In a recent report for the Washington Legal Foundation, attorney Brian Pandya claimed the issue of induced patent infringement has received increased attention in recent years.
According to Pandya, there are several reasons for the issue's increased publicity.
One contributing factor relates to patent laws themselves. U.S. patent law prohibits making, using, selling or importing any product that infringes on an active patent.
According to Pandya, a growing number of products are manufactured overseas and imported to the U.S. through a variety of sophisticated distribution channels. In many cases, the only act that directly infringes intellectual property law is the sale of the product by a retailer, Pandya said.
An additional factor in the growing prominence of induced patent infringement is the increased number of patents that have been issued for methods of performing tasks, rather than products themselves.
"In both instances, instead of suing each retailer or each end-user of the product, patent holders have turned to two provisions in the Patent Act to hold manufacturers liable," Pandya said. One of these provisions specifies that whoever "actively induces infringement of a patent shall be liable as an infringer." The other prohibits manufacture or sale of a device that is "not a staple article or commodity of commerce suitable for substantial noninfringing use."
Later this month, the U.S. Supreme Court will address the issue of induced patent infringement in a high-profile case between Global-Tech Appliances and SEB. Members of the technology industry are expected to pay close attention to the case, which will address whether an accused infringer must have actual knowledge of a patent in order to be considered liable for inducing patent infringement.