Patent Infringement


This website is intended to provide general information on the protection of intellectual property, and not legal advice for any specific situation. Every situation is unique, and no website can possibly consider the unique aspects of every situation, or provide the proper advice for each situation. I therefore encourage you to contact me to evaluate your specific situation and goals, and to determine the best way to enforce your patents or to avoid liability.

Literal Infringement of a Patent

A patent is infringed when the accused product or process includes each and every element listed within any one claim. Even if the accused product or process has additional elements, if every element recited in at least one claim is present, then the patent is infringed unless the claim uses a closed end preamble (which is uncommon). If any element listed in the claim is missing from the accused product or process, then the product does not infringe that claim.

Infringement of Means Plus Function Claims

Claims are sometimes drafted in means plus function language. To infringe a portion of a claim written in means plus function language, the accused device must perform an identical function to the function recited in the claim.

Infringement Under The Doctrine of Equivalents

Even if a claim is not literally infringed, infringement can still be proven under the Doctrine of Equivalents if there are insubstantial differences between the claimed and accused products or processes. Under the Doctrine of Equivalents, claimed elements can be found to be present in the accused product if these elements perform the same function, in the same way, to achieve the same result as the elements listed in the claim.

The scope of equivalents available under the Doctrine of Equivalents can be limited by amendments made to the claims during prosecution of the patent as well as statements and arguments made within the patent or during prosecution of the patent. This is known as prosecution history estoppel.

Design Patent Infringement

The scope of a design patent is limited to the ornamental aspects of the design shown in the drawings. Design patent protection does not extend to any of the functional elements of the product.

Design patents are infringed by a product design which is substantially the same in appearance to the product shown in the drawings of the design patent. If the appearance of the accused product is sufficiently similar to the patented design so that an ordinary observer would be deceived into believing that the accused product is the product depicted in the design patent drawings, then the design patent is infringed.

Acts Which Result In Patent Infringement

A patent is infringed by the unauthorized manufacture, sale, offer for sale, use or importation into the United States of the claimed invention. 35 U.S.C. §271(a).

Actively inducing infringement of a patent results in liability for patent infringement. 35 U.S.C. §271(b).

Providing a component of a patented invention which is especially adapted for use in the invention and not a staple article of commerce suitable for substantial noninfringing use is contributory patent infringement. 35 U.S.C. §271(c). Supplying such a component from within the United States with the intention that it be used to make the patented invention outside the United States is also infringement. 35 U.S.C. §271(f)(2).

Supplying the uncombined components of a patented invention in a manner which actively induces the combination of the components outside the United States in a manner which would infringe the patent if the combination occurred inside the United States is patent infringement. 35 U.S.C. §271(f)(1).

Importing a product into the United States after the product is made by a process which is patented in the United States is patent infringement. 35 U.S.C. §271(g).

The above explanation is a simplified explanation of a complex, specialized topic. If you have a patent that you believe is being infringed, or if you have been accused of infringement, please contact me to discuss your specific situation.