If someone infringes upon a patent, he or she may have to pay damages and face a court injunction.

As many business owners and entrepreneurs in Texas know, securing a patent is a smart way to protect an invention. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issues these property rights to the inventor, setting a term of 20 years. In that time, no one else may copy the invention or offer it for sale.

A case recently played out in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas that illustrates what happens when someone violates a patent. There may be serious financial consequences for those who attempt to, in essence, steal an invention.

What happened

A company that designs and manufactures LED lighting, Ultravision International, has two patents that were involved in this dispute. One protected a modular display panel, and the other was for a power and control system. According to Business Wire, another company, Shenzen Only Optoelectronic Tech Co. Ltd., infringed upon those patents.

After hearing the case, the district court in Texas ruled that Shenzen Only will have to pay both treble and compensatory damages to Ultravision. An issuance of treble damages means that the court triples the actual amount of damages that the defendant has to pay.

Additionally, the court issued a permanent injunction against Shenzen Only. In other words, the company nor its affiliates or officers may import any products that would infringe upon the patents. Another permanent injunction applies to customers, who are no longer allowed to use patent-violating products from Shenzen Only.

When patents are infringed

Obviously, business owners whose intellectual property rights have been violated may be seriously adversely affected. This can hurt revenue and even the company's reputation. Therefore, taking action quickly is a necessity.

Sometimes, these disputes may be settled without having to go to court. A patent attorney may be able to contact the offending party and reach a settlement through issuing a cease-and-desist letter.

If such remedies do not work, then a lawsuit for patent infringement may be filed in a federal court. Among the items that must be in the complaint are the following:

  • Evidence of the patent owner's compliance with the law
  • Damages sought
  • An explanation of the infringement

As illustrated by the case discussed here, potential outcomes include injunctions and damages in the form of compensation. Compensatory damages could make up for business lost as a result of the infringement. It is also possible that the defendant would have to pay for court-related costs.

There are many nuances when it comes to intellectual property disputes. People who have concerns about this topic should speak with a commercial law attorney in Texas.