Global-Tech Appliances, inc. v. SEB S.A., No. 10-6, May 31, 2011
Global Tech, an Hong-Kong appliance maker, sold a deep-fryer to 3rd parties that was an alleged copy of one patented by SEB. SEB subsequently sued Global Tech for actively inducing purchasers of the fryers to sell or offer to sell them in violation of SEB’s patent rights. The jury found for SEB on the induced infringement theory, and the District Court entered judgment for SEB. On appeal, the Fed. Cir. affirmed, ruling that inducement to infringe may be established without actual knowledge of the patent through a showing of a “deliberate indifference” to a risk that the patent does in fact exist.
On appeal to the Supreme Court, the question presented was “whether the legal standard for the state of mind element of a claim for actively inducing infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 271(b) is ‘deliberate indifference of a known risk’ that an infringement may occur, as the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held, or ‘purposeful, culpable expression and conduct’ to encourage an infringement.”
The Court answered that induced infringement under 271(b) requires knowledge of the patent that is infringed, and “deliberate indifference” (or recklessness) to the existence of the patent is insufficient to confer liability. However, defendants cannot escape liability if they engage in “willful blindness” towards the patent.
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