Inventors and product developers have a tough job. Not only are these people tasked with defining the future for people around the world, but they have to manage the complicated world of patent law as well.
While you might be thinking about going it alone for your next creation, you might want to reconsider and enlist the help of a patent attorney. The following examples show some of the interesting situations people have managed to get themselves into when attempting to unveil their inventions to the world.
1. Apple sues Samsung over patent violation
While not the oldest historical example, since it only happened within the past few years, this example still provides a warning that is important for all tech and software development companies to keep in mind.
Although staunch fans of either brand will attest that their smartphones are different, the companies that made them don't feel the same way. Apple originally sued Samsung due to similarities in the look and feel between their respective smartphones and tablets.
The infringement ended up costing Samsung more than US$1 billion and resulted in a legal battle that lasted for years.
2. Kelloggs rediscover cereal recipe
This is proper history, with a case that stretches all the way back into the 1800s, according to a Smithsonian article from June 21 2011.
In 1893, one Henry Perky invented the Shredded Whole Wheat cereal, a product John Harvey Kellogg compared to eating a "shredded doormat". Yet, when Mr Perky's patent ran out in 1912 after his 1908 death, Mr Kellogg was the first to re-purpose the recipe for his own company, drawing legal attention in the process.
Eventually, the Supreme Court awarded the case to the Kellogg Company after it was determined that the term 'shredded wheat' could not be trademarked.
3. Who really invented the telephone?
Proof that patent disputes are as old as technology itself, the very first telephone was the subject of a lengthy patent war to determine its true creator.
While history generally accepts that Alexander Graham Bell invented the first telephone, Elisha Gray also filed a patent for a similar device on the same day, according to a Washington Post article from 20 February 2008.
The moral of the story? Do your best to protect your designs before unveiling them to the public.