In Commil USA, LLC v. Cisco Systems, Inc., No. 13-896, the Supreme Court held a good-faith belief a patent is invalid is not a defense to induced infringement.
Commil sued Cisco, claiming Cisco had induced others to infringe Commil’s patent by selling infringing equipment for them to use. After two trials, Cisco was found liable for induced infringement. Cisco’s induced-infringement defense hinged on a purported good-faith belief that Commil’s patent was invalid. The district court found Cisco’s supporting evidence inadmissible. The Federal Circuit held the trial court erred in excluding Cisco’s evidence regarding its good-faith belief of invalidity.
In a 6-2 decision, the Supreme Court reversed the Federal Circuit and held that, while a company’s belief a patent is not infringed means it does not have the requisite intent for induced-infringement liability, that company’s belief the patent is invalid is not a defense to induced infringement. The Supreme Court viewed induced infringement and validity as “separate issues” with “separate defenses.” The Court observed that, under the Patent Act a patent is “presumed valid.” Because a good-faith belief of invalidity is easier to prove than invalidity itself, confronting the issue of validity when infringement is the ultimate issue “would undermine the long held presumption that a patent is valid, . . . permitting circumvention of the high bar—the clear and convincing standard—that defendants must surmount to rebut the presumption.” Put simply, if “belief in invalidity were a defense to induced infringement, the force of that presumption would be lessened to a drastic degree, for a defendant could prevail if he proved he reasonably believed the patent was invalid.”
The dissent disagreed with the Court’s holding that good-faith belief in a patent’s invalidity is not a defense to induced infringement because the dissent viewed invalidity and infringement as inextricably intertwined issues. “[O]nly valid patents can be infringed. . . . Because only valid patents can be infringed, anyone with a good-faith belief in a patent’s invalidity necessarily believes the patent cannot be infringed.”