13 Landmark Intellectual Property Disputes

In one corner: Dr. Dre. In the other: A ... gynecologist?
In one corner: Dr. Dre. In the other: A ... gynecologist?
mangsaab/iStock via Getty Images

In 1813, Thomas Jefferson had this to say about patents: “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.” A noble thought indeed, but try telling that to two parties locked in a multimillion-dollar court case over a bagless vacuum cleaner. And with no shortage of jealously guarded ideas in the world, major intellectual property disputes are never in short supply. As Bill Gates supposedly said, “intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana.”

1. Dr. Dre vs. a gynecologist

In 2018, Draion M. Burch, a gynecologist and the author of 20 Things You May Not Know About the Vagina, trademarked the name Dr. Drai. No one in the world had a problem with that, apart from Andre Romelle Young, better known as Dr. Dre. The rapper tried to prevent the trademark, arguing that the public would be confused at the similarity of the names. The U.S. trademark office, however, sided with the real doctor, quite reasonably arguing that the public would be unlikely to confuse a rapper with a gynecologist.

2. Tattoo artist Victor Whitmill vs. Warner Bros.

Premiere Of Warner Bros. "The Hangover Part II"
The dispute took getting in trouble for your tattoos to a whole other level.
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Plenty of big name movies have been plagued by lawsuits, but one of the strangest intellectual property cases was that of tattoo artist Victor Whitmill vs. Warner Bros. Whitmill was the artist responsible for Mike Tyson’s facial tattoo, and he wasn’t happy when the design was replicated on the face of Stu (Ed Helms) in The Hangover Part II. He took Warner Bros. to court over the issue of the “original tattoo” and almost derailed the release of the movie. In the end, Warner Bros. settled the claim for an undisclosed amount.

3. Louis Vuitton vs. Haute Diggity Dog

High fashion and dog toys don’t often come into conflict, but they did in 2006 when Louis Vuitton sued Haute Diggity Dog for trademark, trade dress, and copyright infringement. Haute Diggity Dog, a designer and manufacturer of parody plush dog toys, provoked Louis Vuitton’s wrath with its furry "Chewy Vuiton" dog chews. Louis Vuitton argued the toys were likely to cause confusion. The federal appeals court, however, didn’t side with the French fashion house, finding that Chewy Vuiton was “a joking and amusing parody” [PDF] and nothing more.

4. Isaac Newton vs. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

Back in the 17th century, mathematicians Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz went head to head in a bitter argument over who had invented calculus. In the mid-1660s, Newton began working on his form of calculus, which he called "the method of fluxions and fluents." Leibniz began work on his calculus around 1673, but neither man published any serious paper on the subject until years later. The argument reached a peak around 1711 [PDF], when both scholars and their supporters engaged in a fully fledged, retrospective war of words about who deserved the credit. Today, most people accept that they developed their ideas independently. But Leibniz died poor and dishonored, while Newton was given a state funeral.

5. Star Wars vs. Battlestar Galactica

A year after the release of 1977’s Star Wars, which was retitled Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope upon its 1981 re-release, Universal Studios produced its own space opera, the TV series Battlestar Galactica and its pilot film Saga of a Star World. Twentieth Century Fox, which produced Star Wars, was highly unimpressed with the similarities between the two and promptly filed a lawsuit against Universal. To support its case, Fox highlighted 34 supposed similarities between the two productions, including “a friendly robot, who aids the democratic forces”; spaceships that “are made to look used and old”; and the destruction of “an entire planet, central to the existence of the democratic forces.” Fox's copyright claims were initially dismissed but later revived on appeal. The whole messy affair was later resolved without a trial.

6. Apple vs. Microsoft

Apple Museum (Prague) Apple II Platinum (1987).
Back in 1987, this Apple II Platinum was a technological wonder.
Benoît Prieurm, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

When Microsoft released Windows 2.0 in December 1987, Apple Inc. went ballistic. Apple claimed Microsoft had copied the look and feel of the graphical user interface (GUI) used on its own Macintosh operating system. Apple filed a lawsuit against Microsoft in March 1988, kicking off a four-year legal dispute. The court finally ruled in favor of Microsoft, stating Apple’s arguments failed on the basis of originality. Some ideas were seen to be basic elements of a GUI desktop, including windows, icon images, menus and the ability to open and close objects.

