I've been in the tech industry for too long. The first few times, I read "Quirky" as "Quirk.ly".
That said, this sounds insane to me. Why would you spend money going to war with a competitor over such a trivial matter? ("OXO copied a patent that we also copied. Help, help, I'm being repressed.") Only to lose in the end? I don't get it.
One other observation: excellent application of Betteridge's Law of Headlines.
> Why would you spend money going to war with a competitor over such a trivial matter?
I think the Quirky people genuinely thought they were ripped off. They wanted to be seen as the small company of inventors being ripped of by a much larger company. Unfortunately, they lacked enough introspection to realize they have done worse, and now they look like hypocrites.
> Do attack ads ever work, even if the facts are accurate?
Absolutely, because it puts the attacker on the same stage as the much larger company. It is risky, so it is a tactic that should be limited to companies that have less to lose.
Look up the history of Salesforce.com, and you will see all sorts of attack tactics that were instrumental in their success: attacking oracle, staging fake protests outside enterprise software conferences, etc.
In politics, attack ads work well because if it causes someone to stay home it is a win. In business, negativity can damage the entire segment enough that both sides lose. Imagine if Coke and Pepsi accuse each other of selling "poison for idiots", then people will quit drinking soda altogether. Politicians don't have to consider this dilemma.
This isn't so much "in politics" in general, as "in elections in systems which have features which strongly reinforce duopoly"; in a duopoly, getting people to stay home or to dislike the target slightly more than they dislike you for the negative attack is a "win", but in systems where driving people away from one target (whether they stay home or actively vote against) with negative ads can fail to increase your share of the vote actually cast (because there are more meaningful options than vote for target, vote for attacker, or stay home), the incentives are different.
I wasn't paying attention, no. I already knew who I was going to vote for. (I don't watch ads on TV anyway. This leaves me woefully uninformed as to what sugar-infused toothpaste to buy, but I think I'll live.)