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

Fall 2011

Publication| Intellectual Property

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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