Highmark case may redefine patent infringement law
Two cases pending before the Supreme Court could give federal trial judges more discretion in deciding when a company sued for patent infringement can recover their legal costs from the person or company that sued them, according to a Mt. Lebanon lawyer who is a national expert in intellectual property law.
In one of the Supreme Court cases, Highmark Inc. is asking the high court to reinstate a Texas federal trial judge's ruling that Allcare Health Management System Inc. of Fort Worth, Texas, made patent infringement claims in bad faith and should have to pay Highmark about $5.2 million in legal fees.
In the other case, a fitness equipment manufacturer wants the Supreme Court to give federal trial judges more flexibility in the criteria they use to award legal costs to defendants who defeat a patent infringement claim. The company is seeking $1.3 million in legal fees for successfully defending itself.
Mt. Lebanon attorney Robert Lindefjeld, chairman of the American Bar Association's Intellectual Property Law section, says a ruling for the appellants in both cases could have a significant impact on businesses.
“It will have the practical effect of reducing the number of patent infringement lawsuits,” he told the Tribune-Review.
For companies that frequently defend against such lawsuits, that would be good news. For small companies who have legitimate patent infringement claims against large companies, the rulings will raise the stakes if they decided to enforce their rights, he said.
“It cuts both ways,” Lindefjeld says.
The rise in patent lawsuits has caught Congress' attention. Congress passed the America Invents Act in 2011 in an attempt to curb frivolous patent claims.
In December, the House passed a measure that — if it becomes law — would make several changes, including making it easier for the winner to collect attorney fees in a lawsuit.
Lindefjeld says the ABA hasn't taken a position on the legislation yet. Personally, he says he thinks the law will make legitimate patent lawsuits more expensive in an attempt to weed out a relatively small number of frivolous lawsuits.
“The patent system is not on fire,” he says.
The Supreme Court cases, on the other hand, would make a more rational adjustment by leaving the awarding of attorney fees to trial judges familiar with the case, Lindefjeld says.
“The trial judge is right there, sees what is going on and can look the people in the eye,” he says.
Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Officials identify man, woman killed in apparent Oakland murder-suicide
- Charge dropped against former Steeler Blount after community service
- Overnight snow delaying schools in western Pennsylvania
- Porch roof collapses in Pitcairn
- Beloved North Side gardener gets new truck, paid for by her neighbors
- Pa. Turnpike claims software fraud, wants $45M
- Fort Pitt Tunnel work cancelled this weekend
- Beaver County man arrested in 24-year-old Clinton County cold case
- Medical examiner identifies man in Pleasant Hills police standoff as Justin Hay
- Pipelines key to growth in shale industry
- Psychiatrist: Man accused of setting Homestead fire not competent to stand trial