Entrepreneurs, artists, and content creators produce items, works, and publications that support their career goals. These professionals need to consider established laws to copyright or patent their innovative ideas and protect them against any form of infringement, misuse, or reproduction. A proper analysis and understanding of the issues surrounding these developments can guide investors to make informed decisions and safeguard their creations. Such a practice is critical since copyright infringement is a common challenge in different fields, including entrepreneurship, music, film, and art and design. This discussion focuses on the intellectual property (IP) cases and lawsuits that arise from disgruntled employees. It also examines the potential disagreements of founding partners in startup technological firms and how to resolve them. The emerging information can become a powerful model for businesspeople and stakeholders to be aware of the existing laws in the area of copyright infringement and how emerging disputes or cases need to be resolved.
Creative artists, researchers, and entrepreneurs use their competencies to create superior products, images, or works that might be intangible. Such possessions are usually at risk of being copied or reproduced by other people, including competitors or rivals. The term “intellectual property” is widely utilized to define such productions that emerge from creative practices (Hickey 1). Some good examples include copyrighted materials and patents. When one artist copies or uses another’s work without permission, a case for infringement is usually established. This occurrence means that a resolution is mandatory to pay for damages or discontinue the application of such work of art without the owner’s permission (Uzunidis and Saulais 13). Within the past decades, several lawsuits and cases have emerged whereby partners disagree despite being the owners of the IP and their innovations. More often than not, new proceedings might emerge between companies and workers who become disgruntled after realizing that their inventions have benefited the business.
One of the outstanding IP cases in the news is the one between Darren Eastman and Apple Inc. In a case filed in one of the federal district courts, this engineer argued that he deserved to be honored for his work revolving around the “Find My Phone” application on various Apple devices. According to him, he had made it possible for this corporation to invent a new way of marketing mobile-based tickets using the iOS (Jahner). With this kind of information, he went further to inform the U.S. District Court of Northern California that the company went further to fire him due to his disability.
The invention in question was essential since it was making Apple are famous and successful company since customers could link all their devices and locate them in case one of them got lost. With this form of technology having been deployed and improved at a time when he was working at Apple Inc., Eastman believed that the company had been unfair by failing to recognize his achievements and contributions. Within the next decade, Apple Inc. would record increased sales to become a leading brand in the global mobile and computer industries (Jahner). This innovator and engineer chose to sue his former employer in accordance with the existing IP laws. He argued that his outstanding invention was a major boost and source of income for the employer due to the fact that Apple Inc. was able to maximize sales and create a sense of brand loyalty. Consequently, he wanted to have a fair share of the recorded profits. According to the company, the decision to fire Eastman was not prejudicial but based on the results of a job evaluation or performance review (Jahner). The organization also refuted the presented claims that the company was no longer engaging in corporate responsibility.
From the nature of this case, it is evident that Eastman was the original source of the Find My Phone concept that the company pursued to make it a reality. Apple Inc. became the respondent since it had used the engineer’s innovative ideas and concepts to develop superior apps and platforms that would later maximize profits from the employer (Jahner). The next participant or stakeholders in the case was the court. Such an institution was also the source of authority for action. The relevant lower court presented its decision in favor of the company. The court went further to indicate that Eastman’s had only presented a concept that was capable of locating a phone remotely. During the period, such an idea appeared to be known and, therefore, it was not related to any of her presentations. The court dismissed such claims and argued that the complainant had failed to offer specific similarities that would support the case and overturn the pronounced decision.
The identified case arose since the world was embracing the power of mobile-based innovations and platforms to maximize the experiences of more people from the 2000s. Focusing on the period in question, it is notable that many industries and firms in the technology and mobile applications industries have been competing to attract more customers by providing high-quality and personalized user experiences (Jahner). This trend has created new opportunities for cannibalistic tendencies and malpractices that eventually amount to copyright infringement. This has become a common problem that continues to affect creators of content, users, and potential customers (Saunders 47). These possible outcomes indicate that some companies will continue to examine their loopholes of their rivals and implement powerful strategies to copy and own the ideas generated by different employees.
The second case that examines the issue of copyright infringement is the one between Mattel, Inc. and a former employee named Carter Bryant. According to Mattel, Inc., Bryant had “breached a confidentiality and inventions agreement by sharing his ideas for MGA’s Bratz dolls” (“Mattel, Inc. v. MGA Entertainment, Inc.”). The court’s judgment was that the former employee had violated the existing agreement. It went further to issue an injunction aimed at barring MGA from producing and marketing most of the finished Bratz dolls. This case reveals that disgruntled workers might leave their organizations and find new ones. They can go further to share crucial information with their new employers and eventually result in copyright infringement.
From the above analysis, it is evident that similar cases remain a common challenge in different sectors, including software, hardware, and manufacturing. Many giant corporations have been focusing on some of the best initiatives and products that can maximize their customers’ experiences. At some point, some employees might decide to quit their jobs and go further to share their ideas with other companies or new employers. When this happens, it becomes critical for the court to make the most appropriate determination depending on the presented facts or information (Uzunidis and Saulais 18). However, the absence of documented agreements before creating such contents or technological works has remained a major challenge for courts and legal experts to solve such disputes.
Although very few cases arising from co-owned IP rights have been documented, the reality is that many innovators who start tech companies tend to disagree and go their separate ways. When such developments occur, one of the co-owners is usually forced to abandon the IP rights since there are complex procedures to have the issue resolved (Jahner). These examples should remind innovators about the crucial role IPs play in protecting different works and ensuring that companies or partners do not take advantage of the situation.
