Last week, the United States Supreme Court issued an important ruling in Commil USA, LLC v. Cisco Systems, Inc., concerning defenses available to a defendant accused of inducing infringement of a patent. Generally, under 35 U.S.C. § 271, there are 3 ways one can be found liable for patent infringement. First, one can be found to directly infringe a patent, which many may be surprised to find is a strict liability offense, requiring no intent to infringe and no knowledge of the patent prior to suit being brought on the part of the accused infringer. One can also be found liable for indirect infringement of a patent, either through inducing infringement or contributory infringement of the patent. Both of these, contrary to direct infringement, require actual knowledge of the patent-in-suit and knowledge of infringement. Thus, as the Supreme Court emphasized, one can defeat a claim of inducement or contributory infringement by showing it did not know its acts were infringing the patent-in-suit.
The question presented to the United States Supreme Court in Commil was whether a belief that the patent-in-suit was invalid, versus not infringed, was a defense to a claim of inducement. The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals had previously held Continue reading