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Patent Infringement - Who Can Be Sued?

Mar 14, 2008
One of the questions that patent holders may have is "who can be sued in a patent infringement lawsuit?" By law, any person who makes, uses, offers or sells something that is protected by a current patent, or who imports into the United States anything that is protected by a current patent, is guilty of patent infringement. Likewise, anyone that makes, uses, offers or sells any product or process that intentionally contributes to it is guilty of infringement as well. Finally, anyone who induces any action that infringes upon a current patent is guilty.

If a company makes a new product that infringes upon an existing and in force patent, it is infringing upon that patent and can be sued. If a company creates a product that relies on a patented process without the permission of the person owning that patent, they are guilty and can be sued. In addition, the law can be interpreted to extend to any store or company that sells a product or process that is protected by a patent, as well as anyone who purchases and uses that product or process.

In other words, if AB Electronic Games were to create a new game system that used as part of its design the joystick that is patented by YZ Game Company, AB Electronic Games may be infringing upon YZ's patent and can be sued for that infringement.

Likewise, if YZ Game Company had patented a process that only allowed its games to be played on a game system manufactured by them, and AB Company came along and made an adapter using that process so that YZ's games could be played on any game system, they could be opening themselves to a patent infringement lawsuit. In addition, YZ Game Company would be within its rights to sue every retailer that sold AB's games or adapter, and every single person that used one of AB's games or adapters.

In reality, however, it's seldom practical to sue individuals who buy or use a product that infringes upon another's patent. Most patent owners will choose to sue the manufacturing company, the inventor or the importer of the product. Some judges will disallow patent infringement lawsuits against certain classes of defendants for various reasons. In many cases, the laws which cover these lawsuits and their interpretation vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Determining who can and should be sued, and on what grounds they can be sued is not always easy for a layman. Even lawyers who don't specialize in patent infringement law may find it difficult to determine who can actually be sued in a particular instance.

Experienced patent infringement lawyers understand the current case law and how the U.S. Patent laws have been applied in patent infringement cases throughout the years. This is more true today than ever before, with the number of patent infringement lawsuits increasing with each passing year. Decisions that have been handed down in cases over the past five to ten years have opened the existing patent laws to new interpretations that can be utilized in a lawsuit by experts in the field.

If you are considering a patent infringement lawsuit or believe that your rights as a patent holder are being infringed upon, it's important to consult with a law firm of patent infringement lawyers who are familiar enough with the current case law and interpretations to evaluate your case on its merits. A good attorney can not only help you determine who can be sued for infringing upon your patent, but may see grounds for a suit that you or a less experienced lawyer might not recognize.

This is a matter that the courts take very seriously. If your invention is being used in whole or in part by someone else who does not have your permission, your rights as a patent holder are being infringed upon. When you bring a successful suit against the infringer, you may be able to:

- Stop future infringements when a judge orders an injunction against further use, sale or offer of the infringing invention or product
- Recover the cost, which may include projected future profits lost due to the infringement
- Recover certain litigation costs
- Recover attorney's fees
- Be awarded punitive damages that may amount to triple the judgment for actual damages

A law firm that specializes in this kind of litigation is the best judge of whether you have a good case of patent infringement. If you believe that your patent rights are being infringed upon, contact a patent infringement lawyer for a consultation to evaluate your case for a lawsuit.
About the Author
Nick Johnson, lead counsel and founding partner of Johnson Law Group, represents individuals or companies with cases involving patent infringement. Call 1-888-311-5522 today or visit http://www.johnsonlawgroup.com for a free case evaluation.
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