Richards Layton & Finger

Inducement of Infringement Requires Knowledge of the Infringed Patent: Global-Tech Appliances Inc. v. SEB S.A.

Fall 2011

It is well established that liability for direct infringement does not depend on the knowledge or intent of the infringer, but that indirect infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 271(c) requires that the accused infringer have knowledge of the infringed patent. In Global-Tech Appliances Inc. v. SEB S.A., the U.S. Supreme Court held in a 8-1 decision that, like § 271(c), liability for inducement of infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 271(b) requires actual knowledge of the infringed patent, though willful blindness suffices to show actual knowledge. By adopting the willful blindness standard, the Supreme Court in Global-Tech may make it more difficult to prove inducement of infringement, thereby providing a margin of comfort to defendants who have not taken steps to avoid learning whether a patent covers a given product.

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