If your business relies on products that you developed, you undoubtedly took measures to protect them. After applying for and receiving patents, you expected your products to remain protected.
However, protecting your patents often hinges on you paying attention to what goes on in the marketplace. Your patent may not keep people from “copying” your designs, but it does give you legal avenues for relief if it happens. The first hurdle you may need to overcome is whether someone actually did infringe upon your patent.
There’s more than one way to infringe on a patent
When it comes to infringing on patents, there is more than one way it could happen. Below are the ways in which another party could use your designs without permission:
- In contributory infringement, someone supplies the infringing party with a part that one could more than likely only use if infringement takes place.
- In indirect infringement, someone persuades, aides or encourages another party to infringe on your patent.
- In direct infringement, someone manufactures a product you believe infringes on your patent.
- In literal infringement, someone uses the same language you do in your patent.
The key to determining whether your patent or patents were part of an infringement is whether substantial similarities exist and could cause confusion between your product and the other party’s product.
Was the infringement willful?
If a court rules that the other party infringed on your patent, the next step is to determine whether the other party’s actions were willful. This means that the other party either didn’t care or intentionally disregarded your patent and violated it without your permission. Another way to show a willful act is if the other party continued to infringe on your patent even after receiving notification of it.
In the absence of a willful use of your patented material, the other party could end up paying for the harm done to your business. If the court finds the violation willful, the infringer could end up paying three times the amount of your actual damages, along with your attorneys’ fees.
Did patent infringement occur?
Even though the court will make that final determination, if you remain unsure whether patent infringement took place, you may want to consult with a New York attorney experienced in these matters. After reviewing the circumstances, such a patent litigation attorney can explain your rights and legal options and help you take the next appropriate steps.