Posted in: Eric Guttag, Federal Circuit, Guest Contributors, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles, Patent Fools™
Bounty hunters make their living by capturing fugitives from justice for a monetary reward (bounty). A more recent, modern day version of the bounty hunter is one who pursues patentees for false patent marking under 35 U.S.C. § 292. The recent Federal Circuit case of Forest Group, Inc. v. Bon Tool Co. has made such false patent marking bounty hunting lucrative by saying that each falsely marked item is an “offense” under 35 U.S.C. § 292, and thus subject to a penalty of “up to $500,” with the bounty hunter getting half of the awarded penalty and the federal government the other half. As a result, a rash of such cases (upwards of at least 100 at the moment) have been filed by such modern day bounty hunters as qui tam actions against various patentees alleged to be falsely marking their products.
In Perquignot v. Solo Cup Co., the stakes were truly mind-boggling: about $10.8 trillion in total. Approximately $5.4 trillion of that bounty would be the federal government’s share which the Federal Circuit characterized as “sufficient to pay back 42% of the country’s total national debt.” High stakes indeed! But unfortunately for the bounty hunter (Pequignot) in Perquignot, the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court grant of summary judgment that there was no “deceptive intent” on the part of the patentee (Solo Cup), thus no approximately $5.4 trillion bounty was owed.