Being Pissed Off Doesn't Mean You Have A Legal Claim

from the repeat-this-over-and-over-again dept

One of the common themes we see over and over again is people filing lawsuits just because they’re upset about something (to a lesser extent, this also applies to DMCA takedowns). We just wrote about Judge Posner’s shredding of Apple’s patent litigation strategy, noting that just because you’re “really annoyed,” it doesn’t mean you get to sue. Famed venture capitalist Fred Wilson has riffed on this idea, talking about how he loves investing in innovators rather than copycats, and he feels a visceral emotional anger when he sees an innovator copied, but that’s no reason for a lawsuit:

I have often felt that “palpable sense of injustice” when our firm is an investor in the innovator and a copycat competitor shows up. But there is a difference between being pissed and having a legal claim.

Indeed, as we’ve written before, we recognize the emotional response that comes about when this happens. It’s natural to get angry when someone copies you. But is it a reason to go legal? That’s much more difficult to justify. In fact, as Wilson notes, often someone copying you can be a good thing:

Knockoffs create competition for the innovator and keep them honest. And they provide an opportunity for those that cannot, for some reason, work with the innovator.

And, as he notes, if the original company is a true innovator, they’ll keep innovating and stay ahead of the competition anyway:

If the innovator keeps innovating, as Apple and [YCombinator] have, they will do fine and will enjoy the spoils that come from creating the category and leading it.

And that’s really the key in all of this. Competition is not a static snapshot. Time doesn’t stand still. Innovation is an ongoing process. Copycats are often a bit behind the leader, but as long as the leader truly understands its market, it’s in a much better position to continue innovating and leading. The copycats act as incentive to increase that innovation, and that seems like a pretty good thing, if we believe that greater innovation is a good thing. People have a natural reaction where they think that “copying” is bad — but if you look at the overall impact, and the fact that it results in greater innovation from the leader as well, it turns out the opposite is true.

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: apple

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Being Pissed Off Doesn't Mean You Have A Legal Claim”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

what a shame that the courts dont realise the same thing about the entertainment industries and their attitude towards file sharing. if they could be educated as to the benefits and took notice of them instead of expecting the world to stop sharing just because they get the ache over it, what a more pleasant place we would all be living in. it would make a nice change for those industries to listen to others instead of keep forcing their outdated attitude all the time.

anon says:


Until patent law is completely overhauled it will cause problems for any manufacturer and prevent innovation. But there are those in the market that survive from doing nothing but claiming patents have been infringed. Only those that use a patent should be allowed a limited use of that patent to generate funds. Patents should not be transferable and should only be valid for 2-3 years.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:


When Edison first started inventing, he was quickly seen as someone who “had it right”, and copycats came out of the walls. He was not very wealthy, and depended on funding from his inventions to proceed onward.
But in Mr. Wilson’s opinion, Edison should have spent his scarce funds to invent, had the result taken by a better funded copycat, used more of his scarce funds to invent, had his invention taken … so when his scarce funds ran out (all output, little or no input), what would he do? AND, would we be better off in a world with no electric lights?

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Older Stuff
20:09 Even More Patent Reform Bills Being Floated In Congress (19)
15:05 CBS Tells Court: No One Could Possibly Read Our Statements 'We Will Sue Aereo' To Mean We Will Sue Aereo (71)
15:32 TV Broadcasters Sue Alki David's TV Streaming Service Once Again, To Establish More Bad Precedents (27)
11:35 The Aftermath Of Napster: Letting Incumbents Veto Innovation Slows Down Innovation Drastically (45)
06:00 When Startups Need More Lawyers Than Employees, The Patent System Isn't Working (55)
09:21 Patents As Weapons: How 1-800-CONTACTS Is Using The Patent System To Kill An Innovative Startup (54)
14:51 Winning But Losing: Lessons From An Internet StartUp (51)
17:00 DailyDirt: Take The Red Pill, Young People (9)
03:52 Startups Realizing That Patent Trolls Are An Existential Threat (30)
19:39 This Is Not The Cloud Computing We Should Have (72)
13:03 Taxi, Limo Trade Group Hates Innovative Upstarts, Labels Them 'Rogue Applications' (25)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Life Never Sounded So Good... On The Go (6)
20:13 Flattr Makes It Easier Than Ever To Support Content Creators Just By Favoriting Tweets (61)
19:39 No, The Death Of Google Reader Doesn't Mean 'Free' Doesn't Work (77)
11:01 Kickstarter Projects That Don't Meet Their Goal Are Not 'Failures'; They Help People Avoid Failures (41)
17:44 The Killing Of Google Reader Highlights The Risk Of Relying On A Single Provider (141)
15:04 Innovative Open Textbook Company Fights Back Against Publishers' Copyright Infringement Lawsuit (29)
20:21 Startups And Innovators Speak Out In Favor Of Fixing CFAA (11)
16:03 Case Study: Band Embraces Grooveshark And Catapults Its Career (21)
09:50 Innovators Break Stuff, Including The Rules: How Gates, Jobs & Zuckerberg Could Have Been Targeted Like Aaron Swartz (48)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Rethinking The Mouse (Finally!) (58)
18:30 Is The 'Innovator's Dilemma' About To Get Disrupted By 'Big Bang Disruption'? (17)
08:18 Just Cause 2 Developer On Why It Won't Utilize DRM: 'It Treats Our Fans Like Criminals' (64)
13:08 Global Free Internet Act Introduced In Congress (43)
09:00 Crowdfunding Picks: Throw Trucks With Your Mind & Other Cool Control Interfaces (24)
19:39 Amanda Palmer On The True Nature Of Connecting With Fans: It's About Trust (131)
20:00 SHIELD Act Targeting Patent Trolls Re-Introduced; It's A Step In The Right Direction, But Just A Small One (18)
11:44 Hipmunk Raises Money... And Is Immediately Threatened By Patent Troll (52)
05:16 A Floating Island Of Nerds... Or Just Evidence Of A Broken Immigration System? (130)
18:05 New Evidence Shows That Patents Matter Less And Less For Startups (25)
More arrow