Oral argument: Feb. 23, 2011
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Feb. 5, 2010)
PATENT, INFRINGEMENT, INDUCEMENT, STATE OF MIND
Respondent SEB S.A. owns a patent for a deep fryer featuring an inexpensive, insulated plastic outer shell. In 1997, Petitioner Pentalpha Enterprises, LTD, a subsidiary of petitioner Global-Tech Appliances, Inc. (collectively, “Global-Tech”), developed and manufactured a deep fryer that copied features of SEB's deep fryer. On August 27, 1999, SEB sued Global-Tech for patent infringement in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The jury found Global-Tech liable for direct and active inducement of patent infringement, and Global-Tech appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. That court affirmed, holding that Global-Tech acted with deliberate indifference to the risk of infringing SEB's patent. Global-Tech appealed, arguing that the Federal Circuit applied the wrong standard for the mental-state element of actively inducing patent infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 271(b). Global-Tech asserts that the proper standard is “purposeful, culpable expression and conduct to encourage an infringement,” the standard the Supreme Court articulated in MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd. On the other hand, SEB argues that a patent infringer does not need to have actual knowledge of a patent to be liable for actively inducing patent infringement. The Supreme Court’s decision will affect patent litigation, the extent and cost of patent searches, and market competition and innovation.