Top 10 Tech Lawsuits
by Vi Duong
Istill remember the days, growing up in Vietnam during the 1980s, when my life did not revolve around modern technology. Sunlight was my alarm clock. A face-to-face conversation was
the only way I chatted with friends. Most
of what I read was written on paper. My
family did not have a telephone or any
household appliances. Now, I am dependent on modern technology
and the Internet. For almost everything I need to do, there’s
an appliance, a device, or an
app that helps me do it better
As a consumer, I tend to
think of modern technology in
terms of new products in the market. But, as an attorney, I also pay attention to legal disputes that may have an
effect on the products I use. And in the
Pacific Northwest, where tech companies
have major commercial influence, legal
disputes that affect the industry are of
particular importance. Here are 10 notable tech cases.
United States v. Microsoft Corp.
1Before 1996, Netscape Navigator was the browser that most people used to surf the Web. To gain traction for its own browser, Internet Explorer (IE),
Microsoft combined IE with Windows 95,
so that everyone who used the Windows
operating system also had Explorer. The
Department of Justice, 18 states, and
the District of Columbia filed suit, alleg-
ing that Microsoft violated antitrust
laws. The main issue was whether
Microsoft was allowed to com-
bine Explorer with Windows,
manipulate Windows to favor
Explorer over other brows-
ers, and execute restrictive
licensing agreements with
computer manufacturers to ex-
clude competing Internet brows-
ers. Ultimately, Microsoft settled. The
settlement required Microsoft to ensure
that Windows would interoperate with
software made by other companies. The
lawsuit reminded technology companies
that antitrust laws do apply to them and
that ignoring antitrust concerns can re-
sult in grave consequences.
A & M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc.
2Napster was a file-shar- ing network that made it easy for users to find and download digital
music files for free. Songwrit-
ers, producers, and record
companies, who were mem-
bers of the Recording Industry
Association of America, sued
Napster for contributory and vicari-
ous infringement. Even though Napster
lost, it changed the entertainment indus-
try and the intellectual property land-
scape. Napster first tried a paid
subscription business model,
but the music industry was
still more interested in selling
albums than individual songs.
After Napster was shut down,
more file-sharing sites opened
and remained in business. Eventually, the entertainment industry
adapted. Now, we buy songs individually
with a click of a button and rent movies
and TV episodes over the Internet.
In re: High-Tech Employee
3Employees of Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, Pixar, and Lucas- film brought a class action against their employers.
These tech employees alleged
their employers entered into
agreements not to hire their
competitors’ employees, which
reduced competition for skilled
labor, restricted employees’ mobility, and suppressed and fixed employees’
compensation. Intuit, Pixar, and Lucas-film negotiated a $20 million settlement.
Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe also
settled, but the settlement terms have not
been released. Wage disputes between
employees and employers are typical
in many industries; however, within the
technology industry, an employee is not
just a source of labor but also a valuable
source of innovation.
Soverain Software, LLC v. Newegg, Inc.
4Soverain owns an e-commerce software system called Transact, and its accompanying patents, that was created in 1996 by a company
called Open Market. Soverain began suing online retailers for patent infringement, beginning with Amazon. Soverain
won or settled in every case, except in its
fight against Newegg. In 2013, Newegg
won because the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the Federal Circuit held that the patents were invalid for obviousness.
The Federal Circuit’s decision
was unexpected. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office examined the Transact patents
three times (once during issuance and twice during re-ex-aminations) and left the patents
intact. Many other judges and juries
had also determined that the patents were
valid. Thus, the Federal Circuit’s decision
is a big win for Newegg and for all online
retailers, many of whom owed Soverain
substantial sums of royalty payments.
The decision allows new companies to
enter into e-commerce without having to
pay licensing fees to Soverain under its
Eolas Technologies Inc. v.
5Eolas and the University of Califor- nia owned two patents that allow eb developers to embed interac- tive programs, such as music clips,
games, search features, and maps, in
webpages. In 2003, Eolas won a verdict
against Microsoft, and the parties settled.
In 2009, Eolas went on to sue more than