Fighting Intellectual Property Theft

By Holbrook, Emily | Risk Management, December 2012 | Go to article overview

Fighting Intellectual Property Theft


Holbrook, Emily, Risk Management


Bill Gates once said "intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana." Indeed, with the increasing sophistication of the internet, hackers and malicious employees, it is easy to see why he feels that way. For centuries, copyrights and patents have granted protection and rights to the owners of original ideas and products. But rules, as some see, are made to be broken, and intellectual property--no matter how protected--is subject to theft.

Recent research by Verizon reported that there were 85 confirmed data breaches over the last two years that resulted in the theft of intellectual property. It also found that no organization was immune. The following arc some of the more notorious and lucrative intellectual property cases to date.

--Emily Holbrook

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

February 23, 2011

In 2009, Johnson & Johnson accused Abbott Laboratories, maker of the arthritis drug Humira, of using technology patented by New York University and licensed exclusively to Johnson & Johnson's Centocor division. Johnson & Johnson originally won the case and was awarded $1.7 billion for lost profits and damages, making it the largest patent-infringement award in U.S. history. But the award didn't stick. In February 2011, Abbott Labs succeeded in a bid to overturn the verdict. Johnson & Johnson appealed soon after, and in October 2012, the Supreme Court declined to review the ruling.

April 22, 2011

A former employee of St. Jude Medical was found guilty of stealing trade secrets from his employer and using them to set up a rival medical device company, Nervicon. Yongning Zou, a former hardware design engineer with Pacesetter, St. Jude's cardiac rhythm management division, allegedly stole documents relating to a crystal oscillator unique to St. Jude's products. Zou left St. Jude in June 2009 and became a shareholder in Nervicon, a China-based medical device business. On April 22, 2011, a California jury awarded a total a total of $1.47 billion against Zou for theft of trade secrets and an additional $868 million against Nervicon.

April 28, 2011

Mike Tyson's tattoo artist filed suit against Warner Bros. Entertainment weeks before The Hangover 2's May 26, 2011, opening, alleging that the movie's use of his design, which was tattooed on the face on one of the movie's characters was copyright infringement. S. Victor Whitmill claimed that since he owned copyrights to the "artwork on 3-D," as he called it, the use of his design in the movie and in advertisements without his consent should be considered infringement. On May 24, 2011, Chief Judge Catherine D. Perry of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri denied an injunction on the movie's release but felt Whitmill did in fact have a case. …

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