Before suing, it’s a good idea to make sure you have a case. It’s also a good idea to play by the rules. Lest anyone forget, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued 2.7 million “reminders” last week to a company that brought an ill-considered copyright infringement case against Compaq Computer Corporation.

Apparently, Compaq published an instruction booklet containing 7 phrases and 4 illustrations “similar” to photographs and phrases in a 100 page book published by the copyright owners. The jury agreed with Compaq that this was de minimis and “fair use” and hence not copyright infringement. However, because the copyright owners apparently engaged in scorched earth litigation tactics while ignoring their own discovery obligations, the court ordered them to pay Compaq’s attorneys’ fees in the amount of $2.7 million. (Ouch!)

This case is a good example of what can happen when ill-considered claims are pursued beyond reason. It’s also a good example of what can happen when litigants elect not to follow the rules of discovery. My personal feeling is this outcome is a bit harsh and might well dissuade litigants from pursuing legitimate cases. Still, it is an example of what can happen and is something to keep in mind.

(My thanks to The Unknown Tech Lawyer for bringing the case to my attention.)

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Photo of Philip P. Mann Philip P. Mann

Philip P. Mann is a trial lawyer with over twenty years experience litigating patent, trademark, trade secret, and other intellectual property matters throughout the country.
Mann’s trial work has taken him to various federal and state courts where he’s tried both cases to…

Philip P. Mann is a trial lawyer with over twenty years experience litigating patent, trademark, trade secret, and other intellectual property matters throughout the country.
Mann’s trial work has taken him to various federal and state courts where he’s tried both cases to the court (a judge) as well as before juries. In addition to trial court work, Mann has performed appellate work before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Mann began his legal career in Chicago and Milwaukee before heading to Seattle where some of America’s most innovative companies were developing new technologies at breakneck speed. Before founding his own firm, he was a member of the Seattle Intellectual Property Law Firm, Christensen O’Connor Johnson Kindness.
Mann is an “AV” rated lawyer by Martindale Hubbell, indicative that he has reached the height of professional excellence and is recognized for the highest levels of skill and integrity.
He holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois (Urbana) and received his law degree from the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, Missouri. He is admitted to practice in the States of Illinois and Washington, as well as before the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and in various courts around the country.