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A Pittsburgh Intellectual Property Hall of Fame: Landmark Moments

Included: both tangible things and intangibles that in some respect “embody” Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania or tell stories about creativity and innovation in Pittsburgh in some public way.

Categories: Copyrights // Patents // Trademarks // Trade Secrets // Landmarks // Back to the Pittsburgh Intellectual Property Hall of Fame Home Page

Carnegie Mellon University brought a patent infringement lawsuit against Marvell Industries in 2009, and the case eventually went to trial before a Western District of Pennsylvania jury. The judgment in the trial court in CMU’s favor exceeded $1 billion, a record verdict for its time, but was appealed. In 2015, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reduced the total amount, vacating the trial court’s damages enhancement and excluding damages for extraterritorial infringement, and remanded the case. CMU and Marvell later settled, with Marvell agreeing to a total payment of $750 million.

Naming: The three “sister” suspension bridges on the Allegheny River in Downtown Pittsburgh, built in the 1920s, were officially renamed between 1998 and 2006 for three legendary Pittsburgh figures: Roberto Clemente, Andy Warhol, and Rachel Carson.

Pittsburgh Athletic Co. v. KQV Broad. Co. (Western District of Pennsylvania, 1938): The court granted an injunction on unfair competition grounds in favor of the Pittsburgh Pirates and against a radio broadcaster that had lost out on its bid to obtain an exclusive contract to broadcast Pirates’ home games – but went ahead and aired live reports of the games in any event.

Sony Corp. of America v. University City Studios, Inc. (Supreme Court of the United States, 1984): Fred Rogers, famous for producing and starring in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, testified at trial in support of parents’ power and legal right to videotape his program so that they should share it with their children at convenient times. The Supreme Court eventually decided that selling the Betamax VTR did not violate copyright law.

University of Pittsburgh v. Champion Products, Inc. (Western District of Pennsylvania, 1983) was an early lawsuit over “merchandising rights” for sports apparel. The University of Pittsburgh prevailed, in a key case that consolidated the power of colleges and universities to earn money by licensing their trademarks to clothing and sports equipment companies and using trademark law to exclude unlicensed merchandise.

Westinghouse v. Boyden Power Brake Co. (Supreme Court of the United States, 1898): George Westinghouse won the patent battle over infringement of the patent for his legendary air brake, but he lost the war. The Court ruled that Boyden was not liable, despite engaging in literal patent infringement, under what became known as the often-remarked but rarely-invoked “reverse doctrine of equivalents.”

In 1980, the Pittsburgh Penguins adopted a black-and-gold color scheme for their uniforms, and the Boston Bruins objected, claiming a kind of prior and exclusive use of those colors in the National Hockey League. The objection was rejected, and the Penguins have worn black-and-gold (along with their original blue-and-white) ever since.

The Pittsburgh Pirates earned their nickname in the late 1890s because their player acquisition tactics led to their being accused of “pirating” players from other teams.

Fred Rogers was famously thick-skinned when it came to parodies of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and the Mister Rogers character. But he drew the line at uses of Mister Rogers’ intellectual property that might harm children. Burger King agreed to pull a “Mr. Rodney” commercial off the air.

Andy Warhol produced, displayed, and sold his famous painting’s of Campbell’s soup cans in 1962 without asking for permission from the soup company to use their trademarks. The company considered a lawsuit but never followed through; instead, it acted quickly to capitalize on the popularity of the paintings and even commissioned work by Warhol.

The banana split went straight into the public domain when it was invented in Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 1904.

Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken (Supreme Court of the United States, 1975): The music industry sued George Aiken, proprietor of the legendary Pittsburgh chain of delicatessens (“George Aiken’s Delicious Prepared Foods,” “George Aiken’s Shoppes”) for playing broadcast music from a radio in his stores without a public performance license from music publishers. The Supreme Court sided with Aiken. Congress promptly changed the law. The last “George Aiken’s” restaurant was located in Downtown Pittsburgh, near Market Square. It was torn down in 2012.