Many of the biggest legal disputes in technology relate to "intellectual property," a broad term used for laws relating to everything from copyrights to patents, trademarks to trade secrets. This year saw significant changes in the copyright and patent landscapes. "Patent trolls" who sue technologists for fun and profit got smacked down by courts more often—and harder—than ever before. At the same time, universities were filing patent lawsuits at an increased rate, and often winning.
In the copyright realm, the Oracle v. Google trial dominated the spring. A jury was left to decide the murky rules about when using an API could be "fair use." That legal uncertainty led to the two tech giants clashing over the ethics of each others' business practices and the history of the smartphone industry.
In two very different cases in 2016, copyright issues led to criminal charges being filed. US authorities are seeking to extradite and put on trial a man named Artem Vaulin, who they say made $16 million annually by running a massive online storehouse of pirated films and songs. And more than three years after they were condemned by a federal judge, lawyers behind a vast array of copyright lawsuits, a firm known as Prenda Law, were arrested and accused of fraud. Here's a look back at 2016's most dramatic IP cases.