Why it May Be Time to Provide Criminal Remedies for Patent Infringement
Under normal circumstances, infringement and misappropriation of the intellectual property (IP) rights of others are subject to civil liability under U.S. federal (and some states’) law; the remedies for those whose rights have been violated typically include money damages or some form of equitable relief, such as an injunction. However, sometimes the conduct of offenders is so egregious and the remedies so inadequate that pursuit of a private cause of action is insufficient to make IP owners whole. To make matters worse, civil remedies do little to deter further infringement or misappropriation on the part of individuals and entities with more than enough money to game the system. Known as efficient infringers, according to some IP practitioners, they have mastered the business practice of paying out as little in damages as possible and refusing to negotiate licenses with IP owners, all the while bullying IP owners into spending their much smaller fortunes in order to defend their IP rights or to forfeit them—the end result sometimes being the invalidation or cancellation of their IP. Accordingly, lawmakers have enacted legislation with the goal of creating true deterrents against infringement and misappropriation by imposing criminal sanctions on a narrow set of conditions associated with infringement and misappropriation. However, the law does not criminally punish infringement of a particular type of IP: patents.