Can You Really Own The Idea Of Making Your iPhone Look Like Beer?

from the drink-up! dept

It's time to raise your glasses in a toast to ridiculous intellectual property lawsuits. Or, if you don't have a tasty beverage on hand, perhaps a virtual one, say, on your iPhone? Well, unfortunately for you, that may be a problem -- as the latest ridiculous lawsuit concerns two competing virtual beer applications, both of which make your iPhone look like the side of a full beer glass, that will "drain" the beer, as you tilt the iPhone. Cute, gimmicky app, right? Except if you're a pissed off developer who seems to think that only one person should be allowed to make such an app. A company called Hottrix that made such an app is suing the beer company Coors for an astounding $12.5 million for offering up a similar app of its own.

Hottrix's app, iPint, cost money, whereas Coors (perhaps implicitly recognizing how infinite goods -- the silly app -- can help sell more scarce goods -- beer) gave its app, iBeer, away for free. The Coors version was more involved, as it also included a "game" where you needed to guide a sliding pint across a bar into some waiting hands. Hottrix's lawyers claim that the idea of such a virtual beer glass is copyrightable -- which seems fairly questionable. Concepts can't be covered by copyright. It needs to be the exact implementation, and as long as the Coors version was different, then it's difficult to see the copyright claim. Hottrix also pulls out the bogus argument that iPint hurt iBeer's sales. That's simply incorrect. It wasn't Coors that hurt Hottrix's sales, it was Hottrix, for having a bad business model. Competition isn't illegal.

But, of course, Apple in its infinite (loop) wisdom, removed the Coors app after Hottrix complained, thus protecting Hottrix from its own business model mistake. And yet, Hottrix still wants $12.5 million from Coors for daring to come up with a similar idea. You have to hope this gets thrown out of court quickly.

Filed Under: apps, beer, copyright, iphone, virtual beer
Companies: coors, hottrix

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  1. identicon
    Yakko Warner, 16 Oct 2008 @ 9:21am

    Re: Re: They could've licensed it

    Heard your version from where? I'm going from the PDF of the lawsuit linked in the article:
    On or about November 5, 2007, BMBL contacted Sheraton via the Internet after having seen iBeer 1.0 requesting (1) a license to use iBeer 1.0 for marketing purposes for its client(s), and/or (2) a license to create a derivative work of iBeer 1.0 to create a functional iBeer application that can be used for marketing purposes for its client(s) on "jailbroken" iPhones ("BMBL Contact").

    BMBL being defined five paragraphs earlier: "Beattie McGuinnes Bungay Limited ("BMBL") is an entity of unknown type in the United Kingdom that does the advertising and marketing for CBL [Coors Brewers Limited] and MCBC [Molson Coors Brewing Company]..." Sheraton is the apparent founder of Hottrix, if I read paragraph 1 correctly: "Hottirx was formed on or about July 18, 2008 in Nevada. Steve Sheraton, an individual residing in Las Vegas, Nevada ('Sheraton' or 'Original Author') has used the name 'Hottrix' since approximately May 1, 1998; and until July 18, 2008 had done business as 'Hottrix.' On or about July 18, 2008, Sheraton granted all his intellectual property rights in the copyrighted works mentioned herein to Hottrix."

    Assuming the information in the complaint is presented accurately, it would appear that Coors approached Hottrix, rather than the other way around.

    Evidence that Hottrix approached Coors in an attempt to sell them the idea would be interesting.

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