Great inventions are a product of hard work, persistence, and determination. The US government recognizes the fact and allows inventors to patent their products, giving them exclusive rights to dictate how their inventions are used. Although the US Patent and Trademark Office issue patents, the government entity does not enforce them. This means that you have the responsibility of enforcing your patent and bringing illegal use of your invention to the court’s notice. Doing so alone without the supervision of an attorney can be risky. Filing a patent infringement litigation in court can be complex for a layman. Hiring an intellectual property attorney is a great way of enforcing your rights and bringing a halt to the misuse of your inventions.
A patent gives you the exclusive right to sell, use, and make your invention. A person infringes on your patent if they sell, use, manufacture, offer to sell or import a product similar to your invention without your consent. In such cases, you have the right to legally demand the infringer to stop using your invention and pay you for the damages you may have incurred.
Before you prepare to file a patent infringement lawsuit, you need to identify the culprit and name them in your litigation. There can be different parties involved in the infringement directly or indirectly. Understanding the different types of patent infringement will help you in the process.
1.) Direct Infringement: In this type of infringement, the accused is directly involved in manufacturing, using, selling, offering to sell, or importing your invention or its equivalent into the United States without your consent.
2). Indirect Infringement: In this type of infringement, one party or entity helps or assists the other party in patent infringement. These types of patent infringements are further divided into two types:
a. Contributory Infringement: An entity is said to be liable for contributory infringement if they provide or import a machine, part, component, material, or apparatus that is known to be specially adapted or manufactured for use in a patented invention with no substantial use as a staple commodity of commerce.
b. Induced Infringement: Party that aids another entity in producing a patented invention or using a patented manufacturing process while knowing that infringing actions are said to be responsible for induced infringement.
The process of filing a patent infringement litigation begins after identifying the responsible parties. Under section 286, you get six years to file a patent infringement lawsuit after infringement occurs. The basic steps in the process can be divided into the following stages:
Filing a complaint marks the beginning of the patent infringement litigation process. The patent infringement complaint needs to be signed with a federal district court. In the complaint, you are required to identify the infringers and list out the infringement activities along with their high-level description. You also need to mention the remedy you seek for the infringement. An important point to note is that you do not need to provide evidence backing your claim. The objective of the complaint is to intimate the infringer of the legal claims you are asserting and the general factual basis backing those claims. Once you have registered a complaint, you are required to send a copy of it to the infringer. Once the infringer receives the copy, he has 21 days to respond to it. The infringer can either send an answer to the claim, stake a counterclaim, or ask the court to dismiss the lawsuit at the outset. In most cases, defendants try to get out of the situation by proving the patent is invalid or that the plaintiff is not the true owner of the patent. You can expect the defendant to begin post-grant patent office proceedings to challenge the ownership and validity of your patent.
After the defendant files an answer, the court holds a conference between the two parties to schedule the dates for the lawsuit, time limit for discovery, and determine a framework to discuss the case. Typically, attorneys for both parties meet before the conference to discuss and narrow down disputes on the framework that will be followed during the lawsuit.
During this phase, both the parties obtain information and evidence from the other party through depositions, witness testimonials, written documents, and subpoenas. The objective of the step is to collect credible evidence to bring a strong case and evaluate the other party's position. The phase also involves the identification of industry experts. These experts are vital to proving infringements helping the court assess the infringing activities caused on the patent owner’s business or profitability.
This is a vital part of a patent infringement lawsuit and influences the decision significantly. During the phase, both parties discuss their interpretations of the claims as laid down in the patent. Generally, parties agree on most of the claims. The disputed claims are discussed in court by the judge, who hears each party’s definition of the claim. The process is known as the Markman hearing. After hearing the definitions, the court decides on whose definition should be adopted or discards both the definitions. This provides a clear indication of where the case is heading. Most patent infringement lawsuits tend to end at this stage. But if disputes continue to exist, the lawsuit moves ahead.
You can demand the court to provide a judgment for the entire or a part of the case through a summary judgment motion. If you conclude that there are no disputed facts left to discuss and that you are entitled to a judgment for the entire case or a part of it based on the undisputed facts, then you can demand the court for a judgment. Most cases tend to go to trial if they reach this stage.
Most patent infringement trials involve appointing a jury who closely evaluates the facts and evidence provided in court to deliver a decision.
The losing side has the option of appealing the decision in a higher court. The higher court can either reverse all or a part of the judgment or vacate the lower court’s decisions. If the higher court vacates a decision, the lower court gets to hear the decision again but with supervision from the higher court.
You can demand the following damages for patent infringement:
1.) Monetary Damages: You can demand the infringing party to compensate you for the losses you incurred. These damages can be divided into two categories.
2.) Injunctions: You can also demand the court to issue an injunction order permanently banning the infringer from selling, manufacturing, offering to sell, or importing your invention or its equivalent in the United States.
Hiring an intellectual property attorney will benefit you in the following ways:
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