On May 31, 2011, the Supreme Court announced that a defendant, to be liable for actively inducing patent infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 271(b), must have “knowledge that the induced acts constitute patent infringement.” Global-Tech Appliances, Inc. v. SEB S.A., No. 10-6, 2011 WL 2119109 (May 31, 2011). In the first of three patent decisions to be handed down this term, the Court parted ways with the analysis, but not the outcome, of the Federal Circuit, which had previously held that the intent element for induced infringement required only that a plaintiff show that the alleged infringer “knew or should have known that his actions would induce actual infringements.” The Court nevertheless affirmed the Federal Circuit’s judgment based on evidence showing that the petitioner-defendant, Pentalpha, had “willfully blinded itself to the infringing nature” of the induced conduct.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Global-Tech should be a slight boost for manufacturers which create and sell imitative products intended for domestic resale to consumers. Whereas previously a patent owner could sue such a manufacturer for induced infringement by simply alleging that the manufacturer “should have had knowledge” of the infringed patent, now a patent owner must plausibly allege that the manufacturer had “actual knowledge” of the infringed patent’s existence.
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