Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The End of False-Marking Trolls

The recent passage of the America Invents Act (AIA) has taken the steam out of the recent frenzy of patent false-marking suits by eliminating any risk for leaving expired patent numbers on covered products. (See the text of 35 USC § 292 below). It is still a violation to falsely mark a product as patented, but the high standard for proving intent to deceive the public remains. Furthermore, so-called false-marking trolls cannot take advantage of the statute because only the United States or a party that has suffered "competitive injury" as a result of false marking can bring suit.

One thing that did not change was the significant enforcement advantages for patentees that do mark their products. Only patent owners who mark their products can receive infringement damages for any infringements before the defendant is given specific notice of hte infringement. (See the text of 35 USC § 287(a) below). In addition, marking products can aid in establishing that a defendant's infringement was knowingly done, which may help to prove inducement or willfulness.

Fearing even frivolous false-marking suits, some patentees had elected not to mark products, especially mass produced products, as patented. With the enactment of the AIA, patentees who are not marking their products should reconsider. The benefits of marking would now seem to outweigh the risks.


35 USC § 292

(a) Whoever, without the consent of the patentee, marks upon, or affixes to, or uses in advertising in connection with anything made, used, offered for sale, or sold by such person within the United States, or imported by the person into the United States, the name or any imitation of the name of the patentee, the patent number, or the words "patent," "patentee," or the like, with the intent of counterfeiting or imitating the mark of the patentee, or of deceiving the public and inducing them to believe that the thing was made, offered for sale, sold, or imported into the United States by or with the consent of the patentee; or Whoever marks upon, or affixes to, or uses in advertising in connection with any unpatented article the word "patent" or any word or number importing the same is patented, for the purpose of deceiving the public; or Whoever marks upon, or affixes to, or uses in advertising in connection with any article the words "patent applied for," "patent pending," or any word importing that an application for patent has been made, when no application for patent has been made, or if made, is not pending, for the purpose of deceiving the public - Shall be fined not more than $500 for every such offense. Only the United States may sue for the penalty authorized by this subsection.

(b) A person who has suffered a competitive injury as a result of a violation of this section may file a civil action in a district court of the United States for recovery of damages adequate to compensate for the injury.
(c) The marking of a product, in a manner described in subsection (a), with matter relating to a patent that covered that product but has expired is not a violation of this section.


35 USC § 287(a)

Patentees, and persons making, offering for sale, or selling within the United States any patented article for or under them, or importing any patented article into the United States, may give notice to the public that the same is patented, either by fixing thereon the word “patent” or the abbreviation “pat.”, together with the number of the patent, or when, from the character of the article, this can not be done, by fixing to it, or to the package wherein one or more of them is contained, a label containing a like notice. In the event of failure so to mark, no damages shall be recovered by the patentee in any action for infringement, except on proof that the infringer was notified of the infringement and continued to infringe thereafter, in which event damages may be recovered only for infringement occurring after such notice. Filing of an action for infringement shall constitute such notice.

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