By: Brian J. Meli
This is Part 1 of a two-part article appearing in the May/June 2012 edition of IP Litigator. You can read Part 2 here.
The Universal Studios logo is a computer-generated rendering of a rotating planet Earth, partially circumscribed by the company’s name in giant block letters. It’s an iconic image that instantly invokes the might and magic of Hollywood. It’s also unintentionally allegorical, because had things turned out a little differently for Universal 30 years ago, today’s world—particularly the parts that relate to commerce and technology—might be very different.
The date was January 17, 1984—a year many associate with Apple Computer’s famous “1984” Macintosh commercial, and the George Orwell book that inspired it. But a lesser-known, and even more significant event in the history of the human race’s relationship with technology occurred that same year, and it had nothing to do with Apple. That event was the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Sony v. Universal City Studios, better known in legal circles as the “Sony Betamax” case.