It would be nice if there were patent cops prowling streets, stores and websites, ready to flip on flashing lights and screaming sirens when they nab those who violate ownership rights and patent law. That’s not how it works, however. Patent enforcement falls essentially on the holder of a utility, design or plant patent.
The patent holder must first point out a violation by filing a lawsuit and then prove to a federal court that patent infringement has taken place. Only then will a court issue an injunction to stop the infringement and award monetary damages.
What are the types of patent infringement?
Patent holders must file an infringement action within six years of the date of infringement and must prove by a preponderance of evidence to the court that at least one of the following types of infringement occurred:
- Direct: when a product protected by a patent is manufactured without the patent holder’s permission.
- Indirect: this occurs when a person or business encourages or aids another in patent infringement.
- Contributory: when someone supplies a direct infringer with a part that’s only realistically useful in infringing a patent.
- Induced: the infringer knows of the patent, but knowingly causes another to directly infringe the patent.
- Willful: intentional disregard for patent rights and continuing infringement, even after patent infringement notice has been issued.
There have been instances of two people having the same great idea independently of each other, aka Great Minds Think Alike. They may produce essentially identical products. However, if one of them obtains a patent, the great invention belongs to him or her.
Ignorance of a patent is no excuse for infringement by the other person or any other party.