Application of the Law
In the United States, the Copyright Act of 1976 is the primary law that protects people’s writings and original discoveries. Such a policy dictates the manner in which IP cases need to be resolved. The purpose of these legal guidelines has been to encourage more citizens and companies to create and patent new content (Uzunidis and Saulais 29). The artists and authors behind such works receive rewards in the form of exclusive liberties or ownership rights (Saunders 76). This law is essential since it makes it possible for the creators to sell their original work, make the relevant copies for distribution, and promote the idea of derivation whereby additional concepts might emerge. In the United States, such rights are valid even after the death of the artist or author (Hickey 1). When there is any form of infringement or violation, the owner can sue the other producer in a federal court. A valid copyright protection will be required before the commencement of the targeted case.
The law identifies the creator of the targeted work as the owner of the copyright. A person who produces a similar idea or creation without the knowledge of an existing work will not have committed any offense. Individuals need to be aware of these issues in order to protect their productions in accordance with the established polices and regulations. The court considers the validity of the presented arguments before making the final determination (Luchs et al. 11). The artist who infringes the work of another person is usually fined or required to pay for damages because he or she might have made it impossible for the producer to achieve the intended gains. The law is expanded to cover corporations and business entities.
Business organizations are required by the law to patent their works and gain exclusive rights. The company becomes the copyright holder and should be able to display, reproduce, or display the work. The owner will also make decisions regarding the manner in which individuals can replicate or share such innovations. Corporations can sue those who use such works without the required permission for damages and misuse (Saunders 38). The studied case of Eastman follows these attributes described under the existing copyright law. From the concepts of common law and ethical reasoning, it becomes quite clear that the court could have decided to force Apple Inc. to compensate and pay for damages arising from the IP case.
The approach utilized for resolving this copyright dispute is edged on the requirements of the existing Copyright Act. Looking at the background of the presented case, it is agreeable that Apple Inc. should pay Eastman for the use of his innovative idea to develop the famous Find My Phone platform. This leading corporation took advantage of its dominance in the global market to maximize its competitive edge. Although Apple Inc. might have acted in accordance with the established legal systems regarding the issue of IP, it failed to recognize Eastman as the sole innovator of the technology in question (Jahner). Such a decision was wrong since it made it impossible for Eastman to receive some commission from the profits accrued from the use of his invention or even be listed as one of the creators or presenters of the concept.
Looking at the nature of this case, it is evident that many stakeholders would expect the court to compel Apple Inc. to compensate Eastman since his innovative idea had made the organization more profitable and successful. The corporation achieved such gains without involving the disgruntled employee. This example can become a strong case for innovators who would like to protect their works from misuse (Luchs et al. 34). Companies should also be keen to enter into agreements with employees who contribute or present superior technologies that can eventually maximize their competitiveness in the business environment.
The actual result of the identified case does not echo the anticipated legal result. After examining the facts of the presented issue and matching them with the Copyright Act, it was impossible for the court to award any form of compensation to the engineer. The judges realized that the company had a similar idea that it applied to develop the platform in question (Uzunidis and Saulais 39). This example reveals that disgruntled employees will at some point find a way to sue companies for failing to reward their achievements or innovations.
IP lawsuits can be prevented if all stakeholders understand the existing legal provisions and protections. According to Uzunidis and Saulais, many partners or innovators were unaware of the existing procedures for applying for IP in their respective regions (65). With this consideration, it would have been possible for both Apple Inc. and Eastman to prevent this issue from pestering. For instance, the managers at this giant corporation could have also considered the need to settle the damages out of court by paying him the requested royalties. Such a move could have encouraged more employees to present new concepts and eventually make the company more profitable.
Similarly, some best practices could have been introduced in advance to prevent this kind of incident. For example, governments and other key stakeholders could be involved to streamline the IP application process and make such resources available to the greatest number of people. Following its resolution, it would have been necessary for stakeholders to improve existing policies since they fail to offer explicit guidelines for determining the IP relationships between employers and workers following the invention of a groundbreaking idea (Saunders 72). Addressing such loopholes would make it easier for workers to know their rights and potential recognitions and benefits they could receive from their works.
The above discussion has revealed that innovators and entrepreneurs tend to have increased chances of encountering diverse IP-related challenges. Disgruntled employees would always be ready to sue their employers for any form of injustice surrounding around the issue of IP. The same fate can also befall business partners who present revolutionary ideas and inventions that take their companies to the next level. A detailed analysis of the existing or established IP laws can become a new opportunity for innovators to patent their innovations and protect them against any third-party use or reproduction. Such initiatives can prevent unnecessary cases that can eventually result in losses or collapse of established business enterprises.
Hickey, Kevin J. Intellectual Property Law: A Brief Introduction. Congressional Research Service, 2018.
Jahner, Kyle. “Apple Ducks Ex-Worker’s Suit Over iPhone Tracking Patent (1).” Bloomberg Law, 2018. Web.
Luchs, Michael G., et al., editors. Design Thinking: New Product Development Essentials from the PDMA. John Wiley & Sons, 2016.
“Mattel, Inc. v. MGA Entertainment, Inc.” 2020. Web.
Saunders, Kurt M. Intellectual Property Law: Legal Aspects of Innovation and Competition. West Academic Publishing, 2016.
Uzunidis, Dimitri, and Pierre Saulais. Innovation Engines: Entrepreneurs and Enterprises in a Turbulent World. John Wiley & Sons, 2017.