Q: What are the implications of unknowingly using a sub-component in your design that has violated a patent?
For example, I use a power supply from vendor A in my lighting product. The power supply violates a patent from vendor B. Both Vendor A and myself are unaware of the infringement at the time of purchase. Can vendor B sue me for patent infringement?
A: Short answer is yes, you have exposure.
35 USC Section 271a states -- Except as otherwise provided in this title, whoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention, within the United States or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term of the patent therefor, infringes the patent . https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/35/271
Assuming for the minute that the power supply infringes the patent, your supplier is infringing for selling and or making the device. You are infringing for selling the device. Your customers are infringing for using the device.
As a practical matter, a patent owner will often sue the manufacturer but sometimes they sue a major distributor or a user if that is easier than suing an off-shore manufacturer.
Not knowing is not a defense to the charge of infringement. On the other hand knowingly continuing to infringe could subject you to getting the damages increased as a willful infringer.
Frequently the contracts with suppliers will include an indemnity clause to make the supplier liable for any costs to handle a patent infringement suit.
You should consult competent patent litigation counsel to sort out your exposure.
Sorry that I am bringing you bad news.
Kevin E Flynn
Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.
The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.
Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.