Small software companies also scored big, and their fluctuating fortunes highlighted the degree to which that risk-tolerant investors are now betting on patent litigation. Vringo Inc. won a verdict against Google Inc. in November that could be worth as much as $500 million. The same month VirnetX Holding Corp. won $368 million from Apple.
RED SOLES, BROADCAST WOES
Patents dominated the national conversation, but there were also some major trademark and copyright litigation headlines this year. Indeed, one of the most buzzworthy IP cases of the year involved a trademark for red-soled shoes. Fashion designer Christian Louboutin, who has profited handsomely from the distinctive red outsoles on his $700 shoes, accused the clothing company Yves Saint Laurent America of infringing his registered trademark for the look. To Louboutin's dismay, a U.S. district court judge decided in 2011 that "a single color can never serve as a trademark in the fashion industry." The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed in September, ruling that Louboutin can claim trademark protection for the outsole, but not if the rest of the shoe is red. Both designers have claimed victory.
The recording industry's war on music-sharing sites died down in 2011, but 2012 brought a spike in litigation over digital television that kept copyright mavens busy.
Every major broadcaster joined forces to sue Aereo Inc., a potentially revolutionary start-up that streams live television to its subscribers' mobile devices for $12 a month, without paying a cent in retransmission fees back to the networks. Aereo and its lawyers at Winston & Strawn and Goodwin Procter prevailed in July, but the broadcasters and their lawyers at Jenner & Block have appealed to the Second Circuit.
One of the plaintiffs in the Aereo case, Fox Broadcasting, has also sued the satellite television company Dish Network Corporation over its new AutoHop feature, which lets users skip commercial breaks entirely. A judge denied Fox's bid for an early injunction in November.
Will IP cool off in 2013, as the major provisions of the American Invents Act go into effect? We're willing to go out on a limb and expect things to get even hotter.