Ignoring Patents Not A Willful Infringement Free Pass In EDTX


Publish Date:
October 10, 2019
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A recent ruling in the Eastern District of Texas has called into question the practice of not reading patents as a way for companies to shield themselves from claims of willful infringement, potentially putting some businesses in a Catch-22.

The ruling from U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap came in a lawsuit Motiva Patents brought against HTC accusing the electronics maker’s Vive virtual reality system of infringing several patents covering technology for tracking a person’s movement.

“What you do know will certainly harm you, they reason, so it is generally better not to know,” wrote Lemley and Tangri, who went on to found the California law firm Durie Tangri LLP. “Thus, from the perspective of a potential infringer, ignorance is bliss.”

A more recent survey of scientific researchers from Stanford Law School professor Lisa Larrimore Ouellette reported that 37% of researchers in the electronics and software space reported having been instructed not to read patents.

Ouellette’s survey found that concerns about willful infringement were higher in those industries, as compared with other areas like biotechnology and chemistry. A separate survey of corporate legal staff conducted by the Intellectual Property Owners Association found companies often do not search for patents before starting their own product development efforts.

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