Patent Litigation

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 What Is a Patent?

Inventors need to protect their inventions from unauthorized use and distribution. Patents are issued to inventors to prevent others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling their inventions in the United States. An inventor receives a patent to protect their invention.

Patents typically exist for twenty years and can be used for any invention in any technology field. Patents are part of international agreements with the World Trade Organization (WTO), so member nations of the organization are expected to recognize and enforce legal patents.

Depending on the type of patent, a patent is usually valid for 20, 17, or 14 years from the filing date. Patents are included in the international agreements of the World Trade Organization (WTO), so WTO member nations are legally obligated to recognize and enforce patents.

The process of obtaining a patent can take a lot of time. Completing an application can take up to five years. The process involves:

  • Filing an application with the USPTO.
  • Paying the required fees.
  • Responding to questions and actions from the USPTO.

Before filing a provisional application, a person anticipating applying for a patent should do a patent search to ensure that their unique and original idea has not already been patented.

Types of Inventions that Can Be Patented

Generally, to receive a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the invention must be new, unique, and generally unobvious.

Depending on the item you wish to patent, there are different types of patents available:

  • Utility Patent: Generally, the invention must be a process or method with a concrete result, a machine, a chemical or biological composition of matter, or an invention improvement. An invention must also be moderately useful to qualify for a utility patent.
  • Design Patent: Generally, the design must be novel, non-obvious, and non-functional.
  • Plant Patent: Plants that you create can be patented. It must be a novel and non-obvious plant. It is impossible to patent naturally occurring substances, laws of nature, ideas, and calculation methods, among other things.

Do Patents Ever Expire Early?

Patents may expire early in some cases. This can occur if the patent is found invalid or the inventor fails to pay the maintenance fee.

The patent will become public domain once the time limit expires or the inventor fails to pay the required fees. In this case, any individual may do the following with the patent:

  • Use;
  • Sell; or
  • Import.

Once a patent expires, its owner has no rights to it. If a patent is infringed upon during its validity period and has not expired, the owner may be entitled to bring an infringement or enforcement action.

What Could Make My Patent Invalid?

There are several reasons why a patent may be deemed invalid. It is often the case that a patent will be deemed invalid due to an infringement lawsuit when the accused infringer defends themselves by claiming that the patent is valid. Patents may be deemed invalid for a variety of reasons, including:

  • The invention was not actually patentable: If evidence can be presented that shows the invention lacked the requisite novelty, utility, or non-obviousness required for the patent, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) can declare a patent invalid;
  • An individual obtained the patent fraudulently: Even if an invention was patentable, if an individual can show that the patent was obtained through the deception of the USPTO, the patent may be declared invalid; and
  • The patent was used to commit illegal acts: If an individual uses their patent to engage in illegal conduct, the USPTO may declare the patent invalid.

What are Maintenance Fees, and When Do I Have to Pay Them?

To keep their patents in force, inventors must pay maintenance fees to the USPTO. Fees for patent maintenance are due at specific intervals after a patent is granted, including:

  • 3.5 years;
  • 7.5 years; and
  • 11.5 years.

If a patent owner misses one of these deadlines, they have a grace period of 6 months to pay the maintenance fee along with a penalty surcharge. The patent will expire if the patent owner fails to pay the maintenance fee.

What is Patent Infringement?

Patent infringement occurs when an unauthorized use, manufacture, sale, or import of a patented invention occurs. Patent infringement is proven by comparing the patent’s claims and elements with the suspect device’s or invention’s elements.

Patent infringement occurs if these match. Patents can be enforced in federal court in these cases.

How Do I Know if Someone Infringed on My Patent?

The scope of the patent claims determines whether a patent has been infringed. These claims define the invention and, therefore, define the scope of protection that the invention receives.

Another invention must infringe on every claim in an individual’s patent to constitute infringement. To determine whether a new invention infringes on an existing patent, two steps must be followed:

  1. Determine the scope and meaning of the claims in the patent; and
  2. Determine if the new invention infringes on those claims.

What Is Patent Litigation?

Patent litigation usually involves the unauthorized or illegal use of a patented invention or idea.

Patents provide an inventor with legal protection and exclusive rights over their invention. It may result in patent litigation if a non-patent holder uses or distributes patented inventions without the owner’s consent.

Patents cover many different aspects of the invention, including the design and utility of the patent. In most patent litigation cases, the plaintiff’s losses are compensated through monetary damages.

When Is Patent Litigation Necessary?

Litigation over patents can be necessary for a wide range of circumstances. Negotiations or alternative dispute resolution may be used in many cases to resolve a dispute. A lawsuit may be necessary if this does not resolve the problem.

Litigation over patents can be necessary for the following situations:

  • Disputes over the usage of a patented invention
  • Disputes involving unauthorized distribution or sale of patented products
  • Various types of patent infringement claims
  • Safety issues with patented material (especially design defects)
  • Issues with the expiration of a patent

Patent litigation covers a wide range of different legal issues and conflicts, especially those relating to infringement. Most patent lawsuits are filed in civil courts; criminal law theories may occasionally be involved.

What Remedies Are Available in a Patent Lawsuit?

Some remedies may include patent infringement damages, which are designed to reimburse the patent holder for any losses caused by the infringement. For example, a defendant may be required to pay damages for lost profits and business clients. Damage claims need to be calculable, provable (not speculative), and supported by evidence.

A patent lawsuit may also include an injunction ordering the offender to stop producing or using the patented material. They may need to pull their products from a marketing line, change a recipe/formula, or take other similar steps. Materials related to the investigation may be confiscated.

Are There Any Legal Defenses in a Patent Lawsuit?

Depending on the facts, there may be several patent infringement defenses available to the defendant. Defendants may prove that they were authorized to use a patent or patented invention as a defense. It may be possible for them to show the patent holder’s consent.

A patent that is invalid, unfair, or inequitable conduct by the plaintiff, a delay in filing the suit, or other defenses specific to the type of patent may also be considered.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance With Patent Litigation?

Patent litigation can involve some complex legal issues. You may need to hire a patent lawyer in your area if you need to file a patent litigation claim. You can obtain legal advice and representation from your attorney to succeed in your claim. A lawyer can also inform you of your patent rights under local laws.


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