Minogue) or the infamous Ugg boot dispute, patent infringement seems to be less so.

However, patent infringement is just as common and equally as distressing for the patent owner to discover. With the consequences of patent infringement being punishable by jail time and payment of often huge sums in damages, it's something every business and individual should seek to avoid.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most famous patent infringement cases both historically and in more recent times.

Famous Patent Infringement Cases

1. Not Such A Pretty Picture

Arguably one of the most famous patent infringement cases occurred back in the early 90s between photography giants Kodak and Polaroid. 

Known for their instant photography, Polaroid sued Kodak, citing that they had infringed on no less than twelve of their patents regarding instant photography and the technology associated with it.

Kodak was eventually ordered to pay Polaroid the hefty sum of $909 million in damages, plus interest which totalled $925 million. Just shy of one billion dollars - a sum that was virtually unheard of in the 90s. 

During this time Kodak was already struggling financially due to competition and by 2012 they had filed for bankruptcy. 

2. The Smartphone Saga

Apple patent infringement cases are not unusual, however, their long-term war with Samsung is certainly one for the books. Both parties have been suing and counter suing each other since April 2011 regarding patents for smartphone technology. 

Just over a year later in July 2012, the duo were engaged in a mammoth to and fro involving over 50 patent-based lawsuits globally. This exhaustive back-and-forth can be viewed in more detail here.

Ultimately, billions of dollars worth of damages were claimed and awarded between them with Apple winning the ruling in some nations and Samsung in others. 

A shop display indicating potential patent infringement

3. Nintendo No-no

In 2013, much loved gaming company Nintendo was ordered to pay their competitor Tomita Technologies $30 million in damages for infringing on their existing patents for 3D technologies. 

It came following Nintendo’s launch of their 3DS hand-held gaming system which utilised technology patented by inventor Seijiro Tomita who had shown Nintendo the tech during a pitch in 2003. 

Unsurprisingly, Nintendo appealed the decision and the case was not settled until March 2017 when Nintendo was successful in its bid to have the ruling overturned. Tomita ended up with zero dollars in damages and a hefty legal bill instead. 

Recent Patent Infringement Cases

1. A Chip Off Their Shoulder

Monetarily, one of the most famous patent infringement cases happened quite recently in 2021 between tech giants Intel and VLSI Technology. VLSI Technology pursued Intel for having infringed on eight separate patents that they hold regarding chip-making technology. 

Having held two of the patents in question since 2019, VLSI technology actively pursued damages and was eventually awarded a record-breaking sum in the US courts of over two billion dollars. Intel lodged an appeal, but the ruling was upheld. 

2. Pandemic Patents

Along with the Covid-19 pandemic came a scramble by several pharmaceutical companies to develop a vaccine. Lesser-known pharmaceutical company Moderna was quick off the mark and has since risen to a place of prominence in the industry. 

Seeking to maintain their competitive advantage that was so hard won, in 2022 they decided to enforce their patents related to Covid vaccine developments after earlier saying they wouldn't do so. 

Moderna’s main competitor Pfizer is firmly in the firing line. Pfizer firmly denies any infringement stating their own research and development techniques have been used. 

As of December 2022, this patent case is still being battled in US courts and could become as long-lasting as Apple vs Samsung and equally as costly with regards to damages. It is likely to also set new precedents regarding the protection of potentially life-saving patents during extreme global events. 

3. It's A Shoe In

Globally recognisable footwear company Converse recently won a case against fashion designer Steve Madden regarding design patents (the US term for registered designs) they hold for their popular high-top shoes. Converse holds over 268 registered designs globally with more than 230 granted and over 85 percent of these active. 

Upon discovery of the infringement as seen in Maddens Winnona Sneaker in 2020, Converse issued a cease and desist notice, however, Madden continued to sell the item in question. Converse filed to sue for infringement as a result and in turn, Madden filed a motion to dismiss these claims saying his design was markedly different.

The district court disagreed and Madden’s motion was denied. There is no settlement currently published, however, Converse is asking for significant damages over the infringement. 

This is not Steve Madden's first accusation of design infringement with the designer also facing suits with Dr. Martens and Nike among others. 

Patent Infringement Cases In Australia

Cases of patent infringement in Australia proceeding to court are relatively rare. A Federal Law Review survey conducted in 2021 showed that of 3700 inventors, around 28 per cent of their inventions would be subject to infringement at some stage.

Around half of these infringers were issued with cease and desist letters and four in ten of those complied. Of the remainder, only half a per cent actually proceeded  with commencing court actions. 

Chart show patent infringements in a Federal Law Review Survey

(Diagram: Patent Infringement in Australia) 

This is considered to be in part due to the perceived costs of suing somebody for patent infringement and the lack of access many inventors have to proper legal representation. 

This is in stark comparison with the USA where patent-related litigation typically makes up more than half of all lawsuits filed each year nationally. 

Protect Your Valuable Ideas With IP Guardian

No matter if you are a small business, an as-yet unknown inventor or a huge corporation, pursuing proper protection for your ideas is essential. As the above examples show, failure to check if you are infringing on a patent, however inadvertently, can have extremely costly consequences.

Likewise, if your idea is copied and you have no patent in place, your ability to properly defend yourself is completely compromised. The single best way to deter infringers is to pursue a patent application.  At the least, a patent affords you the leverage to license a large player who can enforce their own market.

At IP Guardian, our specialist patent attorneys can guide you through the entire process of securing a patent with ease. From performing all essential checks to submission of your application, handling objections and more, we see the process through from start to finish.

Likewise, should you be facing challenges due to someone infringing on your existing patent and have no idea where to begin with fighting back, we can help with that too.

Book a Consultation With a Patent Attorney

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