Supreme Court to Consider Whether A Party’s Good-Faith Belief of Patent Invalidity Should Have Been Heard at Trial

On December 5, 2014, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Commil USA, LLC v. Cisco Systems, Inc. to determine whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit erred in holding that a defendant’s “good-faith” belief that a patent is invalid is a defense to induced infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 271(b).  Section 271(b) states that “[w]hoever actively induces infringement of a patent shall be liable as an infringer.” 35 U.S.C. 271(b).

Commil USA, LLC (“Commil”) developed and patented technology that allows wireless devices to move through a communication network, for example, between wifi spots or base stations, without signal interruption. Commil filed suit against Cisco alleging that Cisco’s wifi products directly infringed its patent, and that Cisco had induced others to infringe its patent. The trial court found that Cisco had directly infringed the patent, but did not find Cisco liable for inducing third parties to infringe.

Commil filed and won a motion for new trial on the issue of induced infringement.  In the second trial, the jury ruled in favor of Commil on the issue of induced infringement.  During the second trial, Cisco was prevented from introducing evidence related to Cisco’s good-faith belief that the Commil patent was invalid.  Cisco appealed, and the Federal Circuit found that Cisco should have been allowed to introduce evidence of its good-faith belief that the Commil patent was invalid.  Both parties appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which ultimately granted certiorari on the sole issue of whether a party’s good-faith belief that a patent is invalid will operate as a defense to a finding of inducement, thereby relieving that party of liability for infringement.  Click here for source.

The resolution of this issue by the Supreme Court is important in that it could eliminate liability of a party that encourages third parties to act in a manner that infringes a patent, even in instances where the actions of the third parties infringe the patent.  However, until this case is decided, it is unclear whether even an opinion of counsel that a patent is invalid would protect a party against a finding of inducing infringement in instances where the patent is found to be valid.

Anna Vradenburgh is a well-respected, business-minded expert in intellectual property issues.  As a patent attorney licensed to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Anna assists clients in patent and trademark prosecution, and represents clients in trademark opposition matters, domain name dispute matters, and patent and trademark litigation.  Anna can also assist your company in all manner of intellectual property protection.  For more information, visit her website, or contact Anna at (818) 488-8146.  This article is for educational purposes only and nothing in this article is intended to be, nor should be considered legal advice.

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