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Cooper Industries, Inc. v. Leatherman Tool Group, Inc.

United States Supreme Court
532 U.S. 424 (2001)


In the 1980s, Leatherman Tool Group, Inc. (Leatherman) (plaintiff) introduced its Pocket Survival Tool (PST). In August 1996, Cooper Industries, Inc. (Cooper) (defendant) introduced ToolZall, which was modeled after the PST but with added features. Before ToolZall’s manufacture, Cooper displayed photos of it in promotional materials at a national trade show and through sales catalogs. Because Cooper had not yet manufactured the ToolZall, it depicted the tool through images of a PST that Cooper had physically modified or through retouched photographs and drawings of the PST. After the trade show, Leatherman sued Cooper for infringement, unfair competition, and false advertising. In October 1997, a jury awarded Leatherman $50,000 in compensatory damages and $4.5 million in punitive damages. The jury had been instructed that making an intentional copy of the PST was a wrongful act, and Leatherman had argued that its damages could have been far higher had Cooper succeeded with its malfeasance. The district court concluded that the punitive damages award was constitutional. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, applying an abuse of discretion standard. Cooper petitioned the United States Supreme Court for certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Stevens, J.)

Concurrence (Scalia, J.)

Concurrence (Thomas, J.)

Dissent (Ginsburg, J.)

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