Tech Sector Giants Battle in Business vs. Business Litigation

When individuals dive into litigation against one another, the ensuing court battle can be lengthy, costly, and bitter.  When entire businesses sue each other, the scope of the resulting legal circus is that much greater.  Our commercial litigation attorneys revisit two of the biggest business vs. business patent lawsuits in recent years: Rockstar against Google, and Apple against Amazon.

Rockstar v. Google

In this case, Rockstar doesn’t refer to the popular energy drink of the same name, but a group of tech sector notables including Microsoft, Apple, and Sony.  In 2011, the trio joined forces (along with RIM and Ericsson) under the name “Rockstar Bidco” in a group effort to win the rights to some 6,000 patents being sold off by bankrupt Canadian telecom giant Nortel.  Together, Rockstar Bidco bid an impressive $4.5 billion, and as it turns out, “the price was right.”

But, evidently not content with four and a half billion dollars’ worth of new 4G technology patents under its belt, Rockstar went on to launch an all-out legal assault, suing Google over the rights to six patents dating as far back as 1997 (which predates Google itself).  David Drummond, Google attorney, has described the unlikely alliance between arch-rivals Apple and Microsoft as a “hostile, organized campaign against Android” (which was acquired by Google in 2005).  Attorneys for Rockstar have countered by stating, “Despite losing in its attempt to acquire the patents-in-suit at auction, Google has infringed and continues to infringe the patents-in-suit.”  Google has since fired back with lawsuits against Rockstar.

For now, the so-called Patent Wars rage on.

Apple v. Amazon

Maybe you need to find a restaurant while you’re already on-the-go.  Maybe you need a handy calculating tool to help with some budgeting you’re trying to get done.  Maybe you just need to get your fix of Angry Birds.  The advent of the app, of course, goes hand in hand with the advent of the App Store…  But whose store is it?

In 2008, Apple — arguably the king of the app market — began selling mobile applications through the Apple App Store.  Three years later, in 2011, Amazon launched the Amazon App Store.

Apple was quick to mobilize against their imitators.  In March of 2011, the company filed a lawsuit against Amazon, citing double-pronged allegations of both false advertising and trademark violation.  Amazon’s attorneys said that the phrase “app store” was harmlessly generic.  Apple’s attorneys thought otherwise.

But, in an unusually happy ending, Apple dropped the case (and the potential counterclaims which could have resulted) in the summer of 2013.  Kristin Huguet, Apple spokesperson, stated, “We no longer see a need to pursue our case.  With more than 900,000 apps and 50 billion downloads, customers know where they can purchase their favorite apps.”  Martin Glick, an attorney for Amazon, describes the move as “…a decision by Apple to unilaterally abandon the case, and leave Amazon free to use ‘appstore.'”

Interestingly, these high-stakes, high-profile cases — both involving patents, and both occurring within the tech sector — represent totally divergent legal outcomes, despite sharing so many factors in common.  In the case of Apple against Amazon, the plaintiff willingly dropped all allegations against the defendant, and Amazon is free to use the term “App Store” today.  In the case of Rockstar against Google, the parties involved have been suing and counter-suing each other for years in an apparently endless cycle of business litigation.

If your company is stuck in an unresolved conflict with another company, an experienced business vs. business litigation attorney can help.  To schedule a confidential case evaluation, contact the law offices of Berkowitz Klein today.