July 18, 2011

Global Tech v. SEB (US Supreme Court, 31st May, 2011): Merger of Doctrine of Willfull Blindness with Induced Infringement.


The United States Supreme Court Decision was in regard to the 35 USC 271 or the induced infringement. The Court held that the ignorance of the known risk for the infringement would be environed under the “Actual Knowledge”.

The decision is pure example of setting new laws and extending application of the doctrines together with the interpretation of clauses of 35 USC 271. The Court held that the induced infringement under 35 USC 271 requires the knowledge that the induced act constitutes Patent Infringement. The text of the Article itself is ambiguous in nature. Whereas on the first instance it can be inferred from the language that the if the accused has engaged other in the act that happen to be infringement, the other may mean that the accused must persuade the other party to engage in the act that inducer knows to be infringing. The Court observing the ambiguity, discussed the case of Aro Mfg. Co. v. Convertible Top Replacement Co., 377 U. S. 476 (Aro II). Court held that the induced infringement under 271(c) must require knowledge of both patent and that the act would be an infringement. As the origin of 271 (b) and 271(c) is the same, the clause 271(b) must also meet the same criteria as the 271(c). The mere indifference to the known risk doesn’t satisfy the level of knowledge requirement as demanded by the 271(b).

However, Court affirmed the Federal Circuit judgment (FC ruled for induced infringement) under the Doctrine of Willful Blindness. Court observed that the doctrine is well established in the legal system for criminal jurisprudence and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be extended to the civil cases. The Doctrine states that the willfull blindness of the knowledge constitutes the actual knowledge of the accused. Based on the evidences available at District Court and Federal Circuit, the Court held that the induced infringement was done.
Court agreed on the two point test.

    # The defendant must subjectively believe that there is a high probability that a fact exists.
   # The defendant must take deliberate actions to avoid learning of that fact.

The decision set the extend norms for the induced infringement of the Patents by induction. The decision is one Judicial Activism worthy reading with the other citations it has cited. The majority was delivered by Altio J.

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