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Apple's 7 silliest lawsuits and patent disputes

David Price | June 29, 2016
Apple's been hit by - and instigated - some pretty funny legal claims over the years. Here are our favourite weird Apple lawsuits

The law is a serious business, but sometimes people use it in silly ways. And Apple, being the wealthiest tech company in the world, has got mixed up in more frivolous, convoluted and just plain absurd lawsuits than most.

In this article we look back on 6 of the silliest. Some of these are lawsuits that were essentially groundless and should have never happened in the first place; others were legally sound but ended up drifting into odd areas, or were brought into disrepute by desperate lawyers turning to absurd arguments.

Note, also, that while Apple is on the receiving end of a huge number of frivolous lawsuits, there are a number of entries here where Apple - or its legal representatives - are the ones being silly.

'Butt-Head Astronomer' (1993-1995)

The late astrophysicist, author and all-round futurehead visionary Carl Sagan is idolised here at Macworld, but he loses a few hero points for his (in our opinion) overcooked reaction to a fairly innocuous tribute by Apple engineers - and this led us to the first of our silly lawsuits.

Anticipating that the Power Macintosh 7100 would sell very heavily, its makers cheekily gave the device the internal codename 'Carl Sagan', on the basis that the great man was famous for his enthusiastically emphatic use of the word 'billions'. (Billions of units sold - geddit?) All perfectly innocuous, but unfortunately, the codename was publicised in a MacWEEK article, and the man himself took exception to the idea that he was involuntarily endorsing a product he knew nothing about. He expressed his misgivings in a letter to MacWEEK that is reproduced onLetters of Note.

The engineers changed the codename but, good sense being apparently in short supply down at Apple HQ that week, called it BHA instead - this standing for 'Butt-Head Astronomer'. This name got leaked too. Sagan sued - and lost - but Apple eventually apologised and settled out of court.

The machine's final codename was LAW, standing for 'Lawyers are wimps'. Read the rest of our article and you may think of another word that starts with a W.

The glass door (2011-2012)

If you clean glass too much it becomes virtually invisible, and most of us have at one time or another bumped our faces into, for example, the protective casing on the Magna Carta in the British Library on a date with a new partner. But most of us don't see this as a money-making opportunity.

In New York, your average glass bumper is a cannier creature, however. Near the end of 2011, Evelyn Paswall, an 83-year-old grandma (and former vice-president at a Manhattan fur company - please don't picture a penniless pensioner), walked into one of the glass doors at Apple's Manhasset store, breaking her nose. And promptly sued the company for a million bucks, citing "the danger that this high-tech modern architecture poses to some people".


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