Patent rights are negative rights. Rather than entitling the holder to use the technology claimed in a patent, the patent entitles the holder to exclude others from making, using, selling, or otherwise “practicing” the claimed invention — even if the holder is not actually using the patent. While this may seem strange at first glance, the Intellectual Property Clause of the Constitution grants to authors and inventors “the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” One who makes, uses, or sells a patent invention infringes the holder’s patent and is liable to the patent holder for damages. But there are several distinct types of patent infringement, as an Alabama IP litigation lawyer explains.
Direct Patent Infringement
Direct patent infringement is the clearest form of patent infringement and often the easiest to detect. It occurs when the infringer makes, uses, offers to sell, sells, a patented invention in the United States or imports a patented invention into the United States without obtaining a license from the patent holder. For example, assume that a patent holder holds a patent on a unique type of mousetrap. If someone else begins selling the same type of mousetrap (or one that is substantially similar), he or she would be directly infringing the patent holder’s patent.
Contributory Patent Infringement
Contributory infringement is a form of indirect infringement. It occurs where the infringer sells or offers to sell a part or component of an invention that does not infringe the patent itself, but that is necessary to make a patented invention or carry out a patented process. To show contributory infringement, the patent holder must show that the main use of the item in question is to create the patented invention. In other words, it must be something more than a generic object that could have a wide range of other uses besides making the patented invention. For example, assume that the mousetrap above relied upon a specially designed spring to operate that could not be found elsewhere on the market. If someone else began selling the same spring (or a substantially similar one), he or she would be liable for contributory patent infringement.
Induced Patent Infringement
Induced patent infringement is also a form of indirect infringement. It occurs where the infringer does not infringe the patent himself or herself but aids others in doing so. Actions that could constitute induced infringement include encouraging others to infringe a patent, providing instructions to others about how to use a patented invention, or sells a product that advertises that it may be used for infringing uses. For example, assume that the inventor above had an employee who knew how the mousetrap worked. If that employee then produced a set of instructions on how to make the mousetrap and sold those instructions to a manufacturer who began to produce the mousetrap, the employee would be liable for inducing patent infringement.
Contact an Alabama IP Litigation Lawyer
Real-world cases of patent infringement are significantly more complex than the examples herein. If you are concerned about patent infringement issues, please contact an Alabama IP litigation lawyer at Adams IP by calling 251-289-9787 or by using our online contact form. We serve clients throughout Alabama including Mobile, Huntsville, and Birmingham.