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Protecting Your Patent Portfolio

Your business's patent portfolio, or the list of patents owned by your company, contains the fruits of your labor, so to speak. Managing your patent portfolio and comparing it to those of other companies is essential to helping you better determine the economic value of your own patents and maintaining your competitive edge in the marketplace. It also helps you keep an eye on potential copycats, which can be an irksome and costly issue to deal with.

When other businesses are copying your inventions, they are profiting off of your hard work, while also breaking the law. Apatent is an "intellectual property right granted to an inventor '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."

Is one of your competitors infringing on your patents?

Unlike trademarks, patents are protected by federal law only. A patent must be properly filed with the USPTO in order to receive the protection afforded under the law. Your patent may be a utility patent, a design patent, or even a plant patent.

Patent infringement involves the "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" or importing "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." That's not all... actively encouraging others to infringe patents, or supplying or importing components of a patented invention, can also give rise to liability in certain cases.

To determine whether a competitor or other business is violating your patent, we start by examining the patent's claims, or brief statements of the scope of the invention. The elements of each claim must be compared with the elements of the accused infringer's invention.

Claims define the boundaries of a patent and provide the precise legal definition of the invention. Patent law bars independently developed inventions if the invention embodies all elements of a valid patent claim. This means that there is literal infringement when every claim element is satisfied. There is also a bar if the invention accomplishes substantially the same function in substantially the same way to achieve the same result, otherwise known as the doctrine of equivalents.

If there is actual infringement, a patent owner can seek a few remedies under the law, including:

  • an injunction
  • damages
  • attorneys' fees

• enhanced damages for willful infringement in certain instances

To discuss your legal rights and options in a patent infringement claim, contact the IP lawyers at MYERS BERSTEIN today.

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