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Three legal remedies for patent infringement

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) works to help protect the interests of inventors and businesses by providing intellectual property rights. A patent is one common example. This legal tool is essentially a property right in the given invention. The USPTO examines applications and grants patents, but it is important for inventors and businesses to use these protections if they suspect an infringement — the government will not do this part for you.

Why would I act against potential patent infringement?

Legal remedies are available through civil action and can include:

  • Injunction. This is a court order that requires the individual or business in violation of the patent to cease the infringing behavior. It prohibits the manufacture, use, or sale of the patented invention. Violation of the injunction can result in contempt of court proceedings.
  • Compensation for infringement. The patent holder may also fight for damages which can include lost profits and is generally not less than a reasonable royalty.
  • Additional damages. In extreme cases, the court may award an enhanced damage of up to three times the actual loss. Such awards may be available if the patent holder can establish willful infringement.

Navigating these cases is not always straightforward. In some situations, the violation may involve a single feature of a multi-component product. This can result in multiple patent owners for each component of the product. The alleged infringing party may also pursue various defenses to the allegations, including noninfringement or that the patent is not valid.

How do I exercise my patent rights?

Those who find themselves facing a patent infringement issue can choose from multiple paths towards resolution. The USPTO defines an infringement as the unauthorized making, using, offering for sale, or selling of a patented invention within the United States or its territories or importing into the states. These matters will hinge on the language of the patent. This highlights the importance of making sure the patent language appropriately covers your invention.

Two of the more common routes to resolution are discussed below.

#1: Arbitration

The two parties could agree to settle the matter through arbitration, a process that involves a less formal proceeding compared to litigation. Instead of moving forward before a judge, an arbitrator guides the process. The arbitrator’s decision is binding.

In some cases, a provision within a contract will require arbitration. In others, the two parties will choose arbitration to reduce the expense and time generally associated with litigating the issue.

#2: Litigation

If arbitration is not an option, traditional litigation may be the best route to a resolution. This involves the use of the court system to help determine whether there was an infringement. The patent holder generally bears the responsibility of proving that the accused infringed upon their patent.

Either of these routes can lead to resolution, but action is necessary to preserve the rights protected by the patent.