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Transformation of USA Patent Law: Landmark Patent Infringement Cases
The US patent system, as it is today, is the consequence of numerous rulings and judgments that have influenced the development of patent laws throughout history. While some judgments had just a modest effect, others had a big one and altered the laws governing patentability and how patents were viewed. Every decision altered one or more facets of patent law. While some influenced the legislation governing the patentability of genetically modified organisms, others altered the standards used to determine whether an invention qualifies for a patent.
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History is replete with well-known patent infringement cases that influenced decisions regarding patent invalidation, the circumstances under which an injunction could be issued, the distinction between the repair and reconstruction of a patented product, and most significantly, the doctrine of patent exhaustion and its application. A significant fraction of the cases filed each year, and the number is increasing, involve allegations of patent infringement.
Anyone with the intention to protect his ideas, including inventors, artists, and writers, may do so by taking any of the following legal actions:
Patents are granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to grant a specific concept or invention temporary exclusive rights.
Trademarks are issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to safeguard any words or images peculiar to a person or business’s goods.
The U.S. Copyright Office issues copyrights to safeguard any “authored” work of art, including songs, books, movies, and paintings.
Landmark Patent Infringement Cases
There have been several famous patent infringement cases in the United States over the years. Here are a few notable examples:
Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co.
This high-profile case involved a series of lawsuits filed by Apple against Samsung, alleging that Samsung’s smartphones and tablets infringed on Apple’s design and utility patents. The legal battle spanned several years, with both companies winning and losing various claims. In 2012, a jury awarded Apple over $1 billion in damages, but the amount was later reduced on appeal.
Diamond v. Chakrabarty
Ananda Chakrabarty, a scientist at General Electric, submitted a patent application for a genetically altered microbe that could degrade crude oil in this significant case in 1980. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that living organisms could be patented, setting a precedent for the patentability of genetically engineered organisms.
Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc.
This 1996 case established an important precedent regarding the interpretation of patent claims. The Supreme Court held that the construction of patent claims is a question of law for the judge to decide, rather than a question of fact for the jury. This decision clarified the role of judges in claim construction, which has significant implications for patent litigation.
Polaroid Corp. v. Kodak
In this case, Polaroid sued Eastman Kodak for patent infringement in the late 1970s. Polaroid held several patents related to instant photography, and they claimed that Kodak’s instant cameras and film violated their patents. The case ended with a settlement in 1991, with Kodak agreeing to pay Polaroid $925 million.
Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International
This 2014 case involved software patents and their eligibility under U.S. patent law. The Supreme Court ruled that abstract ideas implemented on a computer are not eligible for patent protection unless they involve an inventive concept that transforms the idea into a patent-eligible invention. This decision had a significant impact on software-related patents.
Apple Inc. v. VirnetX Inc.
This legal battle began in 2010 when VirnetX sued Apple, alleging infringement of its patents related to secure communications protocols. The case has seen multiple trials and appeals, with verdicts and damages awarded to both parties. The lawsuits primarily revolve around Apple’s FaceTime and VPN On-Demand features.
Research in Motion (RIM) v. NTP
In this case, NTP, a patent holding company, sued Research in Motion, the company behind BlackBerry smartphones, alleging infringement of its patents related to wireless email delivery. The case lasted several years and ended in 2006 with a settlement of $612.5 million paid by RIM to NTP.
Intel Corporation v. ULSI System Technology, Inc.
In the late 1980s, Intel filed a lawsuit against ULSI System Technology, accusing the company of infringing on its microprocessor patents. The case resulted in a settlement in 1990, with ULSI agreeing to pay Intel a significant sum in damages and licensing fees.
Microsoft Corp. v. i4i Limited Partnership
This case, decided by the Supreme Court in 2011, centered around a patent held by i4i related to XML technology. Microsoft had been found to have willfully infringed on i4i’s patent in its Microsoft Word software. The Court upheld the lower court’s decision and affirmed the requirement of clear and convincing evidence of patent invalidity.
InterDigital Communications, LLC v. Nokia Corp.
In 2006, InterDigital, a wireless technology company, filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Nokia, alleging that Nokia’s mobile phones infringed on its wireless communication patents. The case eventually led to a settlement in 2008, with Nokia agreeing to pay InterDigital a substantial sum in royalties.
Oracle America, Inc. v. Google, Inc.
This high-profile case involved Oracle’s claim that Google’s Android operating system infringed on Oracle’s copyrights and patents related to the Java programming language. The legal battle lasted for over a decade, with multiple trials and appeals. In 2018, the Supreme Court declined to hear Google’s appeal, leaving the lower court ruling in Oracle’s favor, which could have significant implications for software copyright and fair use.
Boston Scientific Corp. v. Johnson & Johnson
This case involved a dispute between medical device companies Boston Scientific and Johnson & Johnson over patents related to heart stent technology. The lawsuit began in 2015, and in 2019, a jury awarded Boston Scientific over $400 million in damages. The case highlighted the fiercely competitive nature of the medical device industry and the importance of intellectual property protection.
BlackBerry Limited v. Facebook, Inc.
In 2018, BlackBerry filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Facebook and its subsidiaries, including WhatsApp and Instagram. BlackBerry claimed that these companies had copied and used its patented messaging technology in their platforms. The case is ongoing, and the outcome could have implications for the messaging app industry.
Amgen Inc. v. Sanofi
This case involved a patent dispute between pharmaceutical companies Amgen and Sanofi over a groundbreaking cholesterol-lowering drug called Praluent. The lawsuit centered around the validity and infringement of Amgen’s patents. The case went through several trials and appeals, with mixed rulings. Eventually, the companies reached a settlement in 2019, resolving their disputes.
These are just a few examples of famous patent infringement cases in the United States. There have been numerous other notable cases that have shaped patent law and influenced the technology industry over the years. These cases represent some of the well-known patent infringement disputes in the United States. The outcomes and settlements of these cases have often had significant implications for the involved companies and the patent landscape.
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