R44622 – Patent Cases in the October 2015 Term of the U.S. Supreme Court: Halo Electronics v. Pulse Electronics and Cuozzo Speed Technologies v. Lee – 9/7/2016

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Patent Cases in the October 2015 Term of the U.S. Supreme Court: Halo Electronics v. Pulse Electronics and Cuozzo Speed Technologies v. Lee

Description

Author: Brian T. Yeh, Legislative Attorney
Pages: 22

This report examines the two patent law cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in its October 2015 Term. The first patent case, decided on June 13, 2016, Halo Electronics, Inc. v. Pulse Electronics, Inc., concerns the circumstances in which the awarding of enhanced damages in a patent infringement case are warranted and the discretion of the district courts to award them. Section 284 of the Patent Act provides that the court may increase damages up to three times the amount found by a jury or assessed by the court, but does not provide any guidance to the court, or any express limits or conditions, in how to exercise its discretion to do so. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Federal Circuit), a specialized tribunal established by Congress that has exclusive appellate jurisdiction in patent cases, limited such awards to cases of "willful infringement." Specifically, in its 2007 opinion, In re Seagate Technology, the Federal Circuit established a two-part test that must be met before the district court can exercise its discretion to increase damages under Section 284. This strict standard arguably made such awards very difficult for patent holders to recover. In a unanimous opinion, the Halo Supreme Court rejected the Seagate test for enhanced damages, determining that it was unduly rigid and inconsistent with the statutory grant of discretion to courts to decide when to award punitive damages. In invalidating the strict Seagate test, the Halo opinion advised district courts to exercise their discretion to award enhanced damages in a manner consistent with Supreme Court precedent that generally reserves such punishment for "egregious cases of misconduct beyond typical infringement." Bills: H.R. 2578, H.R. 9