Global-Tech Appliances, Inc. v. SEB S.A.- Inducing Infringement: Supreme Court Clarifies Knowledge Standard


On May 31, the U.S. Supreme Court clarified the level of knowledge required to establish inducement of patent infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 271(b), which provides that “[w]hoever actively induces infringement of a patent shall be liable as an infringer.”


•The Supreme Court reaffirmed that inducing infringement requires knowledge that the induced acts would constitute patent infringement.

•The Supreme Court held that “willful blindness” to a patent’s existence may be substituted for actual knowledge of its existence. “Willful blindness” exists when a party subjectively believes that there is a high probability that a technology is patented and then takes deliberate steps to avoid learning that fact. In so holding, the Supreme Court rejected the Federal Circuit's more lenient standard that “deliberate indifference to a known risk that a patent exists” was enough to find inducement.

•On the facts, the Supreme Court affirmed the Federal Circuit’s judgment that the defendant was liable for inducing infringement, holding that the jury was entitled to find “willful blindness” where the defendant had knowingly replicated all the noncosmetic features of the product by copying an overseas model that lacked U.S. patent markings, and did not tell its patent lawyer that the product to be evaluated was a knockoff of the plaintiff’s product.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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