Trademark infringement is a fascinating and nuanced world that encompasses the giants of industry protecting their brands all the way through to the bizarre and petty claims.
This is a type of legal argument that never ceases to amaze and excite. We’ve brought together some of our favourite trademark infringement cases below for your entertainment and education.
Here are eight famous trademark infringement cases in history:
1. Rowling vs. Stouffer
J.K. Rowling, the creator of the Harry Potter world, was accused of plagiarism. An American author by the name of Nancy Stouffer alleged that Rowling had stolen the idea for her multi-million dollar franchise. Stouffer claimed that she had written a story called Larry Potter and His Best Friend Lilly.
In the end, Nancy was proven to be stretching the truth and the trademark infringement case was dismissed. Nancy did have to pay a fine of $50,000 as a result of this fraudulent claim.
And the stuff that was edited out changes the meaning and context totally.
Remember when Nancy Stouffer sued JK Rowling for plagiarism? Turned out she forged her evidence in a very similar fashion, except she added text whereas Jamie deleted it..
— Phoenix Woman 🍩 (@PhoenixWomanMN) April 28, 2018
2. Zostel vs Oyo Rooms
Hotel booking online is big business. OYO Rooms alleged that Zostel’s hotel rooms booking platform, Zo Rooms, was based on data copied from them. This is something that you would think would be easy enough to prove, and prove it they did. Zostel is now no longer allowed to use the data. However, there is a hearing on the case which may result in more information coming to light.
Supreme Court has directed Softbank-backed OYO and one-time rival Zostel Hospitality towards arbitration to settle their dispute that followed a terminated acquisition. Zostel had also alleged data theft by OYO during due diligence @CarnageCrow @AditiS90 https://t.co/JduIN7JHB4
— Madhav Chanchani (@madhavchanchani) October 3, 2018
3. T-Mobile owns the colour magenta
We love this one. The trademark infringement case seems so petty and childlike on the surface. T-mobile, the telecommunications company filed a trademark lawsuit claiming that some of their competitors should not be allowed to use the colour magenta. Specifically, the colour designated as Pantone 676C.
While it may seem a bizarre claim that anyone can own a colour, T-Mobile won the case. After all, when you spend millions in marketing dollars associating a specific colour with your brand it does make a certain sense that your competition should not be using it. There are so many other colours and shades to choose from, to use the one that T-Mobile uses is a pretty obvious deliberate move. All the same, this sets a precedent about “owning’’ a colour.
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) February 11, 2014
4. WalMart vs Converse
Converse sneakers have a very distinct look, don’t they? When Walmart brought out their own sneakers that looked suspiciously like Converse they were the obvious target of a trademark infringement case. On the face of it, it appeared like a very clear cut case of, yep! You got us.
However, Walmart was able to successfully argue that the white toe cap was a functional part of the shoe and not a deliberate aesthetic choice to imitate another brand. This got them out of the hot water and allowed them to continue selling their sneakers. Much to the ire of Converse.
— Dominic DePamphilis (@ddepamph) October 15, 2014
5. WWF v WWF
What are the odds that wrestling and an animal protection charity would have a reason to be in the same court? This saga all began when Titan Sports became the World Wrestling Federation or WWF for short.
The initialism WWF was already in use by the World Wildlife Fund. What is alarming about this is that there was no due diligence in place to find out if this trademark was already in use. This battle lasted over a decade. As we all know wrestling is now know and World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE. So if you ever wondered why they changed the name, you now have your answer.
Not allowed to use WWF anymore unless you’re talking about wildlife and endangered animals, thanks to that lawsuit! Journalists have to use WWE even when they are talking about the old days.
— Symes Pearce (@Symes76) May 22, 2018
6. Starbucks vs Sambucks
Anytime the little guy goes up against a huge brand like Starbucks, it’s not going to be an easy ride. Starbucks decided that they needed to go after Sam Buck for branding her shop as “SamBucks”.
This seems like a bit of a stretch for our liking, but Starbucks won the case and Sam was forced to drop the Buck from all of her products. It just goes to show that sometimes it’s not worth taking the risk on branding your business or product with anything remotely similar to an existing brand.
Never eaten there either. We had a Tiny coffee shop in Oregon having to change a name because it sounded too much like Starbucks. The owner was using her name, Sam Bucks.
— 2otaku (@2otaku) July 14, 2018
7. Victoria Beckham vs Peterborough FC
This is a fun one. We all know Victoria Beckham, but we also know her by another name, Posh Spice. Peterborough FC for the longest time has had the nickname “Posh”. This was nothing that either the club nor Victoria were particularly concerned about until Peterborough FC decided they wanted to trademark the name. Eventually, the soccer club won as they had been known as “Posh” since long before Victoria Beckham was born.
.@DulwichHamletFC Some years ago, Victoria Beckham attempted to trademark ‘Posh’ (as in Posh Spice). Peterborough United (known as The Posh throughout their existence) objected, and it was thrown out.
— Grumpy Old Man 1955 (@GrumpyOldMan55) March 6, 2018
8. Instagram vs LitterGram
Littergram was a fun way to help local councils keep the street clean of litter. The idea is that you would be able to geotag anything that the council needed to clean up and they could dispatch a team to pick it up. A great idea. Of course, Instagram didn’t like this one bit. They filed an infringement case only to eventually back off.