It would seem big companies try to keep litigation private and confidential. I guess this is so they can save face and it would like bad for business regardless of the outcome of the court may be. Is my understanding correct?

On the other hand, on rare occasions you have companies that try to make law suits go very public. Why do they some times choose to get the medias attention for lawsuits?

Here are some examples I have in mind

This one And this And finally this

The spokes people for the company could have just said nothing.

3 Answers 3


Legal battles are public

Litigation is a government function and, at least in liberal democracies, government is publicly accountable. Courts in common law systems make law and people need to know what the law is. Politicians need to know what courts are deciding so that, if they don’t agree with the law, they can change it. The public needs to know so they can follow it.

Private citizens (including big companies) are free to settle their disputes any way they like and can agree on - negotiation, mediation, arbitration etc. - and they can keep those processes and outcomes secret if they agree to. However, when they ask the government to resolve their dispute they are asking the public to do so (through their agents) and the public needs to know.

If they don’t want the publicity, they can accept the status quo or agree on a confidential outcome. Deciding to initiate litigation is a (commercial) decision to, among other things, go public.


Court dockets are public, so anything filed with the court is available for people to read. I imagine there are always reporters checking for interesting cases. Also, losing these cases are potentially very costly, so I believe they are usually mentioned in company filings as potential losses otherwise you could also have a shareholder suit.

  • Yes. Both SEC filings and public court filings will normally force a large publicly held company to disclose information about lawsuits that are material to the company. Given that reality, it is often better to influence the spin that the lawsuit is given with press releases and PR than let the narrative write itself, possibly in a manner that the company does not like that would do more harm to its reputation and share price.
    – ohwilleke
    Dec 19, 2019 at 0:29
  • 1
    "anything filed with the court is available for people to read" This is false, at least in New Zealand. Only judgements are publicized (and not all of them). To view documents filed in a case (claims, applications, submissions etc.) one needs to apply to the court and give reasons. The court may reject.
    – Greendrake
    Dec 19, 2019 at 4:10

As with anything that large companies do the PR (Public Relations department) will take a look at what's happening and then decide if and how to publicly communicate about this. If they go actively public, it's typically for a specific reason or business goal.

In most cases the goal is to either shore up public support or to scare off other potential law suit targets. The latter one is very typical for IP (Patent) law suits. You public sue one or two egregious offenders and that strengthens your negotiation position with other (and perhaps stronger) companies. Other infringing parties are way more likely to settle, pay license fees, or make other accommodations/compensation if you have a strong track record of dragging offenders into court (successfully, that is).

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