Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
apps, beer, copyright, iphone, virtual beer

Companies:
coors, hottrix



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.

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  1. identicon
    Lonnie E. Holder, 17 Oct 2008 @ 10:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ideas & Intellectual Property

    Care to show it then?

    What? You want to see my report card? I got straight A's, though I doubt anyone cares.

    Incidentally, your "infinite" goods are not free. The equipment to make the copy is an investment, still quite substantial.

    That's a sunk cost that has nothing to do with market pricing of the product.

    Sunk cost? Really? About 25% of Americans still do not own a personal computer. There are no estimates of how many of the roughly 75% who claim they own a home computer have one that is either incapable of interfacing with the internet, does not interface with the internet, is connected to the internet only with dial up, have insufficient memory to store massive amounts of digital information, or other issues. These people do not have a sunk cost, they would have to invest, perhaps beyond their means, to gain access to supposedly "infinite goods." That has everything to do with cost, and nothing to do with sunk cost, which you misapply to this situation.

    Not infinite? So how many copies of MS Windows can be had in the world? I can download about 1000 on my computer with the only marginal cost increase being somewhat more electricity used by the spinning hard drive. And they can be easily replicated as many times as necessary. So for all practical purposes, it's an infinite good, you cannot say "ooops! I ran out of Windows, come back in a week when we make more!"

    You can only make copies until your computer runs out of memory, or you run out of CD's. Then you need to purchase more. If your only limitation is the potential, then the vast majority of goods are infinite. I guarantee you that the automotive industry will make as many copies of their cars as you would car to purchase. Perhaps a better example is paper. There are more sheets of paper in the world than computer applications, and the cost per sheet is less when you factor in the cost of the computer, electricity, time to download, etc. For all practical purposes, by your definition, paper is an infinite good. In fact, many people give paper away...

    If you are going to boast about having an MBA, you might want to make sure you don't get confused in concepts presented to you so easily. And probably ask for your money back.

    lol...I stated it as a fact, not a boast. I am not confused by concepts at all. For example, a sunk cost is what you have already spent, not what you need to spend to gain a capability you do not have. Obviously you are confused, or you ignored people who do not have the capability that you seem to think everyone either has or should have. That assumption could imply that you are ignorant, arrogant, elitist or all three. However, I will not stoop to name calling and insults and will stick with the facts.

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