The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments Tuesday in two cases about the sometimes steep penalties companies—such as medical-device makers—face for infringing on patents.
Halo Electronics Inc. v Pulse Electronics Inc. and Stryker Corporation v. Zimmer both center on the question of when a company may receive up to triple damages in patent infringement cases. If a company now is found to have willfully infringed on a patent, then a district court can order that company to pay the patent holder triple damages. The question is whether the test for willful infringement, at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, is appropriate.
The cases could have a big impact on patent law and influence how companies ensure they don't get nabbed for willful infringement on another company's patent, said Janelle Waack and Terry Clark, partners at Bass, Berry & Sims. The Supreme Court's decision won't likely affect patent cases involving pharmaceuticals, because those don't typically involve damages.
The cases are among the first the court is set to hear after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. His death, however, may not affect the outcome of these patent cases. The cases, which were consolidated at the Supreme Court, could be decided by a unanimous or near-unanimous vote, said Harold Edgar, a professor at Columbia Law School. Edgar predicts the court will modify one or more of the standards used to determine whether a violation is willful.