Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How Much Does It Cost to Litigate a (Heavily) Contested Copyright Case?

How much does it cost to litigate a heavily contested copyright lawsuit? In one recent case in New York involving the Beastie Boys and the Monster Energy Company, the answer was nearly $2.5 million.

The Beastie Boys won their infringement case, and their attorneys broke down their expenses in their motion for fees:
  • Pleadings and discovery: $895,926
  • Trial: $1,288,811 million
  • Post-trial motions: $200,438
  • Costs (e.g., court reporters, deposition and trial transcripts, postage and messengers): $99,261
By the way, how much did the Beastie Boys win in their infringement claim? Just $1.7 million. This is another example of how the costs of litigation can easily surpass the value of what's at stake. 

Interestingly, it appears that the trial court could see this result coming. The motion for fees quotes the judge as telling the parties a year before the trial to think of the bloodbath of World War I:
[A] very large percentage of the area in controversy is about to be chewed up by the lawyers here, particularly if this case finishes trial and goes to appeal. And there will come a time when both parties look back at this and say to themselves, why didn't I read The Guns of August, nobody wanted war but it came anyway and everybody suffered. That's what's about to happen. You're about the fight the Battle of Verdun and slaughter each other somewhere over the middle of France.
Very wise advice for litigants and potential litigants everywhere.

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