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The 5 Most Memorable Lawsuits Over Technology

Technology companies famously don't get alone. Maybe it's the personalities involved, the tendency for copycats to follow the innovators, or just the vast fortunes involved.

But for whatever reason, the giants of the digital world continually wind up in court. These are some of the most memorable legal battles.

United States vs. Microsoft

It may be hard to believe now, but Microsoft once ruled the tech world. Bill Gates created an empire and it looked unstoppable — until the Seattle company was hit by an antitrust lawsuit from the government. The United States claimed the the software giant had violated the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 and had become a monopoly.

Nearly three years later, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found, for the most part, against Microsoft. The main ruling was that Microsoft breached the law by binding its Microsoft Explorer web browser to its Windows operating system. "The court concludes that Microsoft maintained its monopoly power," stated the court's decision, "by anticompetitive means and attempted to monopolize the Web browser market." Upon appeal, and later a settlement, however, the company was not forced to untie its browser, or other software, from Windows, but only to share its programming interface with other firms.

Metallica vs. Napster

In another case that disrupted the digital world just as millennium began, metal rock band pioneer Metallica sued online file-sharing service Napster. At the time, college students and others across the country were using the platform to freely download MP3 songs to their heart's content, and groups like Metallica, along with record companies, were outraged by all the lost revenue.

The specifics of the outcome — Napster had to remove all music by Metallica and others after a similar suit — were less important than the tidal shift the court case initiated. This was the most high-profile attention given to the fight between artists and file sharers, and eventually Napster, and the many similar sites that proliferated in its wake, would be shut down.

GoDaddy vs.

In 2006, sued GoDaddy for patent infringement, alleging that the upstart website registrar ran afoul of three separate patents. GoDaddy wasn't the only company that took to court. As the owner of more than 20 related patents, it went to war with Hostopedia and as well for using its exclusive technology to deliver a similar service.

GoDaddy and eventually settled their dispute. They granted each other use of some specific patents, presumably each gaining some benefits from the proprietary business practices of the other.

Apple vs. Samsung

Anyone who has seen both Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy line of mobile phones will notice some similarities. The marketplace has spoken — loudly — with its wallet that it wants certain features, and both share plenty.

Apple took umbrage with this, not seeing imitation as the highest form of flattery and took Samsung to court in 2012. The Korean electronics giant wasn't going to take the move lying down and countersued, with both firms alleging various claims of the other stealing their intellectual property: designs, patents, features, even whole products. Apple wanted nearly $3 billion but the eventual ruling, in the company's favor, won them around $900 million from Samsung.

Authors vs. Amazon

Amazon, owner of the popular Kindle ebook device, went to war with book publishers and authors over a pricing dispute in 2013. The crux of the disagreement was pricing and the publishers' ability to set their own rates, something that Amazon controlled.

More than 900 authors, including John Grisham and Stephen King, wrote in support of the publishers, and despite the heated back and forth that played out publicly — for months and months — the two sides eventually reached an agreement. Publishers Hachette and Simon & Schuster both signed multi-year deals that determined the pricing practices that would govern both the digital and print book market going forward.

Published Friday, August 14, 2015 8:29 AM by David Marshall
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