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What is the process for enforcing one’s patent rights?
If anyone infringes upon a patent holder’s valid patent, the holder may bring a federal lawsuit to prevent further use and to seek recovery of damages suffered as a result of the infringement. The patent holder must file a legal action in the federal district court with jurisdiction over the defendant. At the time of filing, the patent holder will state the grounds for the action and request a preliminary injunction against infringement during the pendency of the hearing. The court will review the circumstances to determine whether an injunction is warranted. The grounds for the action must demonstrate one of the following types of infringement:
• Direct Infringement – This means the direct production and sale of a product protected by patent.
• Indirect Infringement – This means inducing or encouraging an infringer.
• Contributory Infringement – This means assisting in the infringement process – such as producing parts or elements of an invention that are known will be assembled into a patent-infringing product.
• Literal Infringement – This means that the infringing product or process directly infringes some of the stated terms in the patent filing.
• Doctrine of Equivalents – A creation that does not literally infringe upon an invention as written in the patent may still be an infringement if it functions the same manner to achieve the same function. This doctrine is commonly employed in mechanical devices and computer software.
• Discussion: How do you feel about the different methods of infringing upon someone’ s patent? Why do you think the law allows for these different methods of infringement? Do you agree or disagree with any or all of these methods? Can you think of any other uses of a patented creation that should constitute infringement?
• Practice Question: Franz invents a coffee maker that injects hot water under high pressure into disposable cups by piercing the top of the cup. The machine filters the coffee before it flows into the consumer’s cup. He files and receives utility patent protection of his invention. Gretchen likes the idea and designs a very similar machine that makes coffee by injecting hot water under high pressure into disposable cups by piercing the side of the cup. The machine filters the coffee in a different method. If Franz believes Gretchen has infringed upon his patent, what are his options for demonstrating patent infringement?