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Infringement Woes: A Utility Patent Holder's Basic Guide to Protecting Their Bright Ideas

As an inventor, obtaining a utility patent grants you the exclusive right to prevent others from making, using, selling, or importing your invention for a limited period. But what happens when someone else uses your invention without your permission? This is where utility patent infringement comes into play.

Utility Patent Infringement Defined

Utility patent infringement occurs when a person, business, or entity without the patent holder's permission uses, makes, sells, or imports a product or process that infringes upon the patent holder's exclusive rights.

To prove utility patent infringement, the patent holder must demonstrate that the infringing product or process contains each of the elements listed in their patent claims. If the accused product or process includes all of the elements of the patented invention, then it is considered to infringe on the utility patent.

Types of Utility Patent Infringement

There are two types of utility patent infringement: literal and infringement under the doctrine of equivalents.

Literal infringement occurs when the accused product or process contains every element of at least one claim in the patent holder's patent. This is a straightforward form of infringement where the accused product or process is identical to the patented invention.

Infringement under the doctrine of equivalents is a more complex form of infringement. It occurs when the accused product or process does not contain every element of at least one claim in the patent holder's patent but is still substantially similar to the patented invention in its function, purpose, or result.

The doctrine of equivalents compares the accused product or process to the patented invention to determine if an equivalent element performs the same function in the same way to achieve the same result. If so, the accused product or process is considered to infringe on the utility patent.

Remedies for Utility Patent Infringement

When utility patent infringement occurs, the patent holder can pursue legal action against the infringing party. (My office does not practice litigation, but we can refer you to some litigating attorneys should the need arise.) Remedies for utility patent infringement may include:

  1. Injunctive relief: An order from a court to stop the infringing activity.

  2. Monetary damages: Compensation for the economic harm caused by the infringement, including lost profits and reasonable royalties.

  3. Enhanced damages: Additional damages awarded to the patent holder in exceptional cases of willful infringement.

Utility patent infringement can harm the patent holder's ability to profit from their invention and threaten their competitive market position. Therefore, it is essential to understand the basics of utility patent infringement and take the necessary steps to enforce your patent rights. If you suspect that someone is infringing on your utility patent, seek the advice of a patent attorney to help you navigate the legal process and protect your intellectual property.


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