The Renewed Standard for Awarding Enhanced Patent Damages
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion with large ramifications for patent holders and potential infringers alike. Deciding the consolidated cases of Halo Electronics, Inc. v. Pulse Electronics, Inc. and Stryker Corp. v. Zimmer, Inc., the Court ruled that enhanced patent damages are appropriate to punish an infringer’s egregious, deliberate, or flagrant patent infringement. The Court rejected the Federal Circuit’s Seagate test, which had provided an accused infringer with a complete defense to a charge of willfulness (and thus enhanced damages) if the infringer was able to construct, even years after the infringement began, a reasonable argument that the patent was invalid or not infringed, even where the infringer in fact had acted in bad faith. The Court also lowered the required burden of proof from clear and convincing evidence to a preponderance of the evidence. At the same time, it seems clear that mere negligence is not enough to establish entitlement to enhanced damages. While the Supreme Court referred to the 180 years of enhanced damages jurisprudence since the Patent Act of 1836 as setting forth the appropriate approach, it may take several years of additional litigation for predictability to emerge from today’s decision.