Blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee
The online Patent Litigation toolkit features several Web pages containing plain language answers to commonly asked questions about demand letters and patent infringement complaints, such as:
• what a patent is,
• what to do if sued for patent infringement, and
• what to do after receiving a demand letter.
To the extent that legal terms are included, the toolkit has a useful glossary to ensure that consumers and “Main Street” retailers are on the same page. By presenting the information in as straightforward a manner as possible, the USPTO sees this toolkit as a first-stop for people learning about their rights and trying to understand the various courses of action available under their circumstances.
The toolkit also features links to many external websites offering certain services free of charge (some with site registration required) that may assist persons faced with demand letters or infringement suits.
What is patent infringement? Patent infringement is the act of making, using, selling, or offering to sell a patented invention, or importing into the United States a product covered by a claim of a patent without the permission of the patent owner. Further, you may be considered to infringe a patent if you import items into the United States that are made by a patented method, unless the item is materially changed by subsequent processes or becomes a trivial and nonessential component of another product. A person “infringes” a patent by practicing each element of a patent claim with respect to one of these acts. Further, actively encouraging others to infringe patents, or supplying or importing components of a patented invention, and related acts can also give rise to liability in certain cases.
Have others been sued on the same patent? if you’ve received a demand letter or patent infringement complaint and want to determine how best to proceed, it’s useful to collect as much information as possible about the patent being asserted. With this in mind, the toolkit provides links to sites that help identify whether others have been sued regarding the same patent. This can help you locate parties who might have faced similar issues. Additionally, the toolkit links to sites with information about other legal proceedings involving the patent, including proceedings before the USPTO.
What is a patent?
A patent is an intellectual property right granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that gives a patent owner the right “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted. The “invention” is set forth by a patent’s “claims” (described below), and individual claims of a patent or patent application may be challenged, as set forth below.
Basic information about patents and the process of applying for a patent can be found at the Inventor’s Resources webpage. Also you may find this video from the Federal Judicial Center helpful in explaining patents and the patenting process.
The toolkit provides access to a patent attorney database, and it features information about law school clinics that have programs to advise and/or represent entities such as small inventors and entrepreneurs who otherwise would not have access to high-quality intellectual property law services.