So, you filed for a patent, were awarded one and have been producing your product or process with success. Or, you chose to not market your invention but retain the patent. But, what happens when someone else tries to design and sell your innovation? This is when your patent protections come in to play. The time and money you invested during the patent process will now be put to good use! But, how do you go about fighting to protect your patented product?
Understanding Your Role in Patent Protection
Many patent filers many not realize that it’s their job to enforce any patent infringements. After the large amounts of money and time spent during the patent application process, it may be frustrating to discover that you’ll be responsible for protecting your patented item, and that there’s no oversight authority that does this for you. But, the purpose of a patent is to show you own the exclusive right to an item and can determine how it’s created or distributed — and your patent is a strong piece of evidence when it comes to shutting down a patent infringer in our out of court.
Speak With Your Attorney or a Patent Attorney
The best starting place in handling patent infringement is often confirming that someone is violating your patent. Meeting with an attorney who specializes in patent law can set you up for success by determining if you have a case. An attorney can compare your patent to the alleged duplicate product and give you a better idea if your patent is being violated. While an attorney doesn’t have the final word (a court does), their legal perspective can offer insight to what kinds of damages (if any) you should seek.
Check Your Eligibility
Contacting the Patent-Infringing Party
After you’ve verified that patent infringement is happening, a cease and desist letter may be your next best step. Sent by you, your attorney or your company’s legal team, a cease and desist document warns the individual or company who is violating your patent protection that they are in the wrong and must stop manufacturing, selling, creating or using your product. Cease and desist letters can also be beneficial evidence in court if you need to show that the patent-infringing party knowingly continued to make and distribute your invention.
Consider a Lawsuit
Simply put, you may want to consider a lawsuit if the patent-infringing party made money off your protected product or damaged your product’s reputation in some way. In some cases, this could mean settling outside of court for a specific sum of money that reflects the damage you or your product have received from the patent infringement. In other scenarios it may mean entering a lawsuit into the federal court system (where patent cases are heard) if the violator believes they’re in the right. If you chose to go through the court system, you can expect a judge will determine if patent infringement is taking place, to what extent, and what you could be awarded based on the situation.
A Note on International Infringement
If you have a U.S. patent, it’s important to understand that you don’t have international protections unless you file for them. U.S. patents only protect against infringement within the U.S. by American citizens. If you believe that your patent could be violated internationally, it may be beneficial to file patents in other countries. The process for doing so can vary greatly from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office system, and could also be costly. But, doing so can protect provide additional protections for your invention.
Protecting your patent is a big responsibility that can seem difficult — how is it possible to monitor all of your potential competitors? With luck, you won’t have to face the situation at all. But, knowing the basic steps to stopping patent violations is a strong starting point.