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Is 'willful blindness' a defence against patent infringement?

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The current United States Supreme Court, the h...

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Brian Dodson of Dodson Consutants has written an interesting blog this week on the US Supreme Court judgement  Global-Tech Appliances, Inc. v. SEB S.A. Readers can refer to his blog for the details of the case so I won't repeat them here, apart from a couple of key facts:

  • A defendent in a patent infringement case asked their attorney for a freedom to operate study, but failed to tell the attorney that they had copied an existing product. Their attorney in turn failed to find a granted US patent protecting the existing product;
  • The defendent then argued a lack of willful infringement because they were unaware of the granted US patent.

But I find the conclusions thought-provoking:

  • Induced infringement under §271(b) (of the US Patent Act) requires knowledge that the induced acts constitute patent infringement; 
  • Having decided that actual knowledge is required, the Court then added that 'willful blindness' is legally equivalent to actual knowledge.

Willfull blindness, or deliberate indifference, is hence clearly not always a defence to willful infringement. In other words, ignorance is not neccessarily bliss....

Worried about other patents in your area? Contact us to discuss how Network Patent Analysis (NPA) can objectively review up to 250,000 patents in two weeks, and identify relevant technology clusters and the leading patents in your area using our sophisticated and unique algorithms. Attorneys are welcome to speak to us and our associates Griffith Hack about related privilege issues.

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Mike first developed an interest in patent data when working as a research scientist, and deepened this interest when working as an IP manager which led to his role at Griffith Hack. Mike has published in the areas of chemical engineering, patent management, the value of patents and the use of patent data in in a wide range of publications and forums, including the international journals Les Nouvelles, and Managing Intellectual Property.