2012’s Big-Name Business Court Cases

Settling matters in court can be a costly and unpredictable game, and no more so than for the business elite. According to public findings, Apple and Google spent more on legal fees in 2011 than they did on R&D.  Even the most powerful companies are unable to avoid finding themselves in legal hot water from time to time.  We take a look back at some of the more high profile cases of horn-locking from 2012:

Apple Inc. vs Samsung

Arguably the most notorious legal battle of 2012 came courtesy of feuding tech giants, Apple Inc. and Samsung.

The first major smartphone patent war broke out when Apple took exception to Samsung’s ‘double-tapping’ functionality and products’ physical form.   Siding with the creators of the iPhone, a US jury ruled that Samsung had infringed six Apple patents, resulting in the Korean party being slapped with a hefty $1.05b compensation bill.  And, as the dispute continues, Samsung have been further punished with a lost bid to keep their sales data private in Apple’s continued drive to seek additional damages.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for Samsung, as the UK courts controversially ruled no breach.  Instead, Apple were ordered to pay Samsung's legal fees on account of a false web statement made in apology to their rivals… Not that this should pose a problem for the Cupertino-based super firm, who shrugged off a $32 million expense in one Motorola Mobility dispute as equalling less than six hours of iPhone sales.

British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco & Philip Morris vs. Australian Law

In a move challenged by the likes of BAT, Imperial Tobacco and Philip Morris fearing £multi-billion losses on their cigarette brands, Australian Law now dictates that all cigarette packaging must take a generic style.  It is hoped the enforced olive green pack featuring grim depictions of the ill-effects of smoking will go some way to discourage the habit’s glamorous image. The tobacco giants took to court to argue against the new law, stating that it threatened their intellectual property rights and de-valued their trademarks.  Furthermore, Australian Government was accused of unfairly benefitting from the new rules, which would allow them to use the unbranded packs as a marketing tool to promote their own message.

Despite such protestations, the laws were passed and came into force on Saturday 1st December 2012.

Tesco vs. Spicerhaart

Furthering their bid for world-domination, Tesco’s recent venture into a property listing resource to rival Rightmove ended in tears, after they found themselves locking horns with UK estate agents, Spicerhaart.  The supermarket’s plans to expand into home-selling were originally derailed by the Office of Fair Trading back in 2008, prompting an acquisition of the business in its embryonic state by Spicerhaart.

But the deal struck between the two has since soured as Tesco seek repayment for a £3.73m loan due earlier in 2012.  Meanwhile, Spicerhaart were busy lodging a counterclaim for a larger sum, arguing that the retailer failed to deliver on a promise to provide the new brand ‘iSold’ with marketing support.  The pair came to loggerheads when Tesco refuted these claims, accusing Spicerhaart of failing to uphold their promise of a nationwide service.

The case continues.

Hostess Brands Inc. vs. Bakers Union

Bakers Union strikes ended in disaster for Hostess Brands Inc. last year.  The 85-year-old company, most famous for its ‘Twinkies’ brand, found itself securing approval for liquidation in the U.S. bankruptcy courts in November. The strikes, fuelled by enforced labour concessions, are said to have crippled the business.  When a last-ditch mediation between the parties failed, the company was left with no choice but to announce its decision to shut its doors on November 16th 2012.

The liquidation plan will see around 18,500 jobs lost, with around 94% of these terminations made within 16 weeks. In gaining approval for their plan, Hostess have been granted permission to pay as much as $1.75 million in incentive bonuses to 19 senior managers during the liquidation.

Over a three month period, proceedings are estimated to cost $17.6 million, and will see the doors close on:

  • 36 bakeries
  • 242 depots
  • 216 retail stores
  • 311 hybrid depot-store facilities

Near Miss: Paddy Power vs. LOGOC

Paddy Power famously narrowly avoided a legal battle at the hands of stringent London 2012 brand guardians, LOGOC, after launching a cunning billboard campaign in which they claimed to be sponsoring the ‘largest athletic event in London this year’.  They proceed to reveal that the sponsorship is of an egg and spoon race to be held in the town of London, France.

Resisting orders to immediately halt the campaign amid strong threats of legal action, Paddy Power stuck by their guns and were eventually rewarded for their determination when the Olympic organisers backed down out of court, permitting the controversial campaign to continue throughout the games.

So, what happens if a law firm is asked to take on a big-scale case but doesn’t have the financial capacity to bring it to court? Even the best cases can take a long time to resolve and the result is always uncertain.  Litigation funding providers can be enlisted to confidentially invest and help bring such cases to conclusion.