It is time to look back on another busy year in the intellectual property world as we head into the silly season. In this article, we report on some of the curious intellectual property issues that have arisen in 2013.

Black gold in a jar

Devastating. Depressing. That’s how some New Zealanders may have described the drought of Marmite suffered for over a year. Production of Sanitarium’s yeast spread ceased in early 2012 after its Christchurch facility suffered earthquake damage.

The shortage prompted people to pay steep prices for the product. At one charity auction, a 25kg bucket of Marmite sold for NZ$2,115.

During the shortage, New Zealand Customs intercepted 2000 jars of Ma’amite imported from the United Kingdom. Sanitarium filed proceedings seeking to destroy the shipment, after negotiations between it and the importer broke down. The case settled this year, with the importer being allowed to sell their shipment, subject to conditions.

To the delight of fans, Marmite has returned to shelves. Sourcing their preferred breakfast spread may now be the "yeast" of their worries.

Measuring up to expectations

Some downloadable apps can be very useful, and some are just hilarious. As to which category The Chubby Checker app falls in, we’ll let you decide. The Chubby Checker app is said to have measured a man’s penis based on his shoe size, and was previously available through the Hewlett Packard App Catalogue. Despite its comical nature, and at a bargain price of US$0.99, the app was apparently downloaded fewer than 100 times.

Not amused by the app and its name, singer Ernest Evans, otherwise known as Chubby Checker, issued proceedings in the USA this year against Hewlett Packard and Palm (HP) for infringing his rights in the Chubby Checker name. Evans enjoyed success in the 1960s with songs such as Limbo Rock and his version of Hank Ballard’s The Twist.

HP sought to dismiss Evans’ case on two grounds. In a 15 August 2013 order, the District Court of the Northern District of California granted HP’s motion on one ground, but upheld Evans’ right to pursue his contributory trade mark infringement claim. A jury trial for the case is set to take place in 2014.

Getting friendly with friends

While on the topic of apps, can you guess what the app Bang With Friends was used for?

You would be bang on the mark if you guessed that the app was used for matchmaking Facebook friends anonymously for casual sex. This is an app to be cautious using if your Facebook friends include family members.

Bang With Friends Inc, the maker of the Bang With Friends app, was reportedly sued this year in the USA by Zynga Inc. Zynga produces various online games, including Words With Friends and Chess With Friends, and alleged that the Bang With Friends app infringed rights in its With Friends family of games.

The parties have now settled the matter. Although the terms of settlement have not been disclosed, Bang With Friends Inc. indicated that it will change its name and will release details of its next app on Banging.

Cats: Masters of the Internet

Cats have won the Internet. Don’t believe it? Then check out popular Internet meme videos such as Nyan Cat, with an impressive 100,000,000 plus views on YouTube. Nyan Cat is a pixelated grey cat with pink cheeks and the body of a pink Pop Tart, flying through space with a rainbow trail, while a Japanese pop song plays with the repeated lyrics "nyanyanyanyanyanyanya".

And don’t forget about Keyboard Cat, a ginger cat wearing a blue t-shirt, pretending to play cheerful music on a keyboard with its paws. Keyboard Cat has over 30,000,000 views on YouTube.

The potential commercial value of such Internet memes is not to be laughed at. The creators of Nyan Cat and Keyboard Cat reportedly issued proceedings this year against 5th Cell Media and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment regarding the video game Scribblenauts, which allegedly features unauthorised representations of Nyan Cat and Keyboard Cat. The case has now settled and Nyan Cat and Keyboard Cat will continue to feature in the Scribblenauts game.

Throne of pirates

A record was set this year for unauthorised file sharing of a work after the airing of the season finale of Game of Thrones. Within a day of airing, more than one million people around the world downloaded a copy of the episode on BitTorrent. At its peak, 170,000 people were sharing the episode simultaneously, a BitTorrent record.

Downloaders of the Game of Thrones episode originated from around the world. However, the highest proportion of downloaders were based in Australia. The then US Ambassador to Australia expressed his disappointment about the mass-infringement in a statement released on Facebook, which received mixed responses from Facebook users.

However, some people associated with Game of Thrones may not have been so concerned. One television executive commented that having the most pirated show was "better than an Emmy". The show’s director, David Petrarca, was also earlier reported as saying that illegal downloads did not matter, as the show benefited from "cultural buzz" around social commentary. Petrarca has since clarified that he does not support piracy.

Pirates may now be eyeing up the fourth season of Game of Thrones, expected to air in 2014.

Hazelnut and chocolate-flavoured cease and desist letter

Sara Rosso has been celebrating the unofficial World Nutella Day each year since 2007, and her related Facebook page has received over 40,000 "likes". She was surprised then to receive a cease and desist letter this year from Ferrero, the Italian owner of the Nutella brand.

Many fans of Nutella went nuts at Ferrero sending Ms Rosso the letter, with reported threats to boycott Ferrero products.

In a seemingly sweet ending, Ms Rosso and Ferrero appear to have resolved the issue and Ms Rosso’s website and Facebook page remain active.

If Nutella is not your thing, perhaps National Vodka Day (USA) or International Coffee Day may be of interest.

Getting advice

Despite the unusual nature of the matters reported above, they serve as a reminder that intellectual property issues can be widespread and have serious implications. We are happy to discuss how we can assist you with your intellectual property matters.