A number of noteworthy disputes among businesses, organizations, and individuals made headlines in 2013 and demonstrate the importance of negotiation in business. We point out the negotiation angles behind stories first reported by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other media outlets. Keep an eye out for common themes among these top 10 business negotiations: hardball negotiation tactics that backfire, costly legal battles that could have been avoided, and disputes over poorly worded contracts.
- Robin Thicke versus the family of Marvin Gaye
- Singer and songwriter Robin Thicke and the two writing partners behind his breakout hit “Blurred Lines” sued the family of the late Marvin Gaye in a preemptive strike and asked for unspecified damages in a dispute over copyright infringement. Gaye’s children promptly filed a countersuit, and even sued the publisher who controls Gaye’s songs of trying to intimidate them into dropping the case.
- Starbucks and Kraft Foods
- A three-year dispute between Starbucks and Kraft Foods over distribution of Starbucks packaged coffee in grocery stores was resolved on November 12 with arbitration ruling that Starbucks had breached its agreement with Kraft. The coffeemaker was ordered to pay the food giant $2.75 billion.
- Michael Bloomberg versus the New York teachers’ union
- New York City stood to gain about $250 million in aid and $200 million in grants if it reached agreement on a new evaluation system with its teachers’ union, a 4% overall increase in state aid. But as 2012 drew to a close, talks between New York’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg were deadlocked. On the deadline date of January 17, 2013, the two sides separately announced that a final, late-night negotiating session had collapsed. Ultimately, New York governor Andrew Cuomo imposed an evaluation system on the city.
- Apple and Samsung
- In an extreme example of the importance of negotiation in business, a California jury ruled in August 2012 that Samsung would have to pay Apple more than $1 billion in damages for patent violations of Apple products, particularly its iPhone. The judge eventually reduced the payout to $600 million. In November 2013, another jury ruled that Samsung would have to pay Apple $290 million of the amount overruled by the judge in the 2012 case.
- Simon & Schuster versus Barnes & Noble
- When months of negotiations with publishing house Simon & Schuster reached a standoff in January 2013, Barnes & Noble attempted to gain leverage by significantly reducing its orders of Simon & Schuster titles and engaging in other hardball negotiation tactics, such as refusing to book the publisher’s authors for in-store readings. Given that Barnes & Noble sells about 20% of consumer books in the United States, Simon & Schuster editors and their associated agents and writers were “apoplectic” about the bookseller’s decision to use them as a bargaining chip, the New York Times reported in March 2013.
Discover step-by-step techniques for avoiding common business negotiation pitfalls when you download a copy of the FREE special report, Business Negotiation Strategies: How to Negotiate Better Business Deals, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.