7. Apple vs. Google

The smartphone patent wars have been raging since 2009, and pretty much every smartphone manufacturer has been involved at some time. It’s no surprise, as a new smartphone can contain hundreds of thousands of patents, creating a tangled web of intellectual property disputes. Apple and Google have been going at it for years, the argument mainly revolving around the Android mobile operating system, which Apple co-founder Steve Jobs called a “stolen product.” Finally, in 2014, the two companies agreed to settle all patent litigation between them, ending one of technology’s highest-profile lawsuits. For now, at least.

8. Adidas vs. Payless Shoesource Inc. and Shoe Branding Europe

A pair of feet wearing white Adidas sneakers
Who knew three simple stripes could cause so many legal complications?

How do you trademark three stripes? That’s the problem Adidas has been facing in both the U.S. and Europe, with varying results. In 2008, Adidas took Payless Shoesource Inc. to court, arguing the company’s two- and four-stripe designs were copied from the classic Adidas three-stripe design, but with one stripe added or removed. Adidas won the case and Payless was ordered to pay a hefty $304.6 million for trademark infringement. In Europe, however, things didn’t go so well. In 2016, Shoe Branding Europe applied to have Adidas’s trademark annulled, arguing it wasn’t distinctive enough. The EU intellectual property office sided with Shoe Branding Europe.

9. Dyson vs. Hoover

In 1999, the British inventor James Dyson took the Hoover Company to court. He argued that the vacuum cleaner industry giant had copied his Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner, which had become the fastest-selling vacuum cleaner ever made in the UK. The two-year-long case became the David vs. Goliath battle of the floor-cleaning industry. Dyson came out on top, first rejecting an offer to settle the claim for £1 million, and later accepting a settlement offer of £4 million plus £2 million in legal costs.

10. Mattel vs. MGA Entertainment

A Barbie doll posed as if playing tennis.
Both tennis courts and legal courts are no match for Barbie.
ErikaWittlieb, needpix // Public Domain

Few people could have expected that the case of Barbie vs. Bratz would turn into one of the most epic intellectual property disputes of recent years. It all began with Carter Bryant, a 31-year-old designer who was working for Mattel, the creators of Barbie, in 2000. While working for Mattel, he came up with the idea for Bratz. He then sold his idea to MGA Entertainment, one of Mattel’s competitors, two weeks before he quit Mattel. Bratz became an international hit and the first dolls to rival Barbie since she first strutted onto the scene back in 1959. Chaos ensued: Mattel sued Bryant, then Mattel sued MGA, then MGA sued Mattel. Damages were awarded then reversed, counterclaims flew in every direction, and the whole thing was a mess. Things didn’t settle down until 2013, with no one entirely sure who had come out on top— save for the legions of lawyers involved in the whole debacle.

11. Napster vs. pretty much everyone in the music industry

Napster, an online sharing service for digital audio files, faced the wrath of various parties for copyright infringement and numerous other claims. In 2000, Metallica became the first band to take on Napster, in the first legal case of its type. Dr. Dre, the Recording Industry Association of America, A&M Records, and various other record companies all filed similar lawsuits, and Napster was taken down a year later.

12. Daniel Morel vs. Agence France-Presse and Getty Images

In 2010, photojournalist Daniel Morel posted his own photos of the 2010 Haiti earthquake onto his Twitter account. When Getty Images and Agence France-Presse used the images without his permission, Morel took them to court in what would become a landmark trial for online news agencies and digital journalists. Twitter’s own terms and conditions supported Morel’s case, but the trial nonetheless dragged on for three years. Morel was eventually awarded $1.2 million in damages.

