In both the United States and Europe, most practitioners and commentators tend to focus on patent litigation involving single-party infringement. In those cases, the primary question is whether the accused took some action that meets all the limitations of a claim. But the situation becomes more complex when multiple parties are involved. In other words, the question becomes whether two or more entities acted together in some way to meet all the limitations of a patent claim.
Because of this heightened complexity, patentees and businesses should understand the law behind multiparty infringement suits for a variety of reasons. For a patentee, the distinction between single and multiparty suit is significant because the legal requirements for proving infringement differ. In addition, the law governing multiparty suits will determine the identity of the actual liable party. Moreover, patent applicants should consider these situations when drafting and prosecuting applications. In other words, a patentee should try to anticipate the issues that can arise in multiparty litigation before obtaining a patent.
For businesses, multiparty infringement suits can arise unexpectedly — for example, when one is practicing a single element in a patent claim. Moreover, companies may choose to alter their business relationships because of the law regulating multiparty infringement cases.
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