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  Real Frivolous Lawsuits in America are Businesses Suing Businesses

 

 

Civil justice restrictions advocated in Congress cut off the rights of consumers injured or killed by faulty products. They do nothing to curb the truly ridiculous lawsuits filed each year by businesses against each other. Why should businesses have the courts to themselves?

Examples of Truly Frivolous Lawsuits Filed by Corporate Attorneys

Brand Name Drug Company Sues Generics Makers

Drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline sued two generic drug companies after learning that they were seeking approval from the Food & Drug Administration to manufacture and market a less expensive, generic version of SmithKline's anti-depressant drug Paxil. Despite the fact that after a certain period of time all companies have a legal right to create generic versions of prescription drugs and make them available to more consumers who could not afford the band name, the sham litigation allowed SmithKline to delay a generic version of Paxil from entering the market by almost 3 years. The Legal Intelligencer, 5/23/05

Media Company Tries to Own Everyday Words

Fox News sued Al Franken for using the term "Fair and Balanced" on his book cover. Calling the motion "wholly without merit, both factually and legally," the judge, Denny Chin of United States District Court threw out the case. Judge Chin said the case was an easy one, and chided Fox for bringing its complaint to court. The judge said, "Of course, it is ironic that a media company that should be fighting for the First Amendment is trying to undermine it." New York Times, 8/23/02

Rental Car Company Tries to Own Commonly Used Phrase

In 1998, Enterprise Rent-A-Car filed lawsuits against Rent-A-Wreck of America (a tiny rental company) and Hertz Corp. and threatened to file lawsuits against several other car-rental companies who use the phrase "pick you up," claiming that "We'll pick you up" is Enterprise's slogan. While those suits were pending, Advantage Rent-a-Car counter-sued Enterprise, claiming that Advantage had used the phrase "we'll pick you up" long before Enterprise did. Enterprise argued in its lawsuits that the phrase means more than "we'll give you a ride"; it means "we'll pick up your spirits." Competitors said that there was no other way to say "we'll give you a ride." Enterprise attorney Rudolph Telscher said that "we'll decide in the courtroom who is correct here." San Antonio Business Journal, 11/6/98

Lingerie Company Tries to Own #22 and #95 Most Popular Baby Names

Victoria's Secret went all the way to the Supreme Court in an effort to sue Victor's Little Secret, a gift and novelty shop selling sex toys and "Everything for Romantic Encounters" from a strip mall storefront in Elizabethtown, Ky. Victor Moseley, who opened the shop in 1998, named it Victor's Secret after himself, but changed the name to Victor's Little Secret a few months later in a futile effort to satisfy a sharply worded complaint from Victoria's Secret. In 2003, Victor was the 95th most popular baby name for a boy and Victoria was the 22nd most popular baby name for a girl. Moseley v. V Secret Catalogue, Inc., No. 01-1015

Haagen-Daz Tries to Own a Nationality

In 1980 the manufacturers of Haagen-Daz ice cream, in a suit against Frusen Gladje, tried to lay claim to the concept of premium ice cream with a "Scandinavian flair." Haagen-Dazs, Inc. v. FRusen Gladje Ltd. A.B., 210 U.S.P.Q. 204 (S.D.N.Y 1980)

Manufacturer of Barbie Sues Musicians and People Who Help Sick Children

Toymaker Mattel spent five years litigating until the Supreme Court turned down their request to reopen a trademark suit against MCA Records Inc. Mattel had claimed that the preteen girls who buy Barbie dolls were duped into thinking the song "Barbie Girl" was an advertisement for the doll or part of Mattel's official line of Barbie products. The song, by a Danish group called Aqua, includes the lyrics, "I'm a blonde bimbo in a fantasy world/Dress me up, make it tight, I'm your dolly." Mattel Inc. v. MCA Records Inc., 01-633, Associated Press, 2/22/03

Mattel, Inc., the maker of Barbie, is waging an aggressive trademark war against unsanctioned use of the Barbie name, attacking the founders of the "Barbie Makes a Wish" weekend that raises money for critically ill children; artist Paul Hansen, sued for $1.2 billion for making $2,000 from the sale of his Exorcist Barbie, Tonya Harding Barbie, and Drag Queen Barbie; and Mike Grove, who distributes Sizzler toy cars to sick and dying children. Mattel made almost $4 billion in annual sales in 1996, but has filed copyright and trademark infringement suits against all three toy enthusiasts.Wall Street Journal, 1/9/98

Insurance Company Sues Elderly Woman Killed by Truck

An 81 year old woman stepped in front of a truck on a Missouri highway and was killed. What happened next added insult to her family's injury. The trucker's insurance company charged the elderly woman with negligence, and is suing her estate for damages. Wall Street Journal, 1/15/99

Kellogg and Exxon Fight Over Whose Tiger is Friendly

In 1998, Kellogg Co. sued Exxon Corp., claiming that Exxon's "whimsical tiger" logo, which had been in existence for over 30 years, would confuse consumers who associate the tiger logo with Kellogg's Frosted Flakes mascot, "Tony the Tiger." A federal judge in Memphis threw out the suit, saying that Kellogg was "grossly remiss in failing to assert its rights" sooner. This didn't stop Kellogg, which further clogged the courts by appealing the verdict to the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. In its brief, Kellogg argued that the Exxon tiger, like Tony, "walks or runs on his two hind legs and acts in a friendly manner." Forbes.com, 10/17/00

Wal-Mart Thinks Competitors Can't Use Carousels in Check-Out Aisle

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, is going to court to prevent wares bought at rival Kmart Corp. from going for a spin at the register. Bentonville-based Wal-Mart has a patent on its carousel that holds its blue plastic shopping bags. The cashier drops items into bags as merchandise is rung up, and spins the rack to make the effort easier for both the cashier and the customer lifting out the bags. Wal-Mart is suing in a Delaware court to keep Troy, Mich.-based Kmart from using a similar device. The Associated Press, 7/17/03

Hormel Tries - and Fails - To Sue Jim Henson for Being Funny

In November 1995, Hormel Foods, the maker of the luncheon meat SPAM, sued Jim Henson Productions to stop the creator of the Muppets from calling a character in a new movie Spa'am, claiming that the character was unclean and grotesque and would call into question the purity and quality of its meats. A federal court rejected Hormel's claims, and Hormel also lost on appeal. Pacific Business News, 5/30/01

Disney Sues to Protect the Reputation of Snow White, A Cartoon

In 1989 Walt Disney Company used a lawsuit to force a public apology from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for an "unflattering" representation of Snow White in the opening sequence of the 1989 Academy Awards ceremony. USA Today, 5/1/89

Updated June 2005

Republished with permission of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.