13. David Slater vs. PETA, on behalf of Naruto the monkey

Self-portrait of a female Celebes crested macaque.
When it comes to protecting intellectual property, there's no monkeying around.
Self-portrait by the depicted Celebes crested macaque, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

When British nature photographer David Slater was hanging out with a group of Celebes crested macaques in Indonesia, he had no idea the storm that would come from his photography expedition. During his time with the monkeys, some of them picked up his camera and managed to take a few surprisingly good selfies. When Slater returned home, the fun photos were published in newspapers such as The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, and The Guardian. An editor at Wikimedia Commons, an online photo resource for free-license and public domain images, took the selfie photographs from The Daily Mail and uploaded them to the website. When Slater discovered this a few days later, he requested their removal. But Wikimedia Commons argued that the photos belonged to the monkeys, a position it maintains to this day (the U.S. Copyright Office agrees). On images such as this one and this one, the licensing note still reads: “This file is in the public domain, because as the work of a non-human animal, it has no human author in whom copyright is vested.” Slater was then taken to court in 2015, not by Wikimedia but by PETA, who used the “next friend” principle of law, which allows someone to sue in the name of another person—in this case, Naruto, one of the crested macaques. In 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the selfie-taking monkey, threw out the copyright lawsuit and heavily criticized PETA, stating that Naruto was “as an unwitting pawn in its ideological goals.”

The 10 Best Memorial Day 2020 Sales

iRobot,GoWise,Funko via Wayfair, Entertainment Earth
iRobot,GoWise,Funko via Wayfair, Entertainment Earth

The Memorial Day sales have started early this year, and it's easy to find yourself drowning in offers for cheap mattresses, appliances, shoes, and grills. To help you cut through the noise and focus on the best deals around, we threw together some of our favorite Memorial Day sales going on right now. Take a look below.

1. Leesa

A Leesa Hybrid mattress.
A Leesa Hybrid mattress.
Leesa

Through May 31, you can save up to $400 on every mattress model Leesa has to offer, from the value-minded Studio by Leesa design to the premium Leesa Legend, which touts a combination of memory foam and micro-coil springs to keep you comfortable in any position you sleep in.

Find it: Leesa

2. Sur La Table

This one is labeled as simply a “summer sale,” but the deals are good only through Memorial Day, so you should get to it quickly. This sale takes up to 20 percent off outdoor grilling and dining essentials, like cast-iron shrimp pans ($32), a stainless steel burger-grilling basket ($16), and, of course, your choice of barbeque sauce to go along with it.

Find it: Sur la Table

3. Wayfair

KitchenAid Stand Mixer on Sale on Wayfair.
Wayfair/KitchenAid

Wayfair is cutting prices on all manner of appliances until May 28. Though you can pretty much find any home appliance imaginable at a low price, the sale is highlighted by $130 off a KitchenAid stand mixer and 62 percent off this eight-in-one GoWise air fryer.

And that’s only part of the brand’s multiple Memorial Day sales, which you can browse here. They’re also taking up to 40 percent off Samsung refrigerators and washing machines, up to 65 percent off living room furniture, and up to 60 percent off mattresses.

Find it: Wayfair

4. Blue Apron

If you sign up for a Blue Apron subscription before May 26, you’ll save $20 on each of your first three box deliveries, totaling $60 in savings. 

Find it: Blue Apron

5. The PBS Store

Score 20 percent off sitewide at Shop.PBS.org when you use the promo code TAKE20. This slashes prices on everything from documentaries like Ken Burns’s The Roosevelt: An Intimate History ($48) and The Civil War ($64) to a Pride & Prejudice tote bag ($27) and this precious heat-changing King Henry VIII mug ($11) that reveals the fates of his many wives when you pour your morning coffee.

Find it: The PBS Store

6. Amazon

eufy robot vacuum.
Amazon/eufy

While Amazon doesn’t have an official Memorial Day sale, the ecommerce giant still has plenty of ever-changing deals to pick from. Right now, you can take $100 off this outdoor grill from Weber, $70 off a eufy robot vacuum, and 22 percent off the ASUS gaming laptop. For more deals, just go to Amazon and have a look around.

7. Backcountry

You can save up to 50 percent on tents, hiking packs, outdoor wear, and more from brands like Patagonia, Marmot, and others during Backcountry's Memorial Day sale.

Find it: Backcountry

8. Entertainment Earth

Funko Pops on Sale on Entertainment Earth.
Entertainment Earth/Funko

From now until June 2, Entertainment Earth is having a buy one, get one half off sale on select Funko Pops. This includes stalwarts like the Star Wars and Batman lines, and more recent additions like the Schitt's Creek Funkos and the pre-orders for the upcoming X-Men movie line.

