Induced infringement: Are you being willfully blind?


U.S Supreme Court holds that actual knowledge is required for induced infringement

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Global-Tech. App., Inc. v. SEB S.A. clarified the knowledge requirement for inducing patent infringement and held that liability for inducing patent infringement requires knowledge that the induced acts constitute patent infringement. The Court stated that inducement under 35 U.S.C. 271(b) requires the same knowledge that is also required under contributory infringement – knowledge of the existence of the patent that is infringed. The Court rejected the Federal Circuit’s “deliberate indifference” test for assessing the knowledge requirement of inducing infringement, which allowed a finding of knowledge when there is merely a known risk that a patent may exist covering the infringing product. While deliberate indifference will not satisfy the knowledge requirement, the Supreme Court stated that knowledge may be found under the doctrine of willful blindness.

Pentalpha Enterprises copied an SEB deep fryer and supplied it to Sunbeam, who resold the fryer in the U.S. under its own trademarks. SEB sued Sunbeam. After settling with Sunbeam, SEB sued Pentalpha for inducing Sunbeam and other resellers to infringe SEB’s patents. In bringing the deep fryer to resellers such as Sunbeam, Pentalpha had purchased an SEB deep fryer in Hong Kong and copied the fryer except for the cosmetic features. Pentalpha hired a patent attorney to conduct a right-to-use analysis, but failed to tell the attorney that the fryer was copied directly from SEB’s product.

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