Find it: Entertainment Earth

9. Moosejaw

With the promo code SUNSCREEN, you can take 20 percent off one full-price item at Moosejaw, along with finding up to 30 percent off select items during the outdoor brand's summer sale. These deals include casual clothing, outdoor wear, trail sneakers, and more. 

Find it: Moosejaw

10. Osprey

Through May 25, you can save 25 percent on select summer items, and 40 percent off products from last season. This can include anything from hiking packs and luggage to outdoorsy socks and hats. So if you're planning on getting acquainted with the great outdoors this summer, now you can do it on the cheap.

Find it: Osprey

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

12 Fascinating Facts About Queen Victoria

Photos.com/iStock via Getty Images
Photos.com/iStock via Getty Images

Much like Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria was never expected to ascend to the British throne. Born on May 24, 1819, the young royal known as Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent defied all odds when she became Queen Victoria on June 20, 1837, less than a month after her 18th birthday.

Victoria ruled the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for more than 60 years, and in 1876 she adopted the title of Empress of India. Victoria didn’t oversee her empire alone, though. In 1840 she married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and together they had nine children (including Victoria’s successor, King Edward VII). Here are 12 things you might not have known about Queen Victoria.

1. Queen Victoria was born fifth in line to the throne, which made her an unlikely ruler.

Princess Victoria and her mother in 1834
Princess Victoria and her mother in 1834.
George Hayter, The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

When Victoria was born, she was fifth in line to the throne, just behind her father, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, who was fourth in line behind his three older brothers (none of whom had any living children—or at least no legitimate issue). Victoria's position in the line of succession placed her ahead of Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, her father's younger brother, which proved to be problematic.

When Victoria's father died on January 23, 1820, the future queen was barely eight months old. And when her grandfather, George III, died just a week later, the tot became third in line to the throne, which reportedly enraged Ernest Augustus. Fearing for the safety of her daughter, Victoria's mother chose to raise her away from the influence of Prince Edward's family—especially once rumors began to circulate that Ernest Augustus had designs on murdering his young niece to ensure that he, not she, would ascend to the throne. Whether or not there was any veracity to those rumors didn’t matter; on June 20, 1837, following the death of her uncle William, Duke of Clarence, 18-year-old Princess Alexandrina Victoria became Queen Victoria.

2. Queen Victoria was the first sovereign to rule from Buckingham Palace.

In 1761, Buckingham Palace was not yet a palace—it was simply a house. King George III bought the property for his wife, Queen Charlotte, to use as a family home. But when King George IV took over, he had bigger aspirations and decided to create an extravagant palace; costs ballooned to £500,000 (or more than $65 million in today's dollars). George IV died in 1830, however, which meant he never even got to live in the palace. When Queen Victoria took over in 1837, she became the first sovereign to rule from Buckingham Palace. In 1851, she was the first recorded royal to appear on Buckingham Palace’s balcony, a tradition the royal family still continues today.

3. Queen Victoria survived eight assassination attempts.

Queen Victoria sitting in a carriage car
Culture Club/Getty Images

Being in the public eye has its advantages and disadvantages, and for Queen Victoria that meant being the frequent target of assassination attempts. Over the course of her reign, she survived eight of them. In 1840, Edward Oxford shot at Victoria and Prince Albert while they rode in a carriage; Victoria, who was pregnant at the time, was thankfully not harmed. (Oxford was later judged to be insane.)

Two years later, John Francis attempted to shoot the couple not once, but twice—two days in a row. Again, neither was harmed. Just five weeks later, a teenager named John William Bean fired a pistol loaded with pieces of tobacco pipe at the Queen. In 1850, she was eventually injured when ex-soldier Robert Pate hit her over the head with an iron-tipped cane while she spent time in the courtyard of her home. Pate gave her a black eye and a scar that lasted for a long time.

4. Queen Victoria first met Prince Albert on her 17th birthday.

In May 1836, on Victoria’s 17th birthday, Prince Albert and the future queen—who were first cousins—met for the first time when Albert and his brother visited Kensington Palace with their Uncle Leopold. (Albert would turn 17 years old in August.) “He is extremely handsome,” Victoria wrote of the prince in her diary. But it would take almost four more years for the couple to tie the knot. And because royal rule stipulated that a reigning monarch could not be proposed to, Victoria had to be the one to pop the question. On October 15, 1839, Victoria proposed to Albert, who happily accepted. The couple married on February 10, 1840.

5. Queen Victoria popularized the white wedding dress.

Queen Victoria of England - Her Majesty 's wedding to Prince Albert in 1840
Culture Club/Getty Images

If you've ever wondered where the white wedding dress tradition originated, look no further than Queen Victoria. In 1840, Victoria wore an off-the-shoulder white satin gown covered in lace when she married Prince Albert. Though Victoria wasn’t the first royal to wear a white wedding dress—Mary, Queen of Scots wore white, too—wearing white became a status symbol following Victoria and Albert's nuptials.

6. Queen Victoria ensured that no other bride could replicate her wedding dress.

After Victoria’s wedding, she had the pattern to her dress destroyed so that no one could duplicate it.

7. Queen Victoria had nine children, but had some harsh opinions of motherhood.

Queen Victoria And Prince Albert With Five Of Their Children in 1846
Historica Graphica Collection/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Nine kids is a lot, and even though the Queen had a lot of help, she at times seemed indifferent to motherhood. In personal letters, she wrote about her children, mainly about their looks. She once wrote: “I am no admirer of babies generally—there are exceptions—for instance (your sisters) Alice, and Beatrice were very pretty from the very first—yourself also-rather so—Arthur too ... Bertie and Leopold—too frightful. Little girls are always prettier and nicer.” She also said “an ugly baby is a very nasty object.”

8. Queen Victoria was fascinated by Jack the Ripper.

In 1888, the serial killer known as Jack the Ripper began brutally murdering women—mainly prostitutes—in London’s Whitechapel district. Victoria received a petition signed by the women of East London urging the Queen’s “servants in authority” to “close bad houses” a.k.a. brothels, and passed it to the Home Office. When final victim Mary Jane Kelly was killed, Victoria contacted the Prime Minister and urged that better detectives be employed.

9. Queen Victoria’s grandson was suspected of being Jack the Ripper.

Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, c1890s
The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

To this day, no one knows for sure who Jack the Ripper was. However, some people have theorized that Victoria’s grandson Prince Albert Victor was the killer. In the 1976 book Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, author Stephen Knight wrote about how Victoria’s grandson might’ve contracted syphilis from a prostitute, which turned him mad. Another theory suggests the grandson secretly married a Catholic commoner and fathered a child, and it was the royal family who murdered the women to cover up the family secret. (Yes, that one seems a little far-fetched.)

10. Queen Victoria served as her grandson’s alibi.

Queen Victoria gave her grandson an alibi in her journal, thus exonerating him from accusations of being one of the world’s most famous serial killers.

11. Queen Victoria is the second longest-reigning British Monarch.

For 51 years, Victoria held the title of longest-reigning British monarch. But on September 9, 2015, Queen Elizabeth II took over the reins, so to speak, and bumped Victoria to second place. Victoria ruled for 63 years, 7 months, and 3 days; Elizabeth—who is Victoria’s great, great granddaughter—has ruled for almost 68 years.

12. Queen Victoria spent 40 years mourning the death of Prince Albert.

Queen Victoria with her great-granchildren at Osborne House, Isle of Wight, 1900
The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

A couple of years before his death, Prince Albert began experiencing stomach cramps, and he almost died in a horse-drawn carriage accident. He told Victoria his days were numbered: “I am sure if I had a severe illness, I should give up at once. I should not struggle for life. I have no tenacity for life,” he said.

On December 14, 1861, Albert succumbed to typhoid fever, though some people believe that stomach cancer and Crohn’s disease were the more likely culprits. Victoria blamed their son Edward for Albert’s death, as Albert was worried about a scandalous affair Edward was said to be having with an actress in Ireland.

Victoria lived for another 40 years and mourned Albert’s death the rest of her life by wearing black, becoming a recluse (she was often referred to as the Widow of Windsor), and keeping Albert’s rooms just the way he